Your Turkey Day Workout

Plyo Pushup
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If there’s one holiday that seems to celebrate being fat, it’s Thanksgiving. First, you probably have to travel for it, and that means stress, missed workouts, or, at best, squeezing in sessions on the fly (and usually without the best equipment). Then you eat like a pig during the meal, which incapacitates you for days afterward. What you need—beyond a little self-control—is a workout you can do anywhere that helps to reverse the effects of all the “fun” you’re having. We prescribe the following routine, which combines cardio and lifting for a lasting metabolic boost.

How it works

According to Harvard Medical School, a 185-lb man who performs 30 minutes of circuit weight training can burn 355 calories. That’s equivalent to a cup and a half of mashed potatoes made with butter and whole milk. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. An intense circuit session raises your metabolism for days afterward, increasing the rate at which you burn calories even when you’re eating leftovers and watching football. The following circuit is designed to be customizable to your surroundings. So, even if your gym is Aunt Tillie’s garage—equipped with only a pair of 5-lb dumbbells left to collect dust behind the paint cans—you can still get impressive results if you put the work in. Perform the workout before your big meal so more of the calories you eat will be used for muscle recovery, then do it again the next day to keep your metabolic fire burning.


Perform the workout up to five times per week, but no more than three days in a row. Complete one set of 8–15 reps for each exercise, resting as needed between exercises—that’s one circuit. Repeat for 3-5 total circuits. If the weights you have are light and the exercises feel easy, reduce your rest time and/or try to perform each rep more slowly and with more control. If you don’t have weights, try to improvise with objects like milk or water jugs, or a backpack.

1. Alternating Shoulder Taps

Reps: 8-15 (each side)
Get into a pushup position with your legs spread wide for support (1A). Brace your core, and reach your left hand up to your right shoulder and tap it briefly (1B). Repeat on the opposite side.

2. Alternating Lateral Lunge w/ Hop

Reps: 8–15 (each side)
Step your right leg out to the side and push your hips back. Bend your knee until your right thigh is parallel with the floor. Drive your heel into the floor as hard as you can, then rebound out of the lunge quickly, hopping back to a standing position.

3. Alligator Plyo Pushup

Reps: 8–15
Get into a pushup position, and stagger your hands so one is slightly closer to your shoulder and the other is near your belly button (3A). Do an explosive pushup (3B), then switch the position of your hands so the lower one is high and the other is low.

4. Prisoner’s Bulgarian Split Squat

Reps: 8–15 (each side)
Get in a lunge position and place your rear foot on a box or bench behind you, with your toes pushing into the box (4A). Lace your fingers behind your head like a prisoner being frisked. Keeping your chest up, squat down until your back knee is nearly on the floor (4B). Drive through the heel of your front foot to return to the start position.

5. Burpee

Reps: 8–15
Squat down and plant your hands on the floor. Shoot your legs back into pushup position (5A), then hop your feet back up to your hands and jump as high as you can with your arms extended (5B).

6. Renegade Row

Reps: 8–15 (each side)
Get into a pushup position with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other (6A). Perform a pushup (6B), then shift your weight and row one dumbbell to your side at the top of the pushup (6C).

7. Bulgarian Split Squat to Press

Reps: 8–15 (each side)
Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder-level, palms facing each other. Get into a lunge position and place your rear foot on a box or bench behind you, with your toes pushing into the box (7A). Squat down until your back knee is nearly on the floor (7B). Drive through the heel of your front foot to return to the starting position, then press the dumbbells straight overhead (7C). That’s one rep.

8. Two-point Row

Reps: 8–15 (each side)
Grasp a dumbbell with one hand and push your hips back, allowing your knees to bend slightly so your chest is parallel with the floor. Raise your free hand out to the side and, without moving your torso, row the dumbbell to your ribs. Drive your elbow toward the ceiling.

9. Single-leg RDL

Reps: 8–15 (each side)
Grasp a dumbbell in your right hand and hold it in front of your body. Push your hips back and raise your right leg behind you as you reach the dumbbell toward your left foot (9A). Keep your lower back in its natural arch, then extend your hips to come back up (9B).

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