Do these skills and zigzag training drills to improve your ability to stop on a dime while burning fat and mega calories.
Everyone trains to go faster, bigger, harder, stronger — but once you’re going warp speed — then what? The ability to stop is just as important as being able to go from zero to 60, so unless crashing and burning is part of your plan, learning to slow down — decelerate — should be on your exercise to-do list.
Deceleration is the series of movements that help you slow down, change direction or stop when playing sports. Like any skill, this needs to be trained, and teaching your body to control and dampen forces such as momentum and gravity can help prevent injury while improving overall performance.
“Improving the ability to decelerate is imperative for almost any athletic endeavor since one rarely runs in a straight line at a constant speed,” says Josh Bryant, CSCS, co-author of Jailhouse Strong Interval Training (Back Arms Publications, 2015). “And with over 200,000 ACL injuries a year, you should take advantage of the variables you can control — deceleration training being one of them.”
Bryant especially recommends deceleration training for women: We girls are actually at greater risk for knee injuries because typically our quad-to-hamstring strength ratio is imbalanced, with our quads typically being about 40 percent stronger than our hamstrings. “From a movement perspective, this means a female athlete is more likely to decelerate using the quadriceps first, resulting in greater knee instability,” Bryant says. “The good news is that this is a correctable issue.”
Use these drills and lifts one or two times per week to train for deceleration, improving muscular balance and power while helping prevent injury. “The gym moves should be blended into your routine to balance your physique and the power of your accelerating versus decelerating muscles,” Bryant says. “The drills can be implemented as part of a warm-up before a practice or game, or track workout.”
When doing the skills workout, think about accelerating the bar or weight from the bottom-most position in an explosive manner.
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a barbell in front of your thighs with an overhand grip. Your back should be straight, your shoulders down and back.
Move: Push your glutes back and bend forward from your hips while maintaining the arch in your back as you lower the bar down along the front of your legs until it comes to about midshin. Extend your hips and slide the bar back up along your legs to return to the start.
Tip: Unlike a stiff-legged deadlift, this version works more of the hamstrings and glutes while minimizing the activation of the lower-back muscles. Your knees should be semi-bent for the entirety of the move.
Tempo Back Squat
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and hold a barbell across your upper back and traps, chest lifted, shoulders down and back.
Move: Kick your hips back and bend your knees, taking five full seconds to squat to the bottom, going as low as you can. Pause for a count of two, then drive up out of the hole, explosively extending your knees and hips to come to the start.
Tip: Keep your chest lifted and your weight back toward your heels to focus the majority of the work on your posterior chain — glutes and hamstrings.
Setup: Stand on top of a box that is at least 18 inches high.
Move: Step off the box with one foot, landing with both feet and bending your knees and hips into a half-squat to absorb the impact, arms in the ready position. Hold the landing for a count of two, then repeat.
Tip: Make your landing active versus passive. Think about “sticking” it like a gymnast — muscles and core tight, body ready for anything.
Barbell Bench Hip Thrust
Setup: Sit with your upper back and shoulders against a flat bench and position a barbell across your hipbones, holding it steady with both hands. Your knees should be bent and your feet should be wider than hip-width apart.
Move: Press your shoulders and upper back into the bench as you drive your hips upward until they come level with your knees and shoulders. Hold for a count of two, then slowly lower to the start for a count of five.
Tip: Vary the position of your feet to change the exercise emphasis slightly — wider, narrower, toes out.
Find a long length of straight track or large open field and mark it off in 30-meter intervals with a cone or a small rock.
Meters 0 to 30: Run, gradually building toward top speed while maintaining perfect running form.
Meters 30 to 60: Maintain this top speed.
Meters 60 to 90: Decelerate gradually, keeping your knees flexed, taking short steps, and keeping your center of gravity in front of your knees.
Forward/Backward One-Legged Hop and Stick
Stand on your left foot with your arms at your sides. Hop forward several feet and land, absorbing the impact, then freezing in the down position, holding the landing for one count. Then hop rearward on the same leg and again stick the landing. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tips: Use your arms to help generate momentum forward and back. Keep your nonworking leg in tight to you for better balance.
Vertical Two-To-One Jump
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Bend your knees and hips and load up, then explode into the air as high as you can, reaching your arms overhead. Land on one leg, absorbing the impact and holding the landing for one count. Replace your other foot and repeat, alternating landing legs with each repetition.
Tips: Make sure you land softly, knee slightly bent and muscles and core tight. Also, look forward, not straight down, because this will help you balance.
Lateral Cone Freeze
Line up a series of three to four cones with about a foot in between and stand sideways to the lineup at one end. Move laterally through the cones, performing high knees across and over each one, using your arms to help keep tempo. When you get to the end, stick the landing and freeze. Hold for one count, then repeat in the opposite direction to complete one rep.
Josh Bryant, CSCS, is the CEO and master trainer at JoshStrength.com, and he has written or co-written four Amazon.com No. 1 bestsellers, including Jailhouse Strong Interval Training.
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Add some excitement (and a new challenge!) to your winter workouts by tackling one of these out-of-the-box fitness goals.
While climate change may be upending our weather patterns, the seasons remain predictable and aligned: Spring brings the promise of summer, summer fades into fall, and fall gives way to the cold of winter. Are your workouts just as predictable?
Now is the perfect opportunity to shake things up and pursue a new goal. For each of these four rut busters, you’ll take a short fitness test to establish your baseline, then will have 12 weeks to better your score. At the end of three months, do a retest and you’ll see just how far you’ve come. Talk about motivation!
