One Week to Peak

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There are few feelings more disheartening than flipping through photos from a wedding or high-school reunion and thinking, “Whoa, who got chunky? Yikes, that’s me!” When you attend an event that’s full of family and friends, and a professional photographer is on the scene, it’s never good to appear as if you’ve spent the last month at the buffet table.

But no matter what kind of shape you currently find yourself in, if your next big public event is a week or more down the road, there is still time to safely rev up your fitness, nutrition and supplement plan to look (and feel) better.

To build the One-Week-to-Peak plan, we’ve enlisted the assistance of Erik Pence, M.S., C.S.C.S., P.E.S., a top personal trainer based in Scottsdale, Ariz. This former strength-and-conditioning coach for the Cleveland Indians and the University of Arizona knows a thing or two about fine-tuning physiques, and he’s stirring his sneakiest tricks into the mix — including PHA training and the Tabata Protocol — to help you dial in the best body you can build in a small window of time.

PHA, or Peripheral Heart Action, training was developed by physiology expert Dr. Arthur Steinhaus to keep blood and oxygen circulating through the body — and maximize calorie usage. “The way we perform PHA training is to focus on compound exercises in a circuit fashion combined with small bouts of high-intensity cardio,” Pence explains. “This type of training releases greater amounts of growth hormone and burns a lot more calories, which is our goal.”

Depending on your fitness level, you can do the following workouts three to five times in the span of seven days. While some trainers prefer to count reps, Pence is all about counting seconds. “Using a stopwatch allows you to focus on getting as many reps as possible while getting a good contraction out of the muscles being trained,” he says. “A partner is great because he or she can do the timing for you.” For each move — unless otherwise noted — start with 30 seconds of work, then work your way up to 60 or 90 seconds, with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between moves.

Now what about the Tabata Protocol? This concept comes to us from Dr. Izumi Tabata, a former researcher at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Japan. Tabata focuses on a specific work-to-rest ratio: 20 seconds of work, then 10 seconds of rest.

“It’s a shock exercise within an al- ready intense workout, increasing your metabolic rate long after the workout is complete,” Pence notes. “Recent studies have confirmed that the powerful after-effect of interval training is much more effective for fat loss than low-intensity, continuous exercise.”

In other words, Tabata delivers a lot more bang for your sweat-drenched buck, continuing your lean-out process throughout the day, even when you’re sitting still.
So are you ready to turn some heads at your next social function — for all the right reasons this time? Warm up for five to 10 minutes with some steady-state cardio, then dive into the intense, punishing yet ultimately rewarding workouts below, which are designed to rev up your calorie burn while hitting every major muscle group.

Pence recommends a two-days-on, one-day-off format. So for example, over the course of a week, you could do Workout No. 1 on Monday and Thursday, and Workout No. 2 on Tuesday and Friday. Got two weeks? Repeat that pattern the second week, with longer work periods, less rest, and/or another run-through of the circuit the second time around. Pair the workouts with the nutrition and supplement tips that follow to double the body benefits.

As a final note, even if you don’t have a big event coming up, you can sub this program in for your current routine to jump-start your fitness — and your physique. What do you have to lose, except some unwanted flab?


Do each of these workouts in a circuit fashion, one exercise or cardio bout after another. For each exercise — unless otherwise noted — start with 30 seconds of repetitions, then work your way up to 60 or 90 seconds, with 30 to 60 seconds of rest between moves. Less common movements are described.


  1. Bodyweight Squat Pulses: Perform a nonstop squat by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, dropping your butt about 10 inches and then rising back up without locking your knees. Keep going for 30 to 90 seconds.
  2. Bodyweight One-Legged Squat
  3. Do three minutes of high-intensity cardio such as jumping rope, a fast treadmill run or a bike sprint.
  4. Lunge With Single-Arm Overhead Press: Lunge forward with your right leg while simultaneously pressing a barbell overhead with your left arm. Halfway through the prescribed time, switch legs and arms.
  5. Barbell or Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
  6. Do three minutes of high-intensity cardio.
  7. Squat Push-Press: Holding dumbbells at shoulder height, squat down slightly past 90 degrees, and in one smooth motion, stand back up and press the dumbbells overhead. Then lower the dumbbells back to shoulder level and repeat. This is Workout No. 1’s Tabata Protocol exercise, so work for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and perform six rounds without setting the dumbbells down between sets.
  8. Do three minutes of high-intensity cardio.
  9. Execute pull-ups to failure (preferably unassisted).
  10. Walk-Over Medicine-Ball Push-Up: Place your right hand on the medicine ball and your left hand on the floor in a push-up position. Do a push-up, and when fully extended back up, transition both hands to the ball, shift your right hand to the loor and do another push-up. Transition the right hand back to the ball and left hand to the loor and repeat. Note: The ball stays stationary throughout the exercise.
  11. Plank: Get into a modified push-up position, except on your forearms instead of your hands, and hold your body up, staying straight from your toes to your head.
  12. Do three minutes of high-intensity cardio.
  13. Inverted Row: Lie under a power rack that is set around hip height so that the bar is over your chest. Pull yourself up to the bar, then lower back down and repeat. To up the challenge, place your feet on a box or, tougher, an exercise ball.
  14. Upper-Pulley Cable Crossover
  15. Plank to Push-Up: Beginning in a plank position, use your right or left hand to lift yourself to a push-up position, then lower back down. Switch the assisting hand halfway through.
  16. Cooldown: Perform five minutes of light cardio.


  1. Close-Grip Floor Press: Place a pad on the floor under a power rack and lie under it. Using a close grip, lower the bar until your elbows press into the floor, then push the weight back up. This is Workout No. 2’s Tabata Protocol exercise, so again work for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and perform six rounds.
  2. Do three minutes of high-intensity cardio.
  3. Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise
  4. Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise
  5. Do three minutes of high-intensity cardio.
  6. Barbell Triceps Overhead Extension
  7. Standing Barbell Curl
  8. Medicine-Ball Plank With Side Knee Drive: Assume a push-up position with your hands on a medicine ball. Lift your right knee and bend it to the side as if you are trying to scratch your right ear with it. Return to start and repeat with your left knee. For an easier version, place your hands on the loor rather than on a medicine ball.
  9. Do three minutes of high-intensity cardio.
  10. Medicine-Ball Push-Up: Put both hands on a medicine ball and do close- grip push-ups.
  11. Alternating Dumbbell Curl
  12. Side Plank: Perform on both sides of the body.
  13. Cooldown: Perform five minutes of light cardio.