Sculpt the Perfect Body

Ava Cowan's Belly, Butt and Thigh Meltdown

Cardio and resistance training are equally important when it comes to sculpting the perfect body. But time is of the essence, and hitting the gym twice per day (once for cardio and once for weight) may not be an option.

So what’s the best way to build muscle and burn fat all in one trip to the gym? IFBB Figure Pro Ava Cowan says, “It’s about incorporating your basic bodybuilding-style moves with plyometrics and then taking it one step further by utilizing what’s called active rests.” An example of an active rest is performing abdominal exercises in between sets to allow your targeted muscle group to rest while still working.

For instance, begin with your set of squats for 8-12 reps, then immediately go into squat jumps for about 20 reps to totally exhaust the muscle group, and then rest with an abdominal exercise. All three functions combined provide an intense heart-pumping workout that’ll keep you huffing and puffing for more. In essence, you’re performing a circuit-style workout— which means your workout is going to be shorter in time and you’re going to burn more calories than your basic workout that does not include active rests and plyometrics. You’re going to kill two birds with one stone.

Go all in and try this high-intensity, grueling workout. Your metabolism will be on fire when you’re through— guaranteed. You can even use these same principles with all other muscle groups on different days of the week. That way you’re hitting all parts of the body while still having the benefits of a high-intensity workout.



Barbell Squats: Place barbell on shoulders with your hands over the top of the bar at a comfortable position. Sit back as though you’re looking for a chair behind you. Keep your back straight, shoulders back and chest out at all times and be sure not to allow your knees to bend forward beyond your toes. Squat down until your thighs are parallel from the floor, then push upward from the heels. Tip: keep your chin up to avoid falling forward. Beginners can begin with no weight, hands crossed at their chest.

Lunges: Hold dumbbells at your sides, palms facing in. Step forward with one foot. Always keep your back straight, chest out and shoulders back. Slowly descend toward floor, allowing your knees to bend. The idea is to make sure that the thigh behind you is perpendicular to the ground while your leading thigh ends in a parallel position. Do not allow your knee to touch the floor. Push back up to starting position through the heels. Repeat with same leg for desired reps or alternate. Beginners can begin with no weight and arms crossed at chest.

Hack Squats: Using the designated Hack Squat machine at your gym, be sure to follow directions listed on equipment. Always push from your heels and do not allow your knees to bend beyond your toes.

Lying Leg Curls: Use the designated Leg Curl machine at your gym. Set curl bar to rest on your ankles. Curl bar toward your rear end without allowing the bar to hit your body. Control the weight at all times and do not allow your lower back to raise off the pad of the machine.

Romanian Deadlifts: Grasp bar with hands wider than shoulder-width. Stand with feet about 4-5 inches apart. Keep your back straight, chest out and shoulders back throughout the entire movement. With knees slightly bent, slowly lower weight toward floor, only bending at the hips. Push your rear end backward as though you’re sticking your butt out. You’ll feel a stretch in your glutes and hamstrings. Return to starting position and repeat.

Leg Extensions: Choose designated Leg Extension machine at your gym. Adjust seat to your height. Place feet behind padded bar. Bar should rest on your ankles just above your shoes. Extend legs toward sky and slowly lower, always controlling the weight. Do not let the weight control you. Do not let plates slam to bottom or rest at bottom of movement. Immediately continue with your next rep.

Standing Calves: Choose designated Standing Calf machine at your gym. Adjust the equipment to your height and choose appropriate weight. Stand with your feet about 3-4 inches apart. Keep your knees straight, but do not lock them. Begin move with full extension of the calf. Stand to full contraction and fully extend heel upward, pushing through the balls of your feet. Slowly return to full extension, heel toward the ground and repeat.

Seated Calves: Choose appropriate equipment and add appropriate weight. Sit with knees underneath apparatus. Keep feet 4-5 inches apart. Slowly perform movement as recommended with Standing Calves.

Squat Jumps: Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Cross arms at chest. Bend down into squat position and explode upward into a full jump, pushing from the heels. Land on your toes and immediately return back to your squat position and continue for reps. Beginner— 10-15 reps; Intermediate— 20-25 reps; Advanced— 30+ reps

Bench Jumps: Stand in front of box or low bench. Keep arms crossed at chest or to the side. Feet at shoulder-distance apart. Lower to squat position and jump up onto bench. Return to the ground and continue for reps. Beginner— 10-15 reps; Intermediate— 20-25 reps; Advanced— 30+ reps.

Jump Rope: With appropriate length jump rope, perform consecutive jumps quickly. Do not double bounce if possible. Beginner— 20 rotations; Intermediate— 30 rotations; Advanced— 40+ rotations.

Jumping Jacks: Just like when you were a kid. Be sure to extend arms fully and jump as far apart as you can. Always keep your chest out, shoulders back and back straight. Beginner— 20 jumps; Intermediate— 30 jumps; Advanced— 40+ jumps.

Bike or Other Cardio Machine: Perform cardio for 1-5 minutes with intensity dependent upon your fitness level.

Knee-Ups: Using the Roman Chair, raise your knees to hip level, lower slowly and repeat for reps.

Supported Straight Leg Raises: Using the Roman Chair. Raise your legs to hip level, lower slowly and repeat for reps.

Bench V-Ups: Using bench, grasp bench close to your butt for stability; bring legs and torso together, keeping legs straight. Slowly lower and repeat for reps. Beginners may use bent knee.

Incline Leg-Hip Raises: Lie on decline bench. Grasp bench behind your head for stability. Raise legs to sky and extend fully, pulling your hips off the bench. Slowly lower to starting position and continue for reps.
*For more advanced move, angle legs to side on the eccentric movement (or way down) to target the obliques.

Incline Crunches: Lie on decline bench with feet fixed behind bar at top of the bench. Perform sit-up using control throughout the movement. Beginner— cross hands over chest; Intermediate— rest hands behind head; Advanced— extend arms straight over head with hands folded over one another toward the sky. Continue for reps.
*For more advanced, move on to added weight, holding medicine ball above head.

Bicycles: Lie on back, hands cupped behind head. Bring alternate knee to opposite shoulder. Exhale when they come together. Perform for reps.