Goal: Power Up Your Upper Body
Women can lag behind men in terms of upper-body strength by as much as 40 percent, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Fortunately, strength isn’t exclusively dictated by physiology — it’s also developed through sweat equity. According to Whitney Jones, NASM-CPT, the 2018 Fitness International and Fitness Olympia champion, boosting upper-body strength begins with mastering two bodyweight basics: pull-ups and push-ups.
Plan of Attack
Depending on where you are in your fitness journey, you may only be able to do one or two reps of either move; this is perfectly fine. “For pull-ups, try to double your initial rep count in three months,” says Jones, co-owner of Pro Physiques in Gilbert, Arizona. “For push-ups, tripling or quadrupling your initial test result is very doable.” Add pull-ups to your regular back training day and push-ups to your chest and/or shoulders day. If you don’t follow a traditional lifting split, work these moves into a different training day every week. Do as many reps as you can for two to three sets, and complement them with ancillary exercises such as lat pulldowns and rows to better your pull-ups and incline/decline push-ups and dips to improve your push-ups, Jones says.
After a thorough warm-up, perform as many perfect push-ups as you can. Once your form breaks or you have to stop for more than a couple of seconds, you’re done. Record your number. Test yourself every few weeks for 12 weeks.
- Place your hands just outside shoulder-width apart on the ground (or on an object) and extend your legs behind you, making sure your head, hips and heels are aligned. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your body down until you are almost touching the ground/object, then extend your arms forcefully to rise back to the start.
- Go wide. Position your legs a little farther apart to get more reps. “This decreases the difficulty by shortening the distance between your shoulders and your feet so your lower body supports more of your weight,” Jones explains.
- Adjust your speed. “A plyometric push-up can help develop fast-twitch muscle fibers,” says Jones — the fibers responsible for bursts of power and strength. Do these from your knees, pressing down into the floor with enough force that your hands come off the ground.
Awesome Ancillary Move
- Get into plank with your head, hips and heels aligned and your hands a little outside shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows and lower yourself all the way down to lie to the floor. Lift your hands up a couple of inches, then replace your hands and extend your arms to press back to the start.
After a thorough warm-up, do as many perfect pull-ups as you can. If you begin to swing, kip or use momentum to complete a rep, you’re through. Record your number. Test yourself every few weeks for 12 weeks.
- Take about a shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar and hang with your arms and elbows fully extended. Squeeze your legs together and bring your toes in front of you slightly, then draw your shoulder blades together and drive your elbows down and back to pull your body as high as you can toward the bar. Pause briefly and then slowly lower back to a full extension.
- Hang out. Develop a vice-like grip by simply hanging passively from the bar for 30 seconds at a time, Jones recommends. Repeat three to five times, resting as needed between sets.
- Have a ball. Mobility in your upper body can improve pull-up potential. Use a lacrosse ball, placing it in areas where you feel tension and applying pressure until it begins to release.
Awesome Ancillary Move
- Secure a barbell in a power rack and lie faceup underneath it so it aligns with your midchest. (You also can use a TRX.) Take a shoulder-width overhand grip on the bar with your arms extended and lift your hips so you’re in an inverted plank with only your heels on the floor. Drive your elbows down and back and pull your chest to the bar. Pause briefly and then slowly lower to the start.
Goal: Elevate Your Endurance
Do you lose steam halfway through a workout? Or have you always wanted to run a race but lacked the stamina? Now you can change that, one quick step at a time. “Choose an event like a 5K, 10K or even a longer distance as a goal,” says Michelle Speers, NSCACPT, an endurance athlete based in Wrightwood, California. “You’ll improve your overall cardio endurance and will complete a race you might not have done otherwise.”
Plan of Attack
You should start by running three to four days per week, building your distance gradually by adding a quarter to a half mile to your runs each week. “Once you can do 5 miles comfortably, you can add a full mile to your runs each week,” Speers says. Beginners can alternate between running and walking for a minute each and slowly build to running 3 miles without stopping. Those with a better base of conditioning can start with 1 to 2 miles and build up to 6 over the course of three months; seasoned runners can begin with 3 miles and build up to 13.
Self-Test: The 12-Minute Run
Warm up with five to 10 minutes of walking or easy jogging, then run as far as you can in 12 minutes on a track, around your neighborhood or on a treadmill. Calculate your total distance to the nearest sixteenth of a mile. (If you’re running outside, use a GPS watch or an app like RunKeeper or MapMyRun for accurate metrics.) On a treadmill, set the screen to reflect distance and set the incline to 1 percent to better simulate outdoor running, Speers advises. For the retest, use the same method/modality for comparison.
- Lower-body love. The repetitive motion of running can cause tightness in your lower back and lower body, so stretch them diligently after each run, Speers says.
- Be patient. Progress slowly and carefully in order to avoid overtraining and prevent injury. “Earn your progressions rather than just randomly deciding to up your mileage,” Speers says.
Awesome Ancillary Move
- Place your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders and extend your legs behind you. Lift your hips so they align with your head and heels. Hold here as long as you can, breathing deeply for 30 to 60 seconds.
Goal: Build Super Speed and Agility
No matter what sport you play or what fitness level you are, speed and agility training can take your performance, physique and fitness ferocity to a whole new level, says Kristian Flores, CSCS, a fitness coach based in New York City. Bonus: Its high-intensity nature deftly incinerates fat!
Self-Test 1: T-Test
This test measures your ability to change directions quickly. Enlist a friend to time you, and place four cones in a T formation 5 to 10 yards apart. Run as fast as you can from cone A to cone B. Touch the base of the cone with your right hand, then shuffle sideways to cone C. Touch its base with your left hand and then shuffle across to cone D. Touch its base with your right hand and then shuffle back to cone B and touch it with your left hand. Finally, run backward past cone A to stop the timer. Complete the drill three to four times and record your best overall time. Repeat every few weeks.
