The scientifically-proven workout

It's not an over-promise: UCLA research shows this 3-cycle series will increase lean muscle mass.

In fitness, skepticism is healthy. It can help you avoid better-body snake oil—the supplements that supposedly torch fat, the sneakers that tone your body for you, the apparatus that magically sculpts abs. To get in your best shape ever, it's necessary to develop a keen b.s. radar, identifying artificial intelligence and instead focusing your efforts on hard (and effective) work.

Which is why a workout regimen backed by empirical data is the educated exerciser's holy grail. In conjunction with the UCLA Exercise Physiology Research Laboratory, a team of Equinox researchers have completed a first-of-its-kind study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the 3-Cycle System used by Equinox trainers on increasing various measures of fitness. (FYI, data junkies: The full results will be published in the August issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.)

For the study, non-training members of the Century City club were put through three four-week cycles. Each week, they'd complete three personal training sessions. After each cycle, the member would be assessed and a new program designed.

"The key variable we looked at was an increase in lean body mass," says Matt Berenc, director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute. "Second to that, participants were also tracked against improvements in strength, power and aerobic capacity. At the end of the study, compared to the non-training group, the members in the trained group saw superior gains in all measures."

Berenc designed the workout he demonstrates in the slideshow below to represent a typical Cycle 1 workout. "Cycle 1 is the time during which fundamental movement patterns are learned and a solid foundation for high-level training is set," he says. "As you can see in this program, the exercises selected are basic in nature while still being challenging, and they also address multiple planes of motion and styles of training."

And what you do in Cycle 1 will prime you for the workouts that follow. "Each of these movements will serve the basis for movements to be completed in Cycles 2 and 3," says Berenc. "All throughout the program, the participants received non-traditional metabolic conditioning (using a Versa Climber, ropes or rower) where the intensity of each increased as did their experience and ability. Again, each program was a stepping stone for the next one to be effective."

Click through the slideshow below to start your 3-day-a-week routine with Berenc's Cycle 1 workout.

Ready for Cycle 2? Get the moves.

Ready for Cycle 3? Get the moves.

Shot on location at Equinox South Bay.

Photographs by Mike Rosenthal; Art Direction & Styling by Ashley Martin; Grooming by Christina Henry