Stumped on what strength training exercises will get you the best — and — fastest results? We’re helping narrow down your arsenal of must-do moves, and you’ll be glad to know we’ve streamlined our list to just six.
We asked Franci Cohen, personal trainer, nutritionist and exercise physiologist, for her picks for some mega-sculpting moves to get you in shape for spring.
Plank position running man
Beginning in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your body in a neutral position, bend your knees and bring them to your chest one at a time, without touching your foot to the floor. Do as many as you can in one minute. “This exercise challenges your trunk stability while engaging the abdominals, chest, and back simultaneously, with a bonus cardio element,” explains Cohen.
Begin by standing in a runner’s lunge position, holding a weight or medicine ball in both hands (use as heavy a weight as you’re comfortable with). Drop into a deep lunge, keeping your back knee as close to the ground as possible without allowing it to touch the floor. Rotate the weight from one hip to the other, creating a big arch motion with your arms. Try to contract your abs inward as your arms reach up, over and down. Repeat 30 rotations on one side, and then switch legs. “This move targets your glutes and thighs,” notes Cohen. “You will most definitely feel a progressive burn as those legs fire up.”
Suspended side-kicks and knee rotations
Start this one standing up, with your left hand resting on a wall for balance and your right shoulder facing a mirror. Lift your right knee so that it’s level with your right hip. Rotate your knee so that it faces the wall and your right foot is now facing the mirror, creating a right angle at your knee. Perform suspended side-kicks by bringing your knee in toward the wall and then kicking out toward the mirror with a flexed foot. Once you’ve completed 30, stop kicking and begin rotating your right knee toward the floor and then up to the ceiling 30 times. “Remember that the right leg is suspended in mid-air and does not touch the floor for the duration of the joint exercises,” adds Cohen. “Both hip abductors and outer thighs and glutes will develop amazing tone and definition over time with this two-part exercise.”
Triceps dips with leg extensions
Position your hands shoulder-width apart on a stable chair or bench as you would for triceps dips. Keep your legs slightly bent, feet placed about hip-width apart directly under your knees. Straighten your arms and keep a slight bend (about five degrees) in your elbows to always keep tension on your triceps and off your elbow joints. Carefully bend at your elbows and lower your upper body toward the floor until your arms are at about a 90-degree angle. Be sure to keep your back upright and close to the bench. At the bottom of the movement, slowly press off with your hands and push yourself straight up to starting position while extending your right leg straight out in front of you. Repeat on the left leg. Continue dips while alternating legs until you have done 40 dips total (20 on each leg). “This exercise works wonders for the backs of the arms, and the added leg extensions work the abs and legs as well,” says Cohen.
Plie squat with elevated bicep curls
Stand with heels together, toes turned out slightly and your knees slightly bent. Place a weight in each hand and hold it in front of your hips with your palms facing forward. With straight arms, raise your arms up to shoulder level. Lower into a demi-plié, knees bent out to sides up to 90 degrees. Straighten your legs to standing as you curl the weights to your shoulders. Straighten your arms as you return to demi-plie. “Remember to squeeze your inner thighs together as you lift up from the plie squat to better engage the inner thighs,” Cohen advises. “Your arms will experience an elevated level of bicep challenge due to the suspended arms.”
Jabs with resistance bands
Use a resistance band that has handles. Hold one handle in each hand and bring the band behind you so that it lies around your back. Do a series of boxing jabs, punching with downward-facing fists and extending your arms as forcefully as you can without locking at the elbow joint. “Be sure that you have a challenging amount of resistance on the band before you begin,” stresses Cohen. If the band is too loose, she suggests adjusting it before your jabbing series. “Try to maintain a continuous and rhythmic pattern to your jabbing so that muscles are working steadily.”