Self-Test 2: 50-Yard Dash
After a thorough warm-up, take your position at the starting line and have a friend stand at the 50-yard mark. When your buddy says go, sprint as fast as you possibly can across the finish line. Perform the test a few times and take your best time. Repeat every few weeks.
Plan of Attack
Training for speed and agility means incorporating a few different training protocols into your workout week: concentric and eccentric strength work, multidirectional training, power-focused training and speed training.
Sample Speed/Agility Split
1 | Concentric Strength Training
Speed and agility are built on a foundation of strength — stronger muscles allow for greater lower-body explosive power and sudden directional changes. Concentric strength — the ability of your muscles to contract (shorten) against resistance — can be developed through multi-joint movements like squats and presses, which engage several muscle groups at once. Choose a weight that is challenging enough so you can’t complete a 13th rep with good form to ensure you’re pushing your muscles to momentary failure.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes turned out slightly. Hold a set of dumbbells at shoulder height with your elbows bent and tucked into your body. Push your glutes back , then bend your knees to lower into a deep squat. Drive up and out of the bottom position by quickly extending your legs and hips.
Sample Dumbbell Concentric Workout
2 | Eccentric Strength Training
The eccentric, or negative, action is the opposite of a concentric contraction — a muscle lengthening under a load. This occurs in your lower body when you run and change directions. To specifically train eccentric strength, you can perform drop landings and deceleration drills one or two times per week, starting with one set of 10 reps per session for four weeks, then adding a second and a third set every few weeks as you improve.
- Stand on top of a platform or box that’s about 1 or 2 feet high. Step off the platform with one foot and land on both feet, absorbing the impact by bending your ankles, knees and hips. Hold at the bottom for three to five seconds.
3 | Power Training
While concentric exercises involve slower, more controlled muscle contractions, explosive plyometric training develops your fast-twitch muscle fibers to maximize your power and speed potential. Choose two exercises and perform two sets of 10 reps one to two times per week.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Swing your arms behind you and quickly bend your knees and hips, then explosively extend them to leap as far forward as you can, swinging your arms to help generate momentum. Land and absorb the landing by bending your knees and hips. Reset and repeat.
Reverse Lunge With Overhead Press
- Hold a set of dumbbells at your shoulders and stand with your feet together. Take a large step backward and bend both knees to 90 degrees while simultaneously pressing the dumbbells overhead. Return to the start and continue, alternating sides.
4 | Multidirectional Strength
Most weight-training moves are performed in one plane of motion, whether it’s a squat, a press or a row. For all performance and real-world power, you need to be able to move in numerous directions dynamically, which better mimics sports and life situations. Flores suggests performing a unilaterally loaded move, such as a one-arm push press, or an exercise that combines two movement directions, such as a reverse lunge with an overhead press.
5 | Speed Training
For straight-ahead speed improvement, perform sprints of various distances, such as 50 or 100 meters, as well as hill and stair sprints. “Do five sprints total the first week and double that to 10 in weeks 2 and 3,” Flores instructs. “In Week 4, you can go up to 12, and in Weeks 5 and beyond, do 15 sprints per session.”
Your rest periods between sprints should be at least five times the sprint duration, so if you sprint for 10 seconds, you should rest 50 seconds.
- Listen to your body. “This kind of work is taxing on both the muscles and the central nervous system,” Flores says. Pay attention to your nutrition, sleep and mood throughout the day, and turn things down a notch when you’re not feeling it to prevent overtraining.
- Energize with electrolytes. “Your electrolyte balance is critical to performance, and replacing them with a drink will help you recover faster,” Flores says.
Goal: Stretch Your Wings
Being flexible means more than just doing the splits as a party trick. “It can improve physical performance, reduce your risk of injury and even help correct muscular imbalances,” says Jess Nadine, a health and fitness coach based in Vancouver, Canada, and creator of The Progress Project. “It can also help your body and mind relax.”
Plan of Attack
After every workout, perform a series of stretches that targets the muscles you just worked or that mobilizes parts that are chronically tight or stiff. “Pick five stretches and hold each for 15 to 30 seconds for one to three rounds,” Nadine says. “Also, try to release negativity and allow tension in your face and body to fade.”
Self-Test: Standing Stretch
After a five- to 10-minute warm-up, perform this stretch three times, holding for 10 to 15 seconds each time. Record your best result and retest yourself every week.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a soft bend in your knees. Fold forward from your hips, allowing your head and neck to hang freely as you reach your hands for the floor with the ultimate goal of placing them flat on the ground. Breathe and relax into the stretch, holding for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Don’t overdo it. “Overstretching can cause injury,” Nadine says. “Ease yourself into each stretch and drop the ego so you don’t push past your comfort zone.”
- Flex Rx. If you are super tight, stand with your feet a little wider to make the stretch more doable. As you become more flexible, bring your feet closer together.
Awesome Ancillary Move
One-Legged Forward Fold
- Sit with your right leg extended, foot flexed, and place the sole of your left foot on your inner right thigh. Reach upward with both arms and then bend at the hips as you exhale, reaching toward your right foot, grasping it if you can. Take at least three deep breaths, then slowly release. Repeat one to three times, then switch legs.
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If you can spare 12 to 18 minutes, three times a week, you can start your weight-loss plan today with this do-anywhere workout.
“The two exercises in the plan work almost every muscle in your body, especially legs, glutes, shoulders and abs. These two will torch fat in 12 to 18 minutes,” Speer says.
