People were so blown away by how ripped she looked in her transformation photo, she did what any good Insta trainer would do: She launched her own training program. (She’d previously followed Kayla Itsines’ BBG program.)
PWR is a 12-week training program with a specific focus on weight training (it comes with an additional four weeks of beginner training for anyone new to lifting weights). Wells’ program is designed to help you build lean muscle by increasing your weekly resistance training sessions and decreasing your cardio.
Here’s everything you need to know about PWR—plus, how to make it work for you.
WHAT IS THE PWR WORKOUT?
PWR is based on a hypertrophy style of resistance training, which is designed to help increase lean muscle and strength throughout the entire body. The program lives on the Sweat app—yep, the same app that carries Itsines’ workouts—which you can download for $19.99/month or $119.94/year.
You’ll get a weekly workout plan with 45-minute weight sessions that increase every few weeks. (Plus, you get Kayla’s BBG workout, too.)
During beginner training, you’ll do three weight-training sessions plus three cardio workouts each week for four weeks. (The program will take you through low-intensity, steady-state cardio workouts along with high-intensity interval training.) Then, weeks one to four of the regular program include three to four weight-training sessions and three cardio sessions per week.
From week five on, weight training increases to four or five sessions and three cardio sessions; and then in week nine, you’ll be up to five to six weight training sessions and only two cardio sessions. PWR also includes two to three recovery and rehabilitation sessions per week to keep your body in peak condition.
The program is pretty legit, too: “I like seeing this focus on resistance training, which is something that most women were not doing until recently,” says Jessica Matthews, senior advisor for health and fitness education at the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “Sufficiently challenging your muscles is not something to fear. You won’t get big and bulky, but you will certainly increase your muscular strength and endurance and preserve and build lean muscle.”
HOW THE PLAN WORKS
Here’s exactly how Wells breaks down those weight-training workouts:
Warmup: PWR workouts starts with a five-minute warmup. You can choose from two different options: low-intensity cardio, like walking, jogging, or cycling, or cardio and movement, a combination of low-intensity cardio and dynamic stretches.
“Warming up is so important,” says Matthews, “and you should really think about it as being an opportunity to gradually prepare the body for the exercise that’s to follow.”
Activation: This secondary warmup increases your heart rate and works on your mobility. You’ll do two circuits for four minutes each; each circuit has two exercises that you’ll complete as many times as possible before the four minutes is up. “I like to think of this as movement prep, which is so important for the mechanics of resistance training,” says Matthews.
Pyramid Training: Next, you’ll spend 10 to 20 minutes doing three or four sets of three different exercises. “This is the heart of the workout,” says Matthews. You’ll increase the weight in each set while decreasing your reps, making time to rest in between.
“When we’re lifting lighter loads for more repetitions (15 or even higher), that’s focusing on general muscle fitness or muscular endurance,” she explains. “As we increase the amount of load and decrease the amount of reps, now we’re starting to work into that muscular hypertrophy range that she touts as being a key part of this program.” By the end of each set, it should feel really challenging to complete that last rep or two.
Supersets: After that, you’ll do two circuits that last six minutes (with a short rest in between). Each one includes two exercises that work a specific part of the body; you’ll complete each circuit as many times as possible in the amount of time given.
“You want to make sure that you’re really fatiguing your muscles, but not to the point of complete failure, where you’re so tired your form gets compromised,” says Matthews. “All of these exercises are only effective if you’re doing them safely or properly.”
This may be a place where, if you’re newer to the program, you may have to adjust, adapt, and potentially modify (like opting for lighter weights or fewer reps).
Burnout: This is an optional step that comes in at week five; you’ll get two exercises to do for one minute each to help max out the muscles you were just working.
“This is really an element for someone who’s more seasoned, so I’m glad she leaves it until week five,” says Matthews. “More isn’t always better, so be mindful of that. And don’t forget to rest. It doesn’t need to be for long, but your body does need that time to recover between sets.”
Cooldown: You’ll finish with a five-minute series of stretches. “You don’t want to finish the last set and leave the gym! The cooldown is such an important piece,” explains Matthews.
FYI: This is not an at-home workout program. Wells uses weight-training moves that require gym machines like the lat pulldown machine, squat rack, decline bench, and leg press machine. While she does provide some equipment alternatives, you won’t be able to complete the whole program without access to that equipment.
“I actually like that she’s very upfront about this not being the program for you if you don’t have to access to equipment,” says Matthews. “I think for many people, even navigating the gym environment can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to exercise, so how nice to feel with this app that you have a bit of a road map, to have that sense of ‘okay, I’ve got a game plan when I enter the gym.’”
HOW TO MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU
Here’s the thing about fitness programs: It’s really tough to build one that’s truly one-size-fits-all. So you might need to adjust PWR to your needs.
“The big thing with resistance training is that safety and effectiveness are the two keywords that guide everything,” says Matthews. “Form is so important, so if you’re new to weight lifting, working with a certified exercise professional could help you get a lot more attention specifically tailored to you as an individual, your form, your mechanics, picking the right weights, and so on.”
That’s not to say you shouldn’t try PWR if you’re a weight-room newb; signing on with a trainer doesn’t mean you need to work with them for weeks, months, and years. Instead, bring the program to a trainer and ask them to help you learn the ropes.
“I’d rather see someone do that with a fitness professional and come to a session or two versus do it on their own with improper form,” says Matthews. “A trainer can give you tips on proper mechanics to help you build that confidence and level of understanding of how the body moves, how to perform these exercises properly, and how to continue on your own.”
Another important thing to keep in mind while following a resistance training plan is the importance of recovery. Wells does build recovery days into her plan, but you need to listen to your own body first and foremost.
“You really want to allow the muscles sufficient time to recover,” says Matthews. “The general rule of thumb is to wait 48 hours before training the same muscle groups again.” So follow the program for guidance, and don’t overdo it with additional workouts or cramming in extra cardio.
Weight training aside, “Wells has clearly built a great community,” says Matthews. Take advantage of that. You may be doing the workout on your own at the gym, but there are people all around the world who are also using the Sweat app and following PWR. Engage with them, share your workout selfies, and let that community inspire you.
“If you can connect with people over a workout you’re excited about,” says Matthews, “there’s something to be said about the motivation that provides.”