Which is why a workout regimen backed by empirical data is the educated exerciser's holy grail. In conjunction with the UCLA Exercise Physiology Research Laboratory, a team of Equinox researchers have completed a first-of-its-kind study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the 3-Cycle System used by Equinox trainers on increasing various measures of fitness. (FYI, data junkies: The full results will be published in the August issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.)
For the study, non-training members of the Century City club were put through three four-week cycles. Each week, they'd complete three personal training sessions. After each cycle, the member would be assessed and a new program designed.
"The key variable we looked at was an increase in lean body mass," says Matt Berenc, director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute. "Second to that, participants were also tracked against improvements in strength, power and aerobic capacity. At the end of the study, compared to the non-training group, the members in the trained group saw superior gains in all measures."
Berenc designed the workout he demonstrates in the slideshow below to represent a typical Cycle 1 workout. "Cycle 1 is the time during which fundamental movement patterns are learned and a solid foundation for high-level training is set," he says. "As you can see in this program, the exercises selected are basic in nature while still being challenging, and they also address multiple planes of motion and styles of training."
And what you do in Cycle 1 will prime you for the workouts that follow. "Each of these movements will serve the basis for movements to be completed in Cycles 2 and 3," says Berenc. "All throughout the program, the participants received non-traditional metabolic conditioning (using a Versa Climber, ropesor rower) where the intensity of each increased as did their experience and ability. Again, each program was a stepping stone for the next one to be effective."
Click through the slideshow below to start your 3-day-a-week routine with Berenc's Cycle 1 workout.
Shot on location at Equinox South Bay.
Photographs by Mike Rosenthal; Art Direction & Styling by Ashley Martin; Grooming by Christina Henry
Lie faceup with feet shoulder-width apart and flat on the floor. Center a foam roller beneath your mid-back or shoulder blades so that it is perpendicular to your body (as shown). Rest your hands beneath your head and roll up and down your spine for 30 seconds.
With your feet flat on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder-width, center a foam roller beneath your glutes. Lift one leg and rest your ankle on your opposite knee (as shown). Roll back and forth from the center of your glute to the bottom of your spine for 30 seconds; switch legs and repeat.
Lie faceup with both legs in the air keeping a neutral spine. With a Cook band wrapped beneath one foot for support, holding a handle in each hand, lower the other leg to the floor (as shown). Maintain both legs as straight as possible. Slowly bring the moving leg back to start. Repeat on other side. Do 2 sets of 8 reps.
Get into child’s pose with your elbows on the floor beneath your chest. Keep one elbow on the ground for support and place one hand behind your head. Leading with the elbow of the free hand, rotate your torso to point your elbow to the ceiling (as shown). Return to start tapping the elbow to the ground. Do 2 sets of 5 reps per side.
Standing over a kettlebell with the handle in line with your heels, reach your hips back as you bend forward, eliciting a stretch in the hamstrings and remaining tall through the spine. Using both hands, grasp the handle firmly (as shown). Drive to a standing position as you push your hips forward, contracting the glutes. When you reach the standing position you should feel like you are in a standing plank. Return to the start position by once again sitting back with the hips and bending forward with a neutral spine. Do 3 sets of 8 reps. (Berenc suggests a starting weight of 20kg for women and 28kg for men; you may need to adjust based on ability and whether the kettlebell is on the floor or elevated.)
Think of your pushup as a moving plank, create as much tension as you can in the body and ensure you are moving as one whole unit. Start in plank position (as shown). As you descend, pull your shoulder blades together as you lower your chest to the floor. Hold the bottom position for a second, then drive away from the floor and complete the push-up. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
Hold the handles of a ViPR at chest height in a half kneeling position. Without rotating your torso, bring the ViPR up above your left shoulder (as shown), then chop the ViPR down across your torso towards your right hip. In one fluid motion return the ViPR to the position above the \shoulder and repeat. Do 3 sets of 12 reps; switch sides, and repeat. Remember to keep tall throughout this movement; don't let the hips sit out from underneath you and control the ViPR. (Berenc suggests a starting weight of 4kg for women and 6-8 kg for men.)
Hold the handles of a ViPR at chest height. Start in a split stance, then descend to the floor by dropping the right knee straight to the floor. At the bottom of the squat, shift the ViPR towards one side and resist the motion the ViPR attempts to create in your body (as shown). Hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds before returning to start. Switch legs and repeat. Do 3 sets of 8 reps. (Berenc suggests a starting weight of 4kg for women 4kg and 8kg for men.)
Similar to the push-up, this movement is a moving plank, just from the opposite side. Holding onto TRX handles, walk your feet forward as you lean back. From the hanging position, squeeze your shoulder blades together as you row your elbows and arms towards your sides until they form 90-degree angles (as shown). Return to the hanging position in a controlled manner and repeat for a total of 10 reps. Do 3 sets.
Grab a kettlebell and hold it like a suitcase, keeping a straight spine. Holding that posture, walk forward 30 steps (as shown). Do 3 sets; switch hands and repeat. Make sure you keep good, tall posture while walking and try to keep to a straight line (using the lines on the gym floor can help). (Berenc says the weight should be heavy enough that you can not shrug it and that you are challenged to hold on by the end; he suggests a starting weight of 12-16kg for women and 24kg for men.)
Perform 4 rounds of 20 seconds of work followed by 40 seconds of rest. Track your distance covered in each 20-second bout and try to beat the previous distance. Make it a competition against yourself.