In 2014, Men’s Health launched a search for the most talented, skilled and inspiring fitness expert in the US. From a pool of hundreds, we chose eight finalists. They then went head-to-head in a series of tests of training know-how as they competed to become the first Men’s Health Next Top Trainer.
The winner: Andy Speer from New York City. To seal his victory, we asked him to design a new programme, one that would yield benefits visible in the mirror and on the scale. You need just two dumbbells. The programme? The Anarchy Workout.
“My goal was to help men move more weight at the gym and create more power beyond it,” says Andy. “To do that, I had to break many traditional training rules.”
First rule to go: Cardio and strength training don’t mix. Each Anarchy workout blends cardio, strength work and calisthenics in heart-hammering intervals that take just 30 minutes. How effective are they? An Auburn University study found that such training can burn 16 calories a minute. “But it’s not enough to just train hard,” says Andy. “You have to train smarter.”
Read on for five training secrets that set Anarchy apart. Each can help you reach your goals faster. But combined, as they are here, the results are amplified: “You can lose up to 8kg in six weeks,” says Andy. “You won’t just be fitter; you’ll sculpt a new you.”
Secret 1: Be Progressive
Most training programmes increase only one variable – exercise time or difficulty – within a given workout. “In Anarchy, you increase both,” says Andy. “So if you’re doing three sets of a T-plank, you might start with a standard T-plank, then do a T-plank with rotation, and finish with a T-plank with rotation and leg lift.” Each set also becomes progressively longer. “The pay-off is an enhanced metabolic effect,” he adds. “And the mental challenge of constantly learning new skills doesn’t leave room for boredom.”
Secret 2: Do Compound Sets
Most guys are familiar with supersets and tri-sets, which combine exercises that hit noncompeting muscle groups (such as quads and pecs) in back-to-back sets. “The moves in compound sets target the same muscle from different angles,” says Andy. “So you might pair lunges and squats, or two chest exercises.” The goal is to increase the target muscle’s time under tension without exhausting it. “The effect is twofold,” he adds. “You increase the growth stimulus and burn more calories.”
DO THIS Perform 1 set of dumbbell chest flys followed immediately by 1 set of dumbbell bench presses (8 to 10 reps each) to complete 1 compound set. Rest for 60 seconds. Complete 3 compound sets for a serious upper-body pump.
Secret 3: Press “Pause”
By themselves, isometric moves – which involve holding a position, like a plank – are powerful strength builders. “They’re another way to increase stress on a muscle,” says Andy. But isometrics become even more potent when integrated into a dynamic exercise – say, by holding the bottom of a jump lunge or jump squat and then performing several explosive reps. “It’s called isodynamic training,” Andy says. “By pre-fatiguing the muscle, you activate more type-2 fibres, which have the most growth potential.”
DO THIS Holding dumbbells by your sides, assume a staggered stance. Lower your body into a split squat. Hold 20 seconds, then do 20 seconds of split jumps. Rest 40 seconds. Repeat, this time with your other leg forward. That’s 1 cycle. Do 1 more.
Secret 4: Hit the Floor
Consider your current workout plan. How often are you on all fours? “For most men, the answer is almost never,” says Andy. “Very few men devote time to primal, quadruped movements like bear, crab and baby crawls.” As a result, they’re missing out on exercises that not only strengthen the shoulders and core but also boost coordination. “They force your body to synchronise muscles in ways most of us have forgotten,” he says. “If you want to be more mobile and agile, you’ve got to start crawling.”
DO THIS To perform a bear crawl, get on your hands and knees, and lift your knees off the floor. Move your right hand and left foot forward, then repeat with your left hand and right foot. Crawl for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Do this 2 more times.
Secret 5: Switch Directions
Every time you do a squat, bench press, row or other exercise with forward and backwards movement, you’re training in the sagittal plane. “And that’s the only one most guys train in,” says Andy. But there are two others – frontal (side-to-side) and transverse (rotational). “Exercising in all three by doing moves like the lateral lunge and rotational slam [shown above] will work your muscles from new angles,” says Andy. “Plus, you’ll boost your mobility and stability, which are critical for athleticism.”