From the plank position, bring your right foot to the outside of your right hand. In one motion, switch your feet so your left foot lands on the outside of your left hand and your right foot is extended behind your body. Tip: As you switch legs, push down into the floor with your hands/arms. Lift your hips only enough to move your legs smoothly.
Targets: shoulders, abs, hip flexors, cardiovascular system
From a standing position, step rearward with your right foot (like a reverse lunge but slightly more extended) and place your right hand on the floor by the inside of your left foot. In one motion, stand tall, bringing your right knee up in front. (For an extra challenge/fat burn, add a small hop at the top of the motion to get slightly airborne.) Return to the bottom position and repeat. Tip: As your back knee drives upward toward the front, swing your opposite hand up with it, as if you were sprinting.
Targets: glutes, hamstrings, quads, cardio
How To Work It
Do the first exercise nonstop for 30 seconds, then rest 30 seconds. Immediately do the second exercise first with your right leg for 30 seconds of activity and 30 seconds of rest, then follow it with your left leg for the same action/rest period. One complete round of both exercises will take three minutes: hop switch 30/30, starter drill right leg 30/30, starter drill left leg 30/30.
Do the HIIT plan two to three times a week. Start by completing four rounds of 12 minutes total. Add a round every few workouts until you are able to do six rounds for a total of 18 minutes.
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When the zombie apocalypse hits, will you be ready? Use these moves to hone your survival skills for any major catastrophe — or just get into the best shape of your life.
If premium cable is any indication of things to come, it’s only a matter of time until a quickly mutating virus turns us all to zombies, a wave of fires blazes across the country, or an alien species invades the planet and forces us to lick their spaceships clean. Whether the end of the world is nigh or not, we seem to spend a lot of time pondering it, which is probably why functional fitness is so popular. Functional fitness connects us to our primitive ancestors who ascended obstacles and outran predators because they had to — not because it gave them firm butts and chiseled delts. And even though the apocalypse is only hypothetical, knowing that you’re fit enough to give those space invaders a run for their money may help you sleep better at night.
To shape you up for the end of days (or maybe just your next obstacle-course race), you have to develop these five essential survival skills, and Pete McCall, MS, CSCS, master trainer, author and host of the All About Fitness podcast, weighs in with his tips for maximizing each move.
Once the global fuel shortage reaches a tipping point, you’ll be forced to make your escape on foot, which means carrying everything you own — food, supplies, weapons, a less-in-shape loved one. … In addition to super-solid legs, you’ll need a strong core and shoulders. This medicine-ball complex does work your whole body, but you’ll feel it most in your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves.
Other equipment that is great for carries: Sandbags, SandBells, kettlebells and small humans.
Clean/Lateral Squat/Alternating Step-Up
- Do six to eight reps of each part, completing all reps of one before moving on to the next. Do three to five rounds.
PART 1: Clean
Stand with your feet hip-width apart behind a medicine ball. Push your hips back, then bend your knees and grasp the medicine ball on either side, fingers down and back straight. In one explosive motion, straighten your legs, extend your hips and shrug your shoulders. Flip your elbows forward and underneath the ball so it rotates in your hands to rest on your chest, and immediately drop into a low squat. Extend your legs and stand up.
PART 2: Lateral Squat
Hold the medicine ball at your chest and step your feet about shoulder-width apart. Drop your hips and bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor or just below, then extend your legs and step your feet together. Continue, alternating sides.
PART 3: Alternating Step-Up
Hold the medicine ball on one shoulder and face a knee-high box (or bench). Step onto the box with your right foot and extend your leg to stand on top. Touch your left toe on top, then step it back down, following with your right. Continue, alternating legs. Then drop the medicine ball to the floor and start from the beginning.
PRO TIP: As you get stronger and more proficient at this complex, decrease your rest time between sets. For example, start with 60 seconds of rest and gradually work your way down to 15 or 20. “If you’re running from zombies, you have to recover quickly,” McCall reasons. “You’re not going to have much time to stop and catch your breath.”
Speed and Endurance
Your survival relies on your ability to outrun predators and endure the long journey to safety, which means you need to simultaneously increase your speed and build your stamina. This interval running plan trains both, mixing in high knees and side shuffles to work your range of motion and agility. Do it on the road or on a treadmill for a killer cardio workout that strengthens your core as well as every muscle from your hip flexors down to your toes.
30-Minute Interval Run
Jog 30 minutes, incorporating speed, side-to-side shuffles and high-knee intervals as follows:
PRO TIP: For each 30-second interval, run hard until you’re out of breath, then slow down enough so that you can carry on a conversation. “That lets you know that you’re running really hard and that you worked anaerobically — without oxygen,” McCall says.
Surviving the apocalypse won’t come without a fight, and you’ll probably need to pummel a few zombies along the way. The steel mace is an effective weapon and a versatile training tool, and this uppercut move will get your core, shoulders, biceps and triceps ready to kick ass and take names.
- Do three sets of 12 reps per side.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend your knees to lower into a quarter-squat. Using an overhand grip, grasp the handle end of the mace with your left hand and place your right hand under the heavy end. Hold the mace in front of your waist with your elbows bent, core tight. Pivot on your toes and rotate to the left as you draw your left hand in toward your body and punch your right hand upward in an uppercut motion. Rotate back to the start. Complete all reps before switching sides.
No steel mace? A baseball bat or sledgehammer works just as well to fight your way through a hoarde of those hungry, brain-craving undead.
PRO TIP: Your power should come from your back foot and hips, and each rep should be as explosive as possible. “You’re training the body to make that quick change in direction, so focus on snapping the hips,” McCall says.
Upper-Body Strength and Coordination
The path to food, shelter and water will probably be strewn with obstacles, and you’ll need a powerful upper body as well as some coordination to pull yourself up and over crumbled buildings, brick walls and chain-link fences. This modified rope climb challenges your grip while building strength in your shoulders, back, biceps and triceps.
Modified Rope Climb
- Do three sets of five reps.
Lie faceup on the floor underneath a rope with your knees bent. Reach up with both hands and grasp the rope as high as you can. Pull yourself up, handover-hand, with your arms and upper body to come to standing — don’t push with your legs — then reverse the action to return to the floor.
PRO TIP: Rope climbs of any kind can be a little intimidating (we blame middle-school gym class), so do what you can. “Just be consistent and work on one part of the movement at a time,” McCall says. So if you can only get halfway up the rope, climb that section to the best of your ability. Over time, you will see improvement.
Balance and Agility
Don’t wait until you’re navigating one of those shaky rope bridges to work on your balance and agility. The single-leg dot drill works all the muscles of your standing leg while developing your balance and honing your ability to move and change directions with speed and precision.
Single-Leg Dot Drill
- Do three sets of three to five reps.
Find an open patch of floor space and mark off an area that is approximately 2 feet wide and 3 feet long using chalk or tape. Place a dot in the center and a dot in each of the four corners. Stand in the bottom left corner and find your balance on your right leg. Then jump to each dot in the following order: bottom right, center, upper right, upper left. Retracing your jumps, return to the bottom left corner. This is one rep. Complete all reps on one leg before switching.
PRO TIP: “Try to land on the ball of the foot and roll down to the heel upon landing,” McCall says. “That will train you to absorb ground force properly.”
Jumping rope is another great way to train lower-body reactivity and agility — and the rope can be used later as a zombie restraint.
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If you want to improve your lifting potential, prevent injury and tie together your physique, it’s time to accessorize.
An accessory movement is a lift that targets muscles that provide vital assistance during the larger lifts that get you the most bang for your buck. For example, the lats are the primary movers in a chin-up, but they can’t perform without the assistance of the traps. Adding a kettlebell angled press to your workout to strengthen the lower and middle traps will enhance the performance of the lats, enabling you to do more chin-ups with better form in the long term.
Accessory moves help promote muscular balance and overall strength, and when programmed properly, they also help prevent injury. Add these moves into your workouts, scheduling them after your big movement patterns, and seal up those weak links in your movement chains once and for all.
- Accessory muscles worked: Adductors, obliques, quadratus umborum
- Muscles assisted: Quads, glutes
- Exercises enhanced: Squat, deadlift
Stand with your feet double shoulder-width apart with your toes turned slightly outward. Bend your right knee and shift your weight to the right, tracking your knee over your toes until your left leg is completely straight with your heel on the ground, foot flexed, chest lifted. Pause, then return to the start and continue, alternating sides.
Note: You can either touch your fingers lightly to the floor for balance — making sure your chest stays lifted — or if you have good balance, hold your hands in front of your chest.
- Accessory muscles worked: Core (rectus abdominis, erector spinae, transverse abdominis, intercostals)
- Muscles assisted: Total body
- Exercises enhanced: Overhead press, squat, deadlift, bent-over row
Adjust the straps on a TRX or suspension system to midshin level. Get into a forearm plank with your feet in the loops, head, hips and heels aligned and elbows underneath your shoulders. Engage your glutes to prevent your lower back from sagging. Using your forearms as leverage, push your body backward, straightening your arms until your ears come over your elbows. Pause, then slowly return to the start.
Note: This move should be done with control; don’t just swing back and forth as if at a playground.
Kettlebell Angled Press
- Accessory muscles worked: Lower and middle trapezius
- Muscles assisted: Deltoids, rhomboids, lats
- Exercises enhanced: Chin-up, pulldown, bench press
Hold the handle of a kettlebell with both hands in front of you with your elbows bent 90 degrees. Bend forward from the hips until your torso is at about a 45-degree angle to the ground. Keeping your torso steady, smoothly slide the kettlebell outward along the same plane as your torso until your arms are fully extended in line with your ears. Hold for a half-second, then slowly return to the start.
Note: Do this with a light kettlebell so you can maintain the proper pressing angle.
- Accessory muscles worked: Vastus medialis oblique (“teardrop” quadriceps muscle)
- Muscles assisted: Remaining three quadriceps muscles
- Exercises enhanced: Squat, plyometric jump, deadlift
Stand on top of a small box with one foot off the edge, foot flexed, leg straight. Bend your standing knee slowly, lowering your flexed heel toward the floor until it touches down lightly. Pause, then push through the standing foot to extend back to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Note: It’s OK if the heel of your standing leg comes off the box.
- Accessory muscles worked: Rear deltoids, middle traps, rhomboids
- Muscles assisted: Medial deltoids, lats
- Exercises enhanced: One-arm row, pulldown, overhead press
Secure a light- to moderate-weight resistance band around a stable object such as a squat rack. Stand a few feet away from the base of the machine and hold the band at shoulder height, arms straight, and pack your shoulder blades. Drive your elbows out and back to pull the band apart and toward your forehead, attempting to get as much distance between your hands as possible. Slowly return to the start.
Note: Make sure you’re opening your arms as you’re pulling to best engage the proper muscles, especially the rear delts.
- Accessory muscles worked: Glutes, hamstrings
- Muscles assisted: Lower back, abdominals
- Exercises enhanced: Romanian deadlift, squat, good morning
Secure a resistance band low on a stable object and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing away from the anchor with the band between your feet. Keeping your back flat, hinge at the hips and grasp the band with both hands, arms long, and allow the band to pull your hands between your legs toward the anchor. Keeping your back flat, drive forward with your glutes and hips, pulling the band up and through your legs until you’re standing up completely. Slowly return to the start and repeat right away.
Note: Your arms are only an anchor for the band as your glutes and hips work, similar to a kettlebell swing, so do not pull with them when performing this exercise.
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When life gets busy, you don’t have time to think, let alone train. This circuit takes the guesswork out of training and gets you in and out of the gym in no time.
Work, family, household responsibilities — life can get busy. Most women find it difficult to focus on fitness with everything else happening around them, but this program, designed by Kim Truman, a Dallas-based fitness trainer and wellness coach, literally does the thinking for you. The workout is quick and flexible, with only six exercises to remember. It’s the perfect no-brainer way to stay fit and healthy when life comes at you full force. What’s stopping you?
“This workout is designed to attack your body using a three-pronged approach,” Truman says. “First, you’ll be moving in different planes, stimulating your muscles from different angles. In addition, each exercise activates multiple muscles so you can get more done in less time. And finally, each exercise has a cardio component so your heart gets some exercise, too.”
How to do it: Do this plan three to four days per week. Perform the moves in a circuit, doing one after another with little to no rest in between. Go through the circuit up to three times for a solid 20- to 30-minute workout that you can do anywhere.
Muscles worked: glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, core
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands at your sides.
Move: Shoot your hips back and squat down until your hip crease is at the same level as your knees or lower. Quickly reach your arms overhead and leap as high as you can into the air. Land softly and repeat right away. For an extra challenge, hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand but do not reach your arms overhead during the jump.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift and Row
Muscles worked: glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, core, lats, biceps, rear delts
Setup: Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Move: With a slightly bent “soft” right knee, hinge at the hips and lower your torso as your straight left leg rises behind you. Maintain a straight line from your left heel all the way to your head, which should remain in a neutral position throughout the movement. Let the weights pull your arms straight down. Once your torso comes parallel to the floor, row both weights up to your body. Slowly lower the dumbbells and then come back to standing. Repeat for all reps on one leg and then switch sides.
Sit And Flip
Muscles worked: deltoids, trapezius, lats, pectorals, abs, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, core
Setup: Sit with your left leg extended and your right leg bent. Place your left hand on the floor behind your back and extend your right arm overhead.
Move: Press through your right foot and raise your hips off the ground. Reach your right arm over toward the left side and flip into plank position. Hold for one breath, then flip back to the start. Switch your legs and arms and perform the same move to your right. Continue, alternating sides.
Muscles worked: deltoids, triceps, pectorals, abs, core
Setup: Assume a push-up position with your legs extended and abs tight. Place your hands close together underneath your sternum.
Move: Bend your elbows and do one push-up. Move your hands underneath your shoulders and do another push-up. Finally, spread your hands wider than shoulder-width apart and do another push-up to complete one rep.
Muscles worked: glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, deltoids, lats, core
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, abs engaged, holding a weight plate fully extended over your head with your scapula squeezed together and pulled downward.
Move: With your right foot, step forward into a deep lunge. Do not let your back knee touch the ground or your front knee move out over your toes. Keep the weight directly overhead, with your gaze forward, chest up, arms straight and elbows locked out. Drive your right heel into the ground and return to the starting position. Alternate feet every rep.
Plank Donkey Kicks
Muscles worked: deltoids, trapezius, triceps, abs, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves
Setup: Get into plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels in line.
Move: Keeping your arms straight and your legs together, hop both feet into the air and pivot to the right side, landing again in a plank. Reverse directions to complete one rep and continue, alternating sides.
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The jump rope is one of the simplest, most portable fitness tools at your disposal. Learn the basics and get shredded with these four unique programs.
Jump ropes have been around forever, and you probably took a turn or two with them when you were a kid. But little did you know back then that jumping rope is one of the most effective fat-burning, endurance-building activities you can do, incinerating a ton of calories and boosting your metabolic rate for hours afterward.
“Jump rope is considered one of the greatest exercises on the planet, improving cardiovascular fitness in a third of the time compared to most other aerobic exercises,” says Buddy Lee, U.S. Olympic wrestler and author of Jump Rope Training (Human Kinetics, 2010.) “It’s a total-body activity that incorporates all muscles of both the upper and lower body. And it’s a skilled movement that requires the synchronization and coordination of two movements — a linear motion (body) and a circular motion (jump rope) — requiring the proper timing and coordination to create the perfect jump.”
Though it may sound simple, jumping rope does take some preparation and practice, and you likely won’t resemble Muhammad Ali right out of the gates. Here are some guidelines from Lee to get you started:
- Find the right rope length by standing with one foot in the center of the rope and pulling the ends straight up. The top of the handle should come to shoulder height. Trim your rope to the appropriate length for you.
- Grasp the rope lightly in both hands with your palms facing upward and your wrists lower than your elbows. If your wrists are higher than that, the rope will shorten as a consequence and you’ll likely step on it or trip.
- Keep your upper arms close to your sides with your arms turned away from you about 90 degrees.
What kind of rope should I get?
The rope you choose should reflect your skill level and goals, according to Lee. Beginners should use a rope with a little weight to it for better control, such as a beaded rope or plastic speed rope. As you improve, switch over to a lightweight PVC core, which is more aerodynamic and quicker.
- Turn the rope in small, quick circles with your wrists, not your arms and shoulders.
- Hop on the balls of your feet a couple of inches off the floor and land with soft knees to protect your joints.
- Keep your jumps small and tight, only an inch or two off the floor. The rope is thin and you don’t need to jump a foot in the air to clear it; that’s just a waste of energy and you’ll tire a lot quicker if you jump that high.
- Keep your face forward and focus straight ahead to maintain a neutral spine.
- Be patient and build up to a rhythm. Find your natural speed and maintain it for time or a set number of reps.
Basic Jump: Jump with both feet over the rope at the same time.
Running Man: Run in place, jumping over the rope with each stride.
High Knees: Alternately raise your knees to hip height while jumping over the rope.
Slalom Jump: Jump both feet side to side as you jump over the rope as if skiing.
Jump Jack: Jump your feet over the rope and apart, then over the rope and back together, as if doing the lower half of a jumping jack.
Hop Jump: Hop on just one foot over the rope as you hold the other foot in the air.
- Find an open area in which to practice and do five minutes of Basic Jumping. If you miss a beat or step on the rope, no worries: Just get back into it right away.
- Aim to do 10 jumps in a row, for example, then rest for 10 seconds. Repeat that sequence until you hit your five minutes.
- Each session, try to do 10 more jumps in a row than you did last time, and add one to three more minutes to your total.
- Once you can comfortably jump for two to five minutes straight, experiment with the jumping variations, then move on to the other workouts in this article.
Workout 1: Just Jump
Warm up with some light cardio and dynamic stretching, then begin your workout. If you miss a stride or can’t master one of the moves, that’s OK: Just get back into the rhythm and continue with one of the techniques you’ve mastered. In time, you’ll be able to do all 10 minutes without stopping.
Workout 2: Circuit Breaker
Warm up with light cardio and dynamic stretching, then begin this total-body strength and cardio workout that uses jump rope as the cardio intervals. Place the rope to one side and use a moderately heavy set of dumbbells for the strength moves. Beginners should go through the workout once; intermediate and advanced participants can hit it twice.
Workout 3: Core Killer
Incinerate fat and build endurance with this core-intensive program. Use the two minutes of Basic Jumping to warm up, then do each move for the designated time using good form.
Bonus! Workout 4: Tabata Time
For advanced participants only, this workout requires bursts of Basic Jumping, going as fast and as hard as you can for 20 seconds and resting for 10 seconds. Follow that sequence eight times for a total of four minutes, and you should be toast. Note: Be sure you properly warm up before doing this program to avoid injury and stretch or foam roll afterward — it’s very intense.
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Body fat: Everyone has it, and everyone wants less of it. But how can you make that happen and still be healthy and perform well? The answer may surprise you.
If you’re like many active women, your range of body-fat levels likely hovers between 14 and 24 percent. So what is the difference between Jane and Joanne Doe, wherein Jane has 15 percent body fat and Joanne has 22?
The assumption naturally is dietary differences: Maybe Jane eats super clean 24/7, while Joanne enjoys a glass of wine and dessert several times per week. But really, nutrition is only part of the equation; anyone can diet down to a low body fat with a little determination (and a lot of willpower). But maintaining a lean physique over the long term can be achieved with something you’re probably already doing: strength training.
It’s Your Choice!
You know having more muscle mass boosts metabolism, since you need to burn calories in order to maintain and support those cells. But instead of thinking inside the usual gym box, look at strength training from a different angle, one in which body composition is determined by the kind of strength work you do. Because in fact, tailoring your program to focus on performance, power and synergistic compound strength could be the key to shedding those last few percentage points.
Bodypart training is effective if you’re trying to bring up stubborn parts or balance certain muscle groups, but it’s not very metabolically taxing to work one muscle group at a time. These four training edicts could be the key to unlocking your own potential to sculpt a strong, capable body.
1. Believe In Bodyweight
Capably being able to move your own bodyweight not only makes you a better athlete but also makes you leaner. Bodyweight moves incorporate multiple muscle groups while also training your balance, agility and reaction time. The more muscles you work, the more calories you burn. The faster you get, the more calories you burn. The more agile and quick you are, the more calories you burn. (See the pattern here?) Bodyweight exercises are also unique in that they can be done for very low or very high numbers of reps and can create a strength, hypertrophy or metabolic fat-loss effect, depending on the rep range.
Take action: Put bodyweight moves at the beginning of a strength workout to warm up muscles and train movement patterns. Add them at the end of a strength workout as a burnout, doing high reps for volume to encourage hypertrophy.
2. Power Up
Compound and powerlifting moves are some of the most effective around when it comes to building strength. Why is strength important for fat loss? According to research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, the stronger you are, the greater your exercise intensity and the higher your energy consumption both in the gym and out. And the more mass you have, the more calories you burn and the more fat you’ll lose as a result; powerlifting and compound moves by their very nature build muscle.
Take action: If you’re not familiar with big lifting movements, get a certified professional to show you the ropes. There are definite and specific techniques that should be applied to keep your body safe and make the gains and progress that you’re angling for. Once you’re familiar with the lifts, blend them into your program so they land in the first couple of slots in your workout when you’re freshest and have the most energy. Build in weight slowly over the course of several months to keep your joints and connective tissues safe.
3. Jump To It
Incorporating explosive athletic movements such as jumps, throws and Olympic lifts (snatch, clean-and-jerk) into your program targets fast-twitch muscle fibers. These are the largest and strongest muscle fibers in the body, metabolizing the most energy and improving insulin sensitivity and your ability to burn stored body fat, according to research in the ACSM Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews.
“Explosive training also causes a release of adrenaline, which hormonally triggers thermogenesis,” says Jennifer Petrosino, CSCS, and a professional powerlifter. “The result is a triple whammy of increased muscle and strength, with a decrease in body fat.”
Take action: Dedicate one to two workouts per week to explosive training such as plyometrics or Olympic lifting. Because it is so taxing, leave at least two days in between these kinds of workouts to allow for full recovery. Again, if you’re unfamiliar with this kind of lifting, have a professional show you proper technique to stay safe.
