5 Strength-Training Exercises You Should Start Doing Now
PLUS: The Fitness Class That Burns More Calories Than Cycling
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So much of what we do and how we move involves the muscles on the front of the body—the chest, abs, biceps, etc. But pulling exercises like rows strengthen your back to improve posture and balance out the body. Plus, you'll look that much sexier in halter dresses. The bent-over row uses dumbbells and gravity to target the back. Keep your hips hinged without letting your shoulders hunch, and pull your elbows back, keeping them close to your sides. Add in some extra core work by alternating your arms, but still keeping your torso square (no twisting).
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Yes, I know you've been told time and again how great planks are for you. But do you know why? For the strongest midsection, you want to train your core to resist flexing and twisting. The ab and back muscles are all that support the lower spine between your pelvis and your rib cage, so your goal should be to make them as firm as possible. Anti-flexion and anti-rotation exercises like planks challenge all-around core stability, without the back strain that crunches and sit-ups can cause. Now that's a major pro.
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Research continues to show the amazing benefits of lifting weights. It's the go-to way to build muscles, strengthen your bones, and even speed up your metabolism. In fact, because the glute and leg muscles are the largest in the body, adding bulk to your squat is a big way to boost calorie burn. (And no, you won't add bulk to your thighs—quite the opposite, in fact.) The simplest way is to use dumbbells, held in your hands with straight arms by your sides as you squat. Start with 10 pounds per hand, and increase once you can perform 12 reps with ease.
Reverse Wood Chops
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To get the biggest metabolic boost, you should aim to move more muscles at once. This also let's you work out in a way that's more functional (meaning how your body naturally moves every day) than you would by doing isolation exercises like bicep curls. That's why I love reverse wood chops, where you lift a medicine ball, dumbbell, or cable handle from in front of one hip to above the opposite shoulder. You're mimicking the movement of lifting something from the ground to a high shelf while taxing the muscles in your arms, shoulders, and core. Consider it a must-have for your workout rotation—even if you never actually split logs.
Side Step Ups
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So many of our daily movements go from front-to-back—walking, running, climbing stairs—that we sometimes forget we also need to train our bodies sideways. Working your inner and outer thighs, obliques, and side glutes will round out your strength. Plus, you'll work those crucial muscles for stability on your feet. Translation: You'll improve your balance, be more toned, prevent injury, and even run better. Side step ups get you moving in the right direction, with the added aerobic component for a metabolic boost. When doing this move, keep your shoulders square and your step light, especially on the landing.