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“You have to continually challenge yourself to do one more rep until a buzzer sounds,” says Jesse Jones, Basecamp’s programme director. Crushing your goal becomes the only task that occupies your mind."
You made it to the gym. Great! But now, a little real talk: No zoning out! Just going through the motions during a workout could mean you’re cheating both your body and your brain out of the beneﬁts of a good sweat – exactly the detox you need in a manic month. Yet, get your head into your sets and reps – and out of your daily to-dos – and suddenly we’re talking about a true mental cleanse that allows you to really push it and rev your burn, spike your ﬁtness, and budge your muscles to the next level of sculptitude.
“When you’re preoccupied with things like ‘Did I answer my boss’s e-mail?’ or ‘I need to remember to buy that gift,’ your energy starts to diminish as the stresses of life creep in and eventually take over your workout,” says Jesse Jones, programme director of Basecamp Fitness in the US. You may have experienced this mental drift during a long run, a solo weight-machine circuit, or whenever you hit a steady rhythm.
But divvy your workout into bits in which the intensity is turned up – way up – and you won’t be bothered with anything except “How many seconds do I have left to reach my reps target?” That’s the laser focus you want to have because it makes the changes happen, Jesse explains. When you’re forced to think only about the task at hand, it allows you to fully harness every ounce of calorie-burning and muscle-carving power you’ve got to accomplish it.
At Basecamp, Jesse and programme manager Ian Armond developed a rapid-ﬁre total-body routine called The Threshold that is guaranteed to get you into the headclearing zone. They take members through it once a month to track their progress.
It goes like this: Work at your absolute max during a one-minute strength move, then catch your breath for one minute with some low-intensity cardio. For the recovery minutes, Basecamp uses the stationary Assault Air Bike with a fan that generates more wind resistance the faster you pedal, but any steady cardio will do. With every interval, your mission is to rack up the most reps possible.
Chasing those one-minute goals is the trick that keeps your intensity through the roof and your mind in the game. You set a benchmark; you try to beat it the next session. Repeat.
“It also lets you measure your progress by indicators, like endurance and strength, that go beyond a ﬂatter belly or a tighter butt, which can sometimes take longer to see,” Jesse says. “And having concrete proof that you’re improving each week helps motivate you to keep at it.”
Jesse and Ian have boiled The Threshold down to a fast and furious 20 minutes just for Shape readers. But rather than save it for once a month, you can do this more compact workout once a week. And even that small commitment will make a big difference. For starters, there’s the monster fat burn – more than eight calories per minute – both during and following the workout. “You’ll continue expending calories at a higher rate for hours after you ﬁnish,” Ian says. Plus, you’ll ﬁre up every major muscle for a concentrated dose of ﬁrming.
Just one rule: Give it all you’ve got during each strength move. That means pushing hard for the entire minute, gunning to beat your previous score. “Even if it’s just by one more rep than you did last week, you’re going to experience a mental rush,” Ian says.
“You’ll also notice that every time you do this workout, the movements start to feel easier and smoother.” That’s a sign that you’re getting leaner, stronger – and in the zone.
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“This workout keeps you accountable and motivated,” says Ian Armond, Basecamp’s programme manager. “If you’ve been slacking off all week, you’ll know when you aren’t able to hit your goal. But if you’ve been putting in the work, your score will skyrocket, and when you see that, you can celebrate your progress.”
“We settled on one-minute intervals because that’s about the time when your muscles start to say, ‘Okay, we’re done now,’” Jesse says. “When you push past one minute, individual muscle groups get tired, and it usually leads to a breakdown in form.”
Warm up for ﬁve to 10 minutes by doing dynamic stretches – lunges with rotation, plus arm and leg swings – to loosen and activate muscles. Then start a one-minute timer and do as many reps of the ﬁrst move as you can in that time. Record your score when done (on paper or into your phone) and start the timer again for one minute of active recovery: Jog in place, jump rope, or ride a stationary bike. Repeat this process until you have completed all 10 moves. Finish with a ﬁve- to 10-minute cool-down of static stretching. Save your score and retest yourself with this same process one week later to see how much you’ve improved.
A stopwatch or timekeeping app.
1 SQUAT ONE-TWO PUNCH
Works shoulders, triceps, biceps, butt, quads and hamstrings
Stand with feet staggered, right foot forward, and hands in ﬁsts by chin. Squat to start [a]. Stand, then quick-snap a punch with right hand straight forward, rotating ﬁst with palm down at shoulder height. Then quickly punch left hand across body, pivoting on left foot to turn hips forward slightly, rotating ﬁst palm down at shoulder height of right arm [b]. That’s one rep. Return to start position and continue quickly for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.
2 CRISS-CROSS SQUAT
Works abs, butt, quads, hamstrings and inner thighs
Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms by sides. Jump, crossing right leg in front of left [a], landing in that position for brief second, then jump to uncross legs and squat on landing [b]. That’s one rep. Without pausing, switch sides; repeat. Continue quickly, alternating sides for one minute.
3 T PUSH-UP
Works shoulders, chest, triceps, abs, obliques and butt
Start on ﬂoor in plank on palms. Bend elbows back 45 degrees to lower body until chest grazes ﬂoor [a]. Then push up, rotating right into side plank on left palm, while extending right arm straight up from shoulder and stacking feet [b]. That’s one rep. Switch sides; repeat. Continue quickly, alternating sides for one minute.
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“This workout is such a small portion of your day, you can afford to detach from your responsibilities and recharge,” Ian says.
7 LUNGE KICK
Works abs, butt, quads and hamstrings
Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms by sides. Step right leg back into reverse lunge, bending both legs at 90 degrees, with right arm bent forward and left bent back to start [a]. Push through left foot to stand on left leg, kicking right leg in front of you while driving left arm forward and right arm back [b]. That’s one rep. Return to start position and continue for 30 seconds. Switch sides; repeat.
Lie face up on ﬂoor with legs long and arms extended overhead to start. Curl head, neck and shoulders up as you reach arms and legs up to meet while balancing on tail bone so body forms a V [shown]. Simultaneously lower arms and legs back to start position. That’s one rep. Continue quickly for one minute.
9 SQUAT HOLD
Works abs, butt, quads and hamstrings
Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms by sides. Squat and extend arms straight out at shoulder height [shown]. Record number of seconds you can hold position with excellent form (hip crease below parallel, knees pushed outward, chest lifted). Once you can go the full minute, do this with arms overhead for more of a challenge.
Works shoulders, chest, abs, butt, quads, hamstrings and calves
Start on ﬂoor in plank on palms. Jump feet towards hands [shown]. Immediately jump feet back to start position. That’s one rep. Continue quickly for one minute.
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