Strength Foundation 12-Week Workout: Week 2

Welcome to Week 2 of the Strength Foundation 12-Week workout program from UC Berkeley fitness operations director and premier strength coach Devin Wicks. This week is very similar to Week 1, but with higher expectations. If you've been doing two sets of each exercise, try to add a third set. If three is still too many for your fitness level, really work on pushing out two strong sets. If you've been doing three sets already, add five to seven percent more weight than you did last week. For cardio, you'll add threshold training (see the FAQs for an overview of threshold cardio).
The Strength Foundation 12-Week Workout program is broken into three months, each with distinct goals.

Month 1 (Base): Primary Goals
  1. Familiarize yourself with the gym.
  2. Identify large muscle groups.
  3. Develop understanding of correct form—keep all movements slow, controlled, and stable.
  4. Break down and rebuild muscle and connective tissue (expect some soreness).
  5. Learn your limits—and how to appropriately challenge them.
  6. Practice pushing through resistance—both physical and psychological.
  7. Improve cardiac efficiency by maintaining an elevated heart rate for a sustained period.


Exercise Muscles Weight (Goal) Set 1 Reps (Goal) Set 1 Reps (Actual) Set 2 Reps (Goal) Set 2 Reps (Actual) Optional Set 3 Reps (Goal) Optional Set 3 Reps (Actual)
Seated Leg Presses Legs Rep Max 12 - 15 12 - 15 12 - 15 (optional set)
Dumbbell Press Chest Rep Max 12 - 15 12 - 15 12 - 15 (optional set)
Seated Cable Rows Back Rep Max 12 - 15 12 - 15 12 - 15 (optional set)
Dumbbell Lateral Raises Shoulders Rep Max 12 - 15 12 - 15 12 - 15 (optional set)
Standing Cable Curls Biceps Rep Max 12 - 15 12 - 15 12 - 15 (optional set)
Cable Triceps Bar Press-Downs Triceps Rep Max 12 - 15 12 - 15 12 - 15 (optional set)
Floor Crunches Abdominals (center and lower) N/A 2 sets of 20 2 sets of 20 2 sets of 20 (optional set)
Superman Hold with Freestyle Kicks Back (lower) N/A 2 sets of 20 2 sets of 20 2 sets of 20 (optional set)
Exercise Time Overview
Spin or Stationary Bike, or Elliptical Machine 30 Minutes Do 30 minutes on the spin or stationary bike, or on the elliptical machine.
  1. For the first 10 minutes, achieve and maintain an RPE of 6 - 7.
  2. At minute 10, spend one minute at threshold—an RPE of 8 - 9. Don't just go faster—add both resistance and speed to gain intensity.
  3. Recover at an RPE of 6 - 7 until minute 20.
  4. At minute 20, again spend one minute at threshold—an RPE of 8 - 9.
  5. Recover at an RPE of 6 - 7 until minute 25.
  6. Cool down at an RPE of 5 - 6 for your last five minutes.
See How to Calculate Your RPE for an overview of this heart-rate tracking methodology.
Exercise Overview
Seated Leg Presses Lie on your back on a sled leg press machine, with your feet about hip-width apart and your hands lightly grasping the handles for balance. You should have enough engagement through your leg muscles that you can engage the weights throughout the exercise, never completely releasing the resistance. From the starting position, push strongly with both legs to press the foot plate away from you. Come all the way to a full extension, with your legs straight. To focus the work of this exercise in your quads, press the plate with the balls of your feet. To focus on your glutes and hamstrings, press more from your heels. From the extended position, bend your knees to return to the starting position.
Dumbbell Press Lie on your back on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand and both your head and hips on the bench. Your feet should be flat and light on the floor. Hold the dumbbels with palms facing your feet, and arms extended toward the ceiling, straight up from the shoulder. Your hands should be shoulder width apart -- and they will stay at that distance throughout the exercise. Bend both elbows as you pull the weights straight down toward the floor. As you do this, try to keep your chest high, isolating the pectoral muscles rather than using your shoulders. When your elbows are level with your back, press back up toward the ceiling, keeping your chest open and shoulders back even as your arms straighten upward. Do not let the weights touch at the top of your motion -- they should come straight toward the ceiling, not in an arc.
