A little over a month ago, I wrote about my journey from phoning it in on the elliptical to taking my fitness goals to the next level at home. One of the best things about designing your own workout plan is that it pushes you to be creative in order to keep things from getting stale. Luckily, there are endless sources of inspiration out there for us to choose from. And we can implement them into our weekly routines for a bit of freshness. Here are four fitness books I tried out recently that will help raise the stakes of your exercise game, whether you’re at home or the gym.
Note: If you’re going to try these workouts at home, you will need some basic equipment for most of them. I’m a big fan of these adjustable dumbbells from Bowflex that adjust from 5 to 52.5 lbs per hand, making them compatible with many fitness levels while leaving room for improvement. It’s also helpful to have a kettlebell or two, or you can invest in a set like this colorful one from Tone Fitness.
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1. Train Like a Fighter
by Cat Zingano
It doesn’t matter if you have no interest in mixed martial arts (I don’t!), you will still find a ton of value in this practical, easy to follow book by rockstar MMA fighter, Cat Zingano. This fitness book is filled with over sixty different routines, all with step by step instructions on how to execute them effectively, plus three four-week programs that are both simple to follow and easy to fit into your morning workout window (all the ones I tried took me 30 minutes or less). Plus throwing out sidekicks, hooks and jabs made me feel like a total badass.
2. Tabata Workout Handbook Volume 2
by Michael Volkmar
I love Tabata workouts — they’re fast, effective and a great way to pack a full-body workout into as little as 12 minutes. This exercise book includes over 100 Tabata routines, along with a glossary description of each exercise that is completely customizable for all fitness levels. I found myself using this book mostly on days where I was looking to target a specific muscle group, and wanted a simple routine to help me do that. No worries if you’re new to Tabata, the book explains everything, and no need to buy a fancy Tabata timer, there are free options online. This one is my current favorite.
3. Even the Stiffest People Can Do the Splits
As a youth, I could not touch my toes. I was in awe of my younger sister who was a gymnast. She could hang out in a full split like it was nothing. After years of yoga, I’m much more flexible, but I still can’t pull off a full split or “the splits.” Fortunately, I’ve been working on the plan outlined by Eiko, a world-renowned yoga instructor and “queen of the splits” which promises that doing her stretches for just five minutes a day, for four weeks, will get you there. I’m on week three and not only am I seeing progress, but I also feel great afterward. The deep stretches help release my back after a long day at the office, and the deep muscle release has been helping me sleep better. Whether or not I ever get into a full split, I’m going to keep up with these stretches.
4. Warrior Workout Volume 2
by Stewart Smith
If you have more time to dedicate to your workouts and are ready to push yourself to peak performance, then following this year-long periodized training regimen used by Navy SEALs and elite special forces is the way to do it. Many of the routines here incorporate running, followed by bodyweight and strength training, followed by more running. One routine that both fascinates and terrifies me is called “Death by Push-up.” It involves holding plank position for 15 minutes, where you complete a set of push-ups every minute, increasing the number of reps each minute. I gave it a try and made it to five minutes. And just like that, my routine went from predictable to next level.
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