What better place to start than at the beginning? Staring at the number on the scale or the cursed measuring tape, you know you need a change. And the first step toward a healthier lifestyle is education. Whether you’re a gym newbie or someone who has taken a considerable amount of time off from exercise, the key will be to educate (or re-educate) yourself on what it takes to transform your body.

“In this program, we’ll use only machines,” says Jimmy Peña, MS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist. “This way you can concentrate solely on pressing or pulling, without having to worry about balancing the weight, as you do when using free weights. Concentrate on good repetitions, controlling the weight on the downward or eccentric movement and smoothly reversing directions on the positive or concentric motion, and squeezing at the top (aka the peak contraction).” 

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This program will take you through 10 total exercises that work your body from top to bottom. During the first two weeks, you’ll perform more reps with lighter weight loads to get you used to the movement and taxing the muscles. Weeks three and four will use the same exercises but increase the intensity through weight load rather than upping the number of repetitions—meaning you’ll lift heavier weight for fewer reps.

“Most of these exercises are compound moves, meaning they require movement at more than one joint, so you’ll be handling heavier weights than is possible with single-joint movements,” Peña says. “Lifting heavier weights helps burn more calories and build more muscle. It’s the perfect place to start.”

Perform this workout every other day. During the first two weeks, you’ll lift weights that allow you to complete 12-20 reps with good form but still challenge your muscles. For your straight sets in week three, you’ll increase the weight and reduce the number of repetitions to 10-12. In the final week of the program, you’ll select a heavier weight with which you can complete only 8-10 reps with good form.