At Men's Health, we steer clear of politics, but we are fans of simple approaches that deliver results. Especially when the topic is as complicated as the tax code, or attaining your fitness goals.



So without further ado, the 9-9-9 workout. Now Herman Cain is out of the running as a Republican presidential candidate, so we won't be seeing his 9-9-9 tax plan. But this simple circuit workout of bodyweight exercises, created by David Jack -- performance coach and director of Teamworks Fitness in Acton, Massachusetts -- can help you blast fat and boost your cardiovascular fitness, whether you're on the road or at home, in red states and blue states.



Now that's a winning ticket in any year, not just 2012. (Make sure your diet is a winner, too, with this list of the 125 Best Packaged Foods.)

THE WORKOUT

As with all smart plans, this one comes with a goal. And you'll achieve that goal by taking small steps. In fitness training, we refer to this as progression. Each workout builds on the one before, so that you're working harder each time. That's how you get the results you want. It's not magic; it's science.



Here's how it works: The routine is composed of four classic and simple exercises: body-weight squats, push-ups, inverted rows and jumping jacks. There's nothing fancy here. You'll do these exercises in a circuit, performing one movement after another. And each time you complete all four exercises counts as one round of the circuit. Got it?

Now before we go any further, you should know what 9-9-9 means. After all, we like everyone to understand exactly what we're promoting. In this case, the first 9 refers to the number of reps you'll perform of each exercise; the second 9 is how many rounds of the circuit you'll do; and the third 9 is the number of minutes it should take you to finish the entire routine.

The circuit looks like this:


1. Body-Weight Squat: Do 9 reps

2. Push-up: Do 9 reps

3. Inverted Row: Do 9 reps

4. Jumping Jacks: Do 9 reps



That's one round. Your pace is determined by your fitness: You can rest as needed between each exercise -- simply go by "feel." Do a total of 9 rounds. Try to complete the entire workout in 9 minutes or less.



If you can complete the entire routine in less than 9 minutes, we have an even bigger challenge for you. Rest for 2 minutes, and repeat the workout. Your goal: Try to finish in the same time as you did the first routine. "If you can do this, you're a superstar," says Jack. "And it'll be a 20-minute workout you won't soon forget." (For 80 more fast-paced routines that'll help you shed fat, check out The Men’s Health Big Book of 15-Minute Workouts and The Women’s Health Big Book of 15-Minute Workouts.)

If that sounds too tough, don't worry: You're not alone. It's too tough for most folks. And that's why Jack created a progressive version of the 9-9-9 workout. It starts slow and gets a little harder each time. That way, anyone can work their way up to the full 9-9-9 challenge.



THE STARTER PLAN
Perform this routine every other day, resting one day between each workout.



Workout 1
: For each exercise, do 3 reps. After you've done 9 rounds, rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Then repeat, only do 2 reps of each exercise.



Workout 2
: For each exercise, do 4 reps. After you've done 9 rounds, rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Then repeat, only do 2 reps of each exercise.



Workout 3
: For each exercise, do 5 reps. After you've done 9 rounds, rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Then repeat, only do 3 reps of each exercise.



Workout 4
: For each exercise, do 6 reps. After you've done 9 rounds, rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Then repeat, only do 3 reps of each exercise.



Workout 5
: For each exercise, do 7 reps. After you've done 9 rounds, rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Then repeat, only do 4 reps of each exercise.



Workout 6
: For each exercise, do 8 reps. After you've done 9 rounds, rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Then repeat, only do 4 reps of each exercise.



Workout 7
: Now you're ready to try 9-9-9. So get a stopwatch and time yourself. Remember, for each exercise, do 9 reps. After you've done 9 rounds, stop the clock. Did you finish in under 9 minutes? If not, continue your every other day schedule, and focus on reducing your time each session. When you're able to finish under 9 minutes, you may be ready to challenge yourself even more by trying to complete the routine a second time. That may be difficult at first, so again, you can use a smart progression: Do 9 reps for 9 rounds, then rest 2 to 3 minutes, and do 5 reps for 9 rounds. In your next workout, do 7 reps your second time around. Then you'll be better prepared to try back-to-back 9-9-9 workouts in the same session.


TRAINING TIPS
No matter what your fitness level, Jack has provided these additional details to make sure you have the greatest success:



*Feel free to do other activities on your "off" days, such as yoga or cardio. Or, if you regularly train with heavy weights, you can do the 9-9-9 workout and your hard iron work on alternate days. Another option: You can add this routine onto the end of your regular workout, as a way to torch even more calories. (If you go this route, the 9-9-9 workout is going to be even harder to complete.) It's also a great as a quick 9-minute fitness tune-up whenever you're short on time.



*Form and fatigue are your key guides. You must rest when fatigue causes your form to change. When done correctly, these exercises train the muscles and patterns they were designed to address, creating a desirable outcome. When you use poor form, you sabotage your results, put yourself in an environment of risk, and "learn" poor habits that can plague you for years to come. Important note: If you experience pain during any exercise, cease the movement.



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*While this is a terrific workout, it's not designed to be done for months on end. If you haven't exercised for a while, it's a great way to get back into it. If you currently exercise, it's more of an "add-on" to a complete program. Use it as a way to burn extra calories, improve your cardiovascular endurance, and give yourself a new challenge. Once you've done the workout regularly for 4 weeks, or have achieved your goal, move on to a new routine. (Want to reveal your six-pack? Discover the Amazing Ab Secrets You Need to Know.)



*Any exercise can be made harder or easier. Use the tips that accompany each exercise video to determine how to adjust the exercise for your fitness level.


THE EXERCISES

Body-Weight Squat

If you find this exercise is simply too easy, you can drive your body up quickly and powerfully and finish each rep with a light hop. To make it even harder, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell next to your chest -- this is called a goblet squat -- as you do the exercise. (Click here to see how to do the goblet squat with perfect form.) One key: Squatting deeply, and then standing tall, is what makes this exercise work well. So keep that in mind. For example, if you're only doing a "quarter" squat, you'll be making the movement far easier than it should be.

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Push-Up

If you have trouble doing the push-up, simply place your hands on an elevated surface, such as a bench, sturdy box, or the step of a staircase. The higher the surface, the easier the exercise becomes. For example, some people may need to use a surface that's at counter-height, or in some cases, even place their hands on the wall. That's fine. Find the position that allows you to complete all of the repetitions. If you want to make the push-up harder, you can place your feet on an elevated surface, or put one foot on top of the other. One common mistake that many people make? They don't lower their body far enough. The solution: Place a pillow or tennis ball on the floor, and make sure your chest touches it with every rep. Then push your body all the way up -- until your arms are straight -- to complete the movement.

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Inverted Row

The inverted row shown in the video is done using TRX suspension straps. If you don't have these straps, simply set a barbell at waist-height in a power or safety rack, and perform the exercise in the same manner, using an overhand grip. (Just pretend you're doing a "horizontal" pull-up.) To make it harder, place your feet on an elevated surface, such as a bench. The closer your body is to parallel to the floor, the harder the exercise. If you prefer, you can also perform a dumbbell row instead.

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Jumping Jacks

To make jumping jacks harder, focus on moving faster, and extend your arms and legs so that they're as long as possible. You can also strive to jump higher each rep. And for an even greater challenge, change up your arm and leg pattern the way that's shown in the video. For example, instead of having your hands down when your feet are together, you can switch it up, so that your hands are down when your feet are up. Alternate patterns every set. Then when you're comfortable, alternate the patterns every 3 reps.

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