3 Best Workouts to Get You in Shape for Summer

Man doing pull ups on the beach

Man doing pull ups on the beach | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Are you feeling like you really dropped the ball this winter with your workouts? Well, now is the perfect time to pick the ball back up and start getting into shape for the summer season. You still have a good three months to kick your butt into high gear and rebuild or reshape what you may have lost during the long, cold months of winter. Hey, it happens, but now it’s time to get serious so you can look your best when you hit the beach. Here are three workouts to try depending on when you decide to pick that ball back up. And go!

1. The 12-week program

From now until summer you have about 12 weeks to get back into it. This workout from Men’s Fitness is specifically designed to help you build muscle, from your arms and chest to your abs, but to also maintain and keep them so you don’t have to endure such a rigorous routine every year to get back into shape. The workout is divided into three or four-week phases, but here’s a glimpse at a partial sample routine for the first week, with nine exercises per day in total (with the remainder of the workout linked below). You may need to get to the gym with this one. Those that are not serious need not apply.

Exercise 1: External rotation on bench

2 sets of 12 reps each with a 45 second rest in between.

Grab hold of a weight plate or dumbbell in your left hand and lie on a bench on your right side. Next, bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle, allowing your arm to rest against your left side with your left hand over your abs. Keeping your elbow at your side, rotate your forearm towards the ceiling. Then, go back to your starting position by reversing the motion. That’s one rep. Switch arms and repeat.

Exercise 2: Lying rotators on bench

2 sets of 12 reps each with a 45 second rest in between.

As you did previously, grab hold of a weight plate or dumbbell in your left hand and lie on a bench on your right side. Next, allow your arm to hang down reaching the floor, so it’s draped over your torso, with the back of your hand facing away from you. Start by leading with the heel of your hand, raise your arm straight up overhead until it’s perpendicular to the floor, then finish by returning to starting position. That’s one rep. Switch arms and repeat.

Exercise 3: Lying Superman with alternating arms

2 sets of 12 reps each with a 45 second rest in between.

Elevate a flat bench with weight plates or boxes, with the intention of your arms not touching the floor when you lie face down. Holding a weight plate or a light dumbbell in each hand, go ahead and lie face down on the bench. Next, raise both arms behind you so that they’re close to your sides. Raise one of your arms straight up in front of you until it’s in line with your torso, but hold your other arm so you look like you’re Superman flying in the air. Finish by lowering you arm back to your side, then raise the opposite arm. That’s one rep.

Here are the remainder of your workouts for the next three months.

2. The 6-week program

young African American man running on the beach

Man running on the beach | Source: iStock

Sure you’re cutting it close, but you have some time to not go all out in full force. This routine from Men’s Health was designed by personal trainer Christian Finn to get you ready in ample time. “The workouts are relatively short so you should be able to squeeze them into a lunch hour if necessary,” he explains to the magazine. “These are grouped by movement rather than muscle group, so if the gym is busy you can quickly choose another exercise.”

As for the routine itself, “This routine is designed to strip away body fat, define your chest, abs, shoulders and arms, as well as sending your strength level soaring,” says Finn. “Combine it with a decent diet for six weeks and you’ll have a beach-ready body to be proud of.” This plan is foolproof and will get you where you want to be for summer.

A quick layout of the overall routine:

Monday: Resistance workout 1

Tuesday: Cardio (30-45 minutes steady-state cardio at 80-85 percent maximum heart rate, such as running or cycling)

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Resistance workout 2

Friday: Cardio (20-30 minutes of interval training)

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Freestyle cardio (whichever you choose)

Resistance workout 1 (there are two of them but the first one is done on Monday)


3 sets of 6-8 repetitions, and rest for two minutes in between sets


4 sets of 6-8 repetitions of the following:

Horizontal push (i.e., bench press)

Horizontal pull (i.e., dumb-bell roll)


2 sets of 12-15 repetitions of the following:

Vertical pull (i.e., lateral pulldown)

Vertical push (i.e., overhead press)


2 sets of 12-15 reps of the following:

Face pulls

Bent over lateral raise


2-3 sets of 8-10 reps in each of the following:

Ball rolllouts

2-3 sets of 12-15 reps in each set:

Reverse ab curl

Here is the rest of the program for the week to follow.

3. The 3-week program

man doing sit-ups in his house

Man doing sit-ups | Source: iStock

You’re really getting down to the wire here. This full 3-week program from Men’s Journal touts that you can really turn your body around fast in 3 weeks, that is, if you’re willing to put the work in. “Three weeks may seem last minute,” Hollywood trainer Ron Mathews tells the magazine about this 21-day workout he designed for Men’s Journal, “But you just need to maximize caloric output and minimize calorie input while activating as many muscles as possible.” To give you a little taste about what you’re in for, this is what your first day will entail. Your only rest day will be on Sunday, so get ready to work.

Day 1:

With this routine, each day you’ll be progressing and further restricting your diet, burning more calories, and building more muscle. Because you’re really squeezing this in here, know that you’ll be doing 30 minutes of cardio and one hour of weight lifting each day. Additionally, you’ll be sticking to a 2,000 calorie a day diet, starting on Day 1.

  • Weights
  • Legs
  • Shoulders
  • Regular cardio**

This is the list of acceptable exercises for each, but here’s the breakdown for how you’re going to tackle it:

Weight instructions:

For all lifting, make sure you do four sets of eight to 20 repetitions with a 60 second rest in between each rep during the first week. With each succeeding week, cut down your rest time in 15 second increments, reaching 30 by the last week. Choose any exercises that target the muscle groups laid out in the calendar, and be sure not to repeat the same routine more than three times in a row. Also, choose a weight that is challenging but not so much that you’re unable to complete all the required reps.

Cardio instructions:

Choose your favorite cardio routine like running, cycling, stair climbing, or even skipping rope because they’re all very effective at blasting away fat at the right intensity. On regular cardio days (like Day 1) do at least 30 minutes of low to moderate effort after you finish your weight workout; on interval days, do 30 minutes at a pace that switches back and forth between high to low intensity every minute. For example, jog  for one minute and sprint during the next. Once you get to the last week of the workout, you’ll already be doubling up on cardio. Make sure you tackle your workout before breakfast so you can burn extra stored fat.

Here are the exercises you will be doing the rest of the week.

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