If you’re looking to tone your lower half, Rockers are great for targeting the inner and outer thighs, as well as the glutes. No weights are necessary for this exercise; however, if you would like more resistance, use a free weight around 10-15 lbs.
Setup & Starting Position
While standing, spread your legs apart as wide as possible (if you use a weight, hold it close to your chest).
Sink into a low squat position, keeping your butt tucked down.
Shift your body weight back and forth from the right leg to the left leg.
Repeat for 3 sets of 12.
Tip: If the exercise seems easy, try stepping your stance out a little farther.
Sarah Egan, BS, CPT, HKC, CES, is the Personal Training Department Head with Nebraska Elite Sports & Fitness Complex. For more information, visit 2b-elite.com.
The Warrior II Pose (or Virabhadrasana II, if you’re already an advanced yogi) has several benefits. It stretches hips, shoulders, and the groin. It opens the chest, improving respiration. It stimulates digestive organs. But most of all, it builds stamina and stability and focuