3 Simple Toning Exercises You’re Probably Doing Wrong
We love a new fitness craze as much as the next gal, but with so many wellness companies and crazy new workout classes all vying for our attention (and our wallets), it can be hard to keep up. Trainer Tal Plush of Plush Fitness in New York City is a firm believer in keeping fitness simple. Focus on what is proven to work, easy to master, and most likely to become a habit. Begin by going back to workout basics with a few sets of standard exercises you learned in gym class. Remember though: You have to do them right — and let’s be real; we don’t always know what right means. Many of us think we know how to do a proper squat (and don’t), and then we try to do as many as we can, as fast as we can, which can end up causing more harm than good. Plush schooled us on three of the most efficient workout moves that, when done correctly, will give you a killer workout without wasting excess time or money.
Why They Work: It’s a compound movement that uses multiple joints and muscle groups. Squats are a prime example of functional fitness (exercises that help your body slay day-to-day tasks). Squatting helps build a solid foundation to stand tall and work those tiny muscles that help when picking things up.
Get It Right:
1. Start with feet shoulder-width apart and toes turned out a few degrees (explore what feels best for you but two to three degrees is standard).
2. Tighten core, open your chest, and shift weight into your heels.
3. Lower your body, while keeping your back as flat as possible. A slight lean is okay, but don’t lean all the way forward. Knees and toes should track in the same direction the entire time.
4. Lower until hips and thighs are parallel, or as low as you can go before losing rigidity in your core.
5. As you raise back up to standing, push through your heels to activate your biggest muscles, while pushing knees outward the entire time.
Check Yourself: Secure foot position before you start, and pay attention to your knees throughout (they should not turn in toward each other). Don’t lean forward excessively and absolutely no butt winking — this happens when pelvis tilts under your body rather than maintaining the slight arch that protects your back.
Why It Works: Major toning for core — and glutes. And inner thighs. And shoulders. And basically every muscle! Planks are the best workout for posture. Pat yourself on the back if you can hold your plank for 60 seconds or more. Your core strength is on-point!
Get It Right:
1. Lay flat on the ground with hands directly underneath shoulders.
2. Squeeze your buns, core, inner thighs, shoulder blades, and heels.
3. Keeping hips tucked, raise your body in one strong, fluid line. You should feel your arms, core, glutes, and thighs all working at the same time, keeping your body tight.
4. Hold and lower body in the same straight line. Start with five seconds of three to five sets to build up to a full minute or more.
Check Yourself: Is your mid-section drooping into a downward dog? Fix this by tightening abs, tucking hips, and neutralizing your back. Feeling your shoulders scrunching? Corkscrew elbows inward and squeeze blades. You can also push back through your heels to physically and mentally redistribute weight throughout your body, rather than holding all the tension in your upper body.
Why It Works: Burpees force you to engage every muscle in your body. Since you’re jumping and moving through various steps, it’s a great warm-up tool that burns fat and builds endurance.
1. Start with a squat (see above) and lower your body until hands reach the floor.
2. Place hands a few inches directly in front of your toes.
3. Jump or walk feet back so shoulders are directly over your hands and you’re back in a plank position.
4. Work through a plank to get body completely onto the floor.
5. Lift your body back into a high plank.
6. Jump legs forward with feet landing directly behind your hands. You can also step forward, one leg at a time.
7. Push back up to standing through your squat.
8. When you reach the top, flow straight into a jump with arms reaching toward the ceiling.
9. Drop back into a squat and follow through the entire sequence, or land with knees slightly bent if you need a break between reps.
Check Yourself: When you jump, never land with straight legs, which can hurt your knees. Don’t collapse onto the floor and instead use the plank technique to tighten your core and move your body up and down. Engage your abs when you jump your legs forward to protect your back.
Put It All Together!
Try these quick workouts that integrate all three of your newly perfected moves to successfully burn fat and build lean muscles.
1. Tabata: This four-minute exercise routine wakes up your entire body by alternating between 20 seconds of hard work and 10-second breaks.
Routine: 20 second squat + 10 second rest + 20 second plank + 10 second rest + 20 second burpee + 10 second rest + 20 second plank + 10 second rest.
Rounds: Two; work up to eight cycles for a full 32-minute workout.
2. Ladder Conditioning: Build stamina without wiping yourself out by decreasing time spent every round.
Routine: 30 second burpees + 30 second plank + 30 second squats + 30 second plank. Drop burpees and squat count by 10 seconds every round until you get to zero. Keep planks at 30 seconds throughout; they work as your active recovery.
3. Mechanical Drop Set: Similar to the ladder routine, this workout is a little more advanced but great for building burpee endurance.
Routine: 10 burpees + 20 squats + 30 second plank — burpees and squats should always add up to the same number in the mechanical drop set, so if burpees go down by five, squats go up by five, and vice versa, working up to being able to do 30 burpees over time (starting with 10 burpees and 20 squats first time out, then next 15 and 15, then 20 and 10, etc.). Make it harder or easier by playing with the initial rep count or decreasing drop-rate.
What are your favorite fat-burning and muscle-building exercise moves? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty, GIF via Brit + Co)