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The Working Man's Workout: A Four-Day Plan for Full Fitness

By Billy Polson

Time is a big issue for most of us, and in a pressured environment the workouts can be the first thing to go. For those of you wanting your body to be lean, fully functional and balanced through all your muscles, you can use the following workout program across four workout days (two one-hour full-body workouts and two twenty-minute cardio routines). Mix this fully functional workout with proper nutrition, eight hours of rest per night, daily stress relief (corrective stretching before workouts and bed, reading for an hour before bed instead of TV or computer work, walks outside, etc.) and you should be able to keep your body happy and healthy with minimal time requirements.

Before starting this or any workout routine, I recommend checking your body for any muscle imbalances, overly tight areas, alignment issues. By doing any corrective stretching your body needs before each workout you will insure that your body and muscles are working in the proper alignment to keep your joints safe and properly functioning. I've offered a comprehensive stretch test to help you identify your stretch needs. Each day, begin with the necessary stretches before you get into the routine.

For your core I only recommend doing the exercises that are necessary to keep your body safe, balanced and strong. I do not recommend just doing hundreds of crunches each workout, which will often work muscles of your body that are already too tight and strong. Particularly for anyone with forward-rounded kyphotic desk posture, it is likely that your upper abdominals need more stretch work than strength/shortening—so doing 100 crunches a day will not only throw your body more out of alignment, it will be a waste of your time. I recommend checking my abdominal strength test  for advice on what type of core work your body needs in each of these workouts. You can add any necessary core work at the end of each day's workout.

So, here we go—four days of workouts totaling 240 minutes. Let's go!

