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The Essential Over-40 Workout

Losing weight after 40 is not as hard as you think. Although strength-training is key, new research shows that how you train can make a difference between so-so results and a metabolism that stays in high gear, burning fat and showing off lean muscle. The secret is targeting a specific type of muscle fiber called type II, or fast-twitch, that's responsible for bursts of speed and power. This type of muscle, like the name implies, is faster as well as denser, a combo that may yield quicker results.

These essential fibers, however, are the first to go as you get older (even if you're active) because most workouts don't target them. If you don't use them, you lose them. Fortunately, there's an easy antidote: speed. Research from Salisbury University in Maryland found that lifting weights faster recruits more muscle and increases calorie burn by about 32%. That's 72 extra calories per workout—the amount you'd burn walking a mile! The best part: You may feel stronger after just one workout. Combine it with our plan below to firm up your toughest trouble zones and drop a size this month.

Here are the best research-backed tips for cutting calories, curbing your appetite and keeping your weight-loss efforts on the fast track:

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What you'll need: One 6-foot flat exercise band (or two shorter ones tied together), medium resistance (available at sporting goods stores or spri.com).

3 days a week: Do the 30-minute speed training strength plan, below. Perform three sets of eight reps of each exercise in the order listed, resting 30 seconds between sets, then repeat the entire routine one more time. Also do the 30-minute Speed Training Cardio Moves to fire up any dozing fast-twitch fibers in those hard-to-hit lower-body areas like your hips, butt and thighs.

The rest of the week: Do 30 to 60 minutes of any type of moderate-intensity cardio—such as walking—as many days as possible to keep your metabolism revved and speed your weight loss.

For faster results: Limit your calorie intake to 1,600 calories a day. For most women, that's a reduction of about 400 calories, which could double your weight loss.

Speed Training

1. Slingshot Squat

(Firms butt and legs)

Stand on band with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold ends at shoulder height, palms forward. Bend hips and knees and sit back, keeping knees behind toes. This is the start position. Quickly (1 count) stand up, then slowly (3 counts) lower.

2. Crunch & Press

(Firms triceps and abs)

Loop band around a sturdy object near the ground. Lie with band behind you, knees bent, feet flat. Hold each end of band and bend arms so elbows point up with hands above shoulders. Quickly curl head and shoulders off ground, then rapidly extend arms so they are straight out from shoulders. Slowly return to start position.

3. Triangle Press

(Firms shoulders)

Place right foot on center of band, holding ends in each hand. Step left foot about three feet to the left, turn foot out, and bend knee into side lunge, keeping right leg straight. Rest left forearm on left thigh, and bend right arm so hand is by right shoulder. Quickly press right arm overhead on a diagonal. Slowly lower. Complete a full set, then switch sides.

4. Half Curl

(Firms biceps)

Stand on band with feet a few inches apart. Hold ends with arms bent 90 degrees, elbows at sides, palms up (A). Quickly bend elbows, raising hands toward shoulders (B). Slowly lower to start.

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5. Bench Press

(Firms chest)

Loop band underneath a bench or aerobic step and grasp one end of band in each hand. Lie back with knees bent, feet flat and hands by chest, elbows pointing slightly down and out. Quickly straighten arms toward sky without locking elbows. Slowly lower.

6. Seated Row

(Firms back)

Sit with knees bent slightly and feet flexed, heels resting on ground. Loop band around feet and grasp an end in each hand. Keeping back straight, quickly bend arms and pull hands toward rib cage, elbows pointing behind you. Slowly extend arms.

7. Leg Press

(Firms butt and thighs)

Lie on back with legs bent in toward chest. Loop band around bottom of left foot, with sole facing up, and grasp ends of band. Quickly straighten left leg, without locking knee. Slowly return to start position. Complete a full set, then switch legs.

8. Lat Pull-Down

(Firms back)

Loop band overhead. (to attach in a door, put a knot in center of band, drape knot over door so loose ends are on side by you, close door, and check that band is secure.) Kneel facing band, arms extended overhead, hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Quickly pull hands down, squeezing shoulder blades together, until hands are around chest height. Slowly release.

Speed Training Cardio Moves

This 30-minute workout shapes up fast-twitch fibers—and your legs and butt—with speed or climbing intervals. To meet the intense demands, your body has to recruit all those power-and speed-producing fast-twitch fibers to keep you moving. For instance, walking uphill activates 25% more fibers in your backside than strolling on flat terrain, for faster sculpting. Plus it revs up calorie burn by over one-third. You can do this routine on any cardio equipment (increase the resistance on a stationary bike to simulate hills), or walk, jog, cycle or swim outdoors. The key is to really push yourself on the speed up/climb intervals.

Key: Time, What to Do, How Hard

0-5 minutes Warm up to moderately tough pace. 5 to 7*

5 to 5:30 Speed up, going as fast as you can, or climb, raising incline as high as comfortably possible (10 percent to 15 percent). 9

5:30 to 6:30 Recover 5 to 6

6:30 to 7 Speed up or climb. 9

7 to 8 Recover. 5-6

8 to 8:30 Speed up or climb. 9

8:30 to 12 Recover, then work back to moderately tough pace. 5-7

12 to 12:45 Speed up or climb. 9

12:45 to 13:45 Recover. 5 to 6

13:45 to 14:30 Speed up or climb. 9

14:30 to 15:30 Recover. 5-6

15:30 to 16:15 Speed up or climb. 9

16:15 to 20 Recover, then work back to moderately tough pace. 5-7

20 to 21 Speed up or climb. 9

21 to 22 Recover. 5 to 6

22 to 23 Speed up or climb. 9

23 to 24 Recover. 5 to 6

24 to 25 Speed up or climb. 9

25 to 30 Cool down. 5 to 6

*Based on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the effort required for sitting and 10 for an all-out sprint.

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