How many muscles have you worked lately? Ah, we thought so. No wonder lugging those groceries up the stairs or your suitcase to the airport leaves you aching. Our resistance-training plan can help you fix all that by putting your muscles to work for you.
Not only do these moves save time, they also burn plenty of calories and mimic real life more accurately than the standard bicep curl. Once you notice the difference it makes in how you look and feel, you’ll be hooked.
Works: Lower back
Lie flat on your stomach with arms and legs extended flat on floor. Lift both legs and arms a few inches off the floor; hold 5 seconds and lower. Repeat 10–15 times.
How to make it easier: Lying on your stomach, arch legs upward and place hands alongside face to support your body weight. As you progress, do the move with hands placed near your armpits. In time, alternately lift your extended right arm off the floor while lifting your extended left leg; then left arm, right leg. Finally, do the full Superwoman.
2. Squats With Lateral Shoulder Raises
Works: Legs, butt, and shoulders
Holding a 5- or 7-pound dumbbell in each hand, stand with feet a little wider than hip-width apart and toes pointed outward slightly; knees should be slightly flexed and back should be flat. Focus on a spot on the wall that’s 45 degrees above eye level.
Slowly lower to a sitting position, keeping weight on your heels and allowing yourself to lean forward slightly. As you lower, raise arms, keeping hands at 10 and 2 o’clock. Once thighs are parallel to the floor, stand up, pushing through heels to starting position as you lower weights to your sides. Lower into a squat, this time lifting arms straight out to sides, to shoulder height. Once thighs are parallel to the floor, stand up as you lower weights to sides. Repeat the sequence 10–12 times.
How to make it easier: Place a stability ball between your lower back and a wall, and then squat.
3. The Bicycle
Lie on your back with bent knees and feet on floor. Press lower back into floor. Cup hands lightly over ears. Lift left foot off the floor until left knee points toward ceiling. Extend right leg, lifting it slightly off floor. Exhale slowly, curl torso upward, and touch right elbow to left knee; lower to starting position.
Repeat on right side, touching left elbow to right knee. Do 10 reps.
How to make it easier: Instead of incorporating your upper body, just keep shoulders and head flat on the mat. Eventually, start to curl up.
4. Bent-Over Row
Works: Midback and triceps
Holding a 3-, 5-, or 8-pound dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Lean forward from your hips, not your waist, keeping your back flat; dumbbells should be in front of your knees.
Pull dumbbells up toward the lower part of your chest, keeping upper arms and elbows next to your ribs. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder blades together until dumbbells touch your abdomen. Lower the dumbbells slowly, then repeat 10–12 times.
How to make it easier: Lie on your stomach and chest on an incline bench to do this exercise. Progress until you can do it unassisted.
Works: Chest and triceps
Lie on the floor and get in a classic push-up position—hands under your shoulders and legs straight behind you. Keeping your head in line with your spine and looking down at the floor, lift your right leg about 6 inches off the floor.
Do 6–10 push-ups in this tripod position. Then lower foot to the ground, and lower to your knees to rest. Resume classic push-up position, this time elevating left leg while doing the move; do 6–10 reps.
How to make it easier: Start by doing a bent-knee push-up (knees on the floor). As you get stronger, extend one leg backward into the traditional push-up position. Progress to traditional push-ups, then to our Pilates-style move.