DAY ONE WORKOUT
Barbell Deadlift
  Start by holding a barbell with palms back grip, hands shoulder width apart. Legs should be hip width apart. Make sure your spine stays in a neutral position, meaning that your shoulders are retracted back and together (not rounded forward) and that your lower back maintains a comfortable curve (not tucking your butt under) as you slowly lower the barbell down to mid-shin height. Then drive through your heels and glutes to bring the barbell up with you as you stand up. As you are standing up squeeze your butt cheeks together as if you are holding your shorts with them. If you cannot maintain neutral spine and bring bar down to mid-shin, then reduce range to higher low position. Repeat for 3 - 5 sets of 8 - 12 repetitions per set.
Single Dumbbell Multi-Directional Lunge and Shoulder Press
  Holding a single dumbbell in your left hand, you will perform a single dumbbell shoulder press at the top of every lunge you are about to do. Perform two alternate (left foot then right foot) lunges directly to front. Follow with two alternate 45-degree lunges front. Follow with two alternate side lunges. Next, do two alternate 45-degree lunges back. Now do two alternate step-back lunges. Then swap the dumbbell to the right hand and repeat the entire sequence, performing a single dumbbell press at the top of each lunge again. Repeat for a full set around on each arm. (Note: photos show lunges on one side only.) Repeat for 3 - 5 sets of one complete lunge circuit per arm.
Dumbbell Dead-row
  Start in standing position with a barbell held in front of your body at waist height. Drop into a shortstop stance with upper body around 55 degrees from floor, and a neutral spine. Perform a single deadrow, bringing the barbell up to your sternum. Bring barbell back down to low position and return to standing position. Repeat for 3 - 5 sets of 8 - 12 repetitions per set.
Split Squat and Single Cable Rotation Push, Staggered Stance
  Stand with staggered stance and use a single cable handle at chest height. Push the cable handle with a twist, using the hand opposite your front leg. Keep shoulders back throughout movement. Repeat for 3 - 5 sets of 8 - 12 repetitions per arm.
Gravitron Wide Pull-ups, Drop Sets
  On a Gravitron machine, grab the palms-wide bar. From starting postion, pull yourself up with a three-second count. Without pausing at the top, lower yourself down for a three-second count. Repeat for as many reps as possible (make the weight tough on this first set to max around six to eight reps). Then make weight easier and pull for as many reps as you can. Then make weight easier one last time and pull for as many reps as possible. Be sure to always pull through your pinkies and elbows, keeping the muscle focus in your lats for this pullup. Repeat for 3 - 5 sets of 8 - 12 repetitions.
DAY TWO WORKOUT
Cardio Workout (20 Minutes)
  I recommend using this day for a different type of cardio each time. You can even alternate 10 minutes doing one thing with 10 of another. If you have access to hikes or do outdoor stuff, then 20 minutes there would be even better than being stuck in some gym doing cardio. Try new stuff— rowing machine, swimming, stair climbing. If you have any joint or alignment issues, I do not recommend any impact cardio such as running or jumping rope.
DAY THREE WORKOUT
Barbell Squats
With a barbell on your shoulders, it is extremely important that you keep your spine neutral and shoulder blades back throughout the squat movement. Position your feet so that they are shoulder width apart and toes are straight ahead or just slightly out. Lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, or as low as you can go with a neutral spine and weight in your heels. Once you reach the low position, drive up through your heels and return to the starting position. Repeat for 3 - 5 sets of 8 - 12 repetitions.
Front-Back Lunges with Dumbbells Low/High
Hold dumbbells either low at your sides or at your shoulder level for more difficulty. From the starting position, step your right foot backwards and drop your right knee into a lunge. Lower your right knee until your right quad is parallel to the floor. Push back to stand up from the lunge and step forwards with your right leg into a front lunge. For added difficulty, you can insert a bicep curl with both arms as you step forward. Repeat for 3 - 5 sets of 8 - 12 steps and curls.
Single Dumbbell Stability Ball Press
Lie back on a stability ball with your upper back stabilized on the ball. Have your feet hip width apart and keep hips flat. Take a single dumbbell while lying back and press it up, using your chest to do the pushing. Bring the single dumbbell down so that the lower elbow is at a right angle while the opposite hand is on your hip. Repeat for 3 - 5 sets of 8 - 12 per side.
Split Squats with Single Dumbbell Lateral
Stand in a lunge position with your left leg bent slightly in front of you and your right leg bent behind you. Hold a singtle dumbbell in your right hand. (The single dumbbell gives you a tougher balance element.) Go down into a split squat so that your left thigh is parallel to the ground and your right leg is bent towards the ground (similar to the bottom of the lunge position). Come back up to standing and do a single dumbbell lateral raise. Keeping your arms straight and palms face down, raise your arms so that they are parallel to the ground. Bring arms back down and then go back into split squat on same leg. Do this for 12 reps for each leg. When the right leg is front, the dumbbell is in your left hand, and vice versa. Repeat for 12 lateral raises per arm. Repeat for 3 - 5 sets of 8 - 12 per side.
Inverted Pull-ups, Palms Down
On a Smith Machine or Squat Rack, position the bar so that it is either on the fourth, fifth, or sixth rung (this depnds on your height relative to the rack). With your feet flat on the floor in a wide stance, place your hands shoulder width apart, with your palms facing down. Hang from bar with your body flat and arms fully extended. Lift your body up towards the bar until your chest nearly touches the bar. Lower yourself back down to starting position. Think about pulling through the pinky side of your hand to help your back do the majority of the work. Do this for 12 reps.. Repeat for 12 lateral raises per arm. Repeat for 3 - 5 sets of 8 - 12 repetitions.
DAY FOUR WORKOUT
Cardio Workout (20 Minutes)
  I recommend using this day for a different type of cardio each time. You can even alternate 10 minutes doing one thing with 10 of another. If you have access to hikes or do outdoor stuff, then 20 minutes there would be even better than being stuck in some gym doing cardio. Try new stuff— rowing machine, swimming, stair climbing. If you have any joint or alignment issues, I do not recommend any impact cardio such as running or jumping rope.
One final note—to make this a five-day workout, feel free to insert a day off between the second and third days. This five-day plan will keep you fit and functioning!

About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is co-founder of the award-winning Diakadi Body personal training gym and creators of RealJock's 12-week Workout Programs. Billy was recently named by Men's Journal Magazine as 1 of the top 100 Trainer's in America and is a certified Level 1 Practitioner and Holistic Lifestyle Coach through the Paul Chek Institute as well as a Certified Personal Trainer through The National Academy of Sports Medicine. Have burning questions about your fitness that you want Billy and Diakadi co-founder Mike Clausen to answer? Send an email to billyandmike@realjock.com.