4. Seek Out Speed
Have you ever seen a chunky sprinter? Didn’t think so. Recent research demonstrated that sprint training performed three times weekly can reduce body fat by as much as 8 percent, as well as decreasing waist circumference and increasing muscle mass, according to a report in the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology. Athletes who train for speed work at such a high intensity are constantly in a state of EPOC — excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Their bodies are constantly mobilizing body fat and carbs for fuel, boosting thermogenesis for many hours post-training.
Take action: You don’t need to be Lolo Jones in order to benefit from a sprinting protocol. Find a local track and try this progressive workout, designed by Martin Rooney, DPT, CSCS, which increases in distance over the course of eight weeks. After a thorough warm-up that includes jogging, running and five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching and mobility work, do this workout up to twice a week, leaving at least two days of rest between workouts. For each sprint, push yourself hard, then take enough time so you fully recover. Then it’s time for the next sprint.
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This speedy workout promises a total-body workout with only five equipment-optional moves.
The beauty of this workout is that you don’t really need any tools at all: your squats and lunges can be done without a dumbbell, and if you don’t have a step for the squat jump, just hop up and down on the floor!
Do the following five exercises back-to-back for one minute each. At the end, rest for one minute, then repeat from the top. Complete three rounds in total.
Plié Squat with Calf Raise
Stand with your feet wide, toes slightly pointed out, and hold a dumbbell with both hands. Keeping your back straight and your torso upright, bend your legs to lower your glutes towards the floor [A]. Extend your legs to stand, then press up onto the balls of your feet [B]. Lower your heels back to the floor, and repeat.
Get into a push-up position on the floor, with your wrists below your shoulders and feet close together. Move one hand forward about six inches [A], then bend your arms to lower your chest towards the floor [B]. Extend your arms, then repeat. At the 30-second mark, switch hand positions.
Lunge With Torso Rotation
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell with both hands; extend your arms in front of your chest. Step one foot forward and bend your legs to drop into a lunge [A]. Hold this position as you twist through your core towards the side of your front leg [B]. Reverse the move to return to the start and repeat, this time stepping forward with your other leg.
Get into a push-up position but support your body with your forearms instead of your hands. (Your elbows should be below your shoulders.) Hold this straight-back position without letting your back round or your hips drop.
Jump Squat With Step
Stand behind a low step with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Bend your legs to squat [A], then jump up onto the step. As you land, bend your legs to sink into another squat [B]. Extend your legs to stand, then step backwards off the step to return to the start. Immediately repeat.
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This no-excuse Tabata workout only requires a set of dumbbells — and some grit!
Tabata. Just the mere mention of this four-minute workout can strike fear into the heart of the most formidable of athletes, and for good reason. “A Tabata is just as mental as it is physical,” says Vanessa Serio, NASM-CPT, ACSM, owner of The Top Strength Project in Providence, Rhode Island. “Your goal is to push past your comfort zone to get the results you want.”
This workout, designed by Serio, triples the traditional format, stringing together three Tabata couplets to create a 12-minute workout. “This is a great way to get in some movement on those impossible, fit-it-all-in days,” she says. “You can also use it as a fun finisher.”
Make sure, however, you’re delivering 100 percent effort. “You should work at an all-out pace while using correct form,” Serio says. “Yes, it is going to burn, but it’s only 20 seconds. Then you get to rest — a little!”
The 12-Minute Total-Body Tabata
Choose a set of dumbbells between 5 and 15 pounds, depending on your fitness level. Repeat each couplet four times. Complete all four rounds of one couplet before moving on to the next.
Squat with Supinated Press
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and turned out slightly from your hips. Hold a set of dumbbells at your shoulders with your palms facing rearward, elbows bent. Push your glutes back and bend your knees to lower into a deep squat. Then drive through your heels and explode to standing, pressing the dumbbells up overhead to full extension. Lower the weights and repeat.
Trainer’s Tip: Keep your core tight and use that upward driving force to get those weights overhead.
Dumbbell Side Plank
Place a dumbbell on your right side on the floor, and get into a plank with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Place your right hand on the outside head of the dumbbell and push it underneath your body to the left side. Repeat with the left hand. Continue, alternating sides.
Trainer’s Tip: Tuck your tailbone and squeeze your glutes to keep your hips stable — no rocking side to side!
Alternating Sumo Squat to Curtsy Lunge
Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides and stand with your feet outside shoulder-width apart, legs and feet turned out from your hips. Bend your knees and lower your glutes straight down toward the floor, chest lifted and knees tracking over your toes. Return to the start, then step your left foot across and behind your right on the diagonal, keeping your hips square, and bend both knees to lower into a curtsy. Return to the start. Continue, alternating sides.
Trainer’s Tip: Do these slowly and with deliberation, and make sure your knees are always tracking over your toes.
Pop Squat with Forward Dumbbell Press
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest. Quickly jump your feet apart into a wide stance and bend your knees to lower into a squat as you press the dumbbell straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Quickly jump your feet back in and pull the dumbbell into your chest.
Trainer’s Tip: The forward press should be a quick and punchy out-and-in; keep your core tight to protect your lower back as you press the weight forward.
Hold a single dumbbell with your arms straight and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Pivot to the right on the balls of your feet and bend your knees, reaching the dumbbell toward the floor in front of you. Pivot back through the start and to the left side, extending your legs and reaching the dumbbell up overhead. Complete all reps on one side before switching.
Trainer’s Tip: Lock your arms into place and keep them straight as you rotate, moving your arms and torso as one unit to move the dumbbell diagonally up and across your body.
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