Productivity experts often tell clients to tackle the most challenging task on their to-do list first. The reason: a feeling of accomplishment gives you momentum to check off other less-daunting tasks throughout the rest of the day – even as your attention span diminishes.
The same logic can work at the gym: a reverse pyramid – or countdown – format forces you to do the hardest part of the workout first, when you’re physically at your peak, says strength and conditioning trainer Albert Matheny. Then it’s downhill from there: as the number of reps decreases during the workout, the mental momentum you’re building allows you to finish strong, even as your body starts to fatigue.
Follow this countdown workout from Matheny two or three days a week. Perform five reps of each of the following exercises in order, moving from one to the next without resting. Take a short break (30 to 60 seconds) if needed, then repeat the circuit, completing four reps of each move. Continue until you reach one rep of each move.
You’ll need: a set of dumbbells that allows you to complete the reps with proper form. Try three to four kilograms to start.
The 15-Minute Countdown Workout
Hold a dumbbell in each hand just above your shoulders, palms facing in, then sit your hips back and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor (A). Push through your heels to stand, pressing the weights overhead (B). Return to start; that’s one rep.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides (A). Step back with your right leg and bend both knees as you lower until your left knee is bent 90 degrees (B). Push through your left foot to stand, then repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.
Grab a pair of dumbbells and get into push-up position with your hands on the weights and your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart (A). Brace your core, then bend your right elbow to pull the weight towards your chest, keeping your hips parallel to the floor (B). Slowly lower the weight back to start, then repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.
Spiderman Plank With Dumbbells
Start in push-up position with your hands on a pair of dumbbells and feet slightly wider than hip-width apart (A). Brace your core, then bend your right knee towards the outside of your right elbow (B). Pause, then return to start and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.
MAKE IT HARDER: do a push-up between each rep after returning to start position.