Seated Cable Rows Sit on the floor or on a flat bench at a cable row station holding a double-handle attachment with your elbows tucked in and your arms extended with palms facing. Your hands should be slightly less than shoulder distance apart. Your back should be flat, your chest out, your abs engaged into your spine, your posture tall, and your legs slightly bent. Pull the handles in toward your stomach, leading with your pinkies and squeezing the shoulder blades together as you pull. Imagine you are trying to wrap your elbows around behind your back. Keep your back flat, your abs engaged strong into your spine, and a tall posture as you pull. When you have pulled the handles all the way in to your abdomen, reverse direction and return to the starting position, resisting the pull of the cable through your lats as you extend your arms. Do not let your elbows come wide as your arms extend.
Dumbbell Lateral Raises Stand on the floor with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells at your sides. Your knees should be slightly bent, and your palms should face in toward your hips. Raise both dumbbells up from each side and away from the body, keeping your elbows straight. Keeping your trapezoid muscles relaxed, continue raising your arms until they are horizontal with your shoulders. Slowly lower the arms back to starting position and repeat.
Standing Cable Curls Attach the long bent bar to the lowest setting on a cable machine. Stand facing the machine with your feet slightly staggered. Hold the bar with your arms fully extended down toward the floor. Hold the bar in an easy open-handed grip, with your hands about shoulder-width apart in front of your groin. Keep your elbows in front of your body line and make sure they stay there throughout the movement. Use a scooping motion to lift the bent bar up in a curl. Keep the top half of your arms stationary as you curl the bar up toward your chest. Make sure you lift with your biceps and not with your shoulders or body; keep your core engaged and do not swing your body. When you reach the top of the curl, flex your biceps to make sure you get the full range of motion, and then reverse the movement and return the bar to the starting position. Resist the weight all the way down. Do not fully lock your elbow at the bottom, and move right into the next curl without allowing your bicep to rest.
Cable Triceps Bar Press-Downs Attach a bent tricep bar to the upper connection of a cable machine. Stand in front of the cable machine with your legs in a slight scissor position so that one leg is stepped slightly forward and the other leg is stepped slightly back. Hold the bar up at chest level in both hands with your palms down and your pinkies are on the outside bend of the bar. Your elbows should be bent and held in at your sides. Press the bar down toward your thighs, keeping your elbows in as you descend. At the bottom of the movement, reverse position and bring the bar back up to starting position. At the top of the movement, your elbows should come up just past a 90-degree angle, no more and no less.
Floor Crunches Lie on a floor mat or on the floor with your feet on the ground approximately hip-width apart, your back flat and your elbows bent with fingers just cupping your head on each side. To avoid straining your neck, do not fully support your head in your hands. Use a rolling motion to lift the upper body up off the floor until your shoulder blades are off the floor. Be careful to lift with your abdominal muscles and not with your arms—you should feel no pull in your neck. At the top position, you should feel a complete squeeze in your abdominal area. Hold the squeeze, and then reverse the motion and slowly lower yourself down again until your back is once again flat on the floor or mat.
Superman Hold with Freestyle Kicks Lie face down on the floor with your legs extended and your arms straight on the floor in front of you with palms facing down. From the starting position, raise both your legs off the floor as you retract your shoulder blades and lift your arms, shoulders, and chest off the floor as well. Keep your head and neck in line with your back. Once only your stomach and hips are on the floor, maintain the elevated position as you perform freestyle kicks: Kick from the hip with alternating legs, keeping your toes pointed and your knees straight. Be careful not to fling your legs or bend your knees—your kicks should be small, quick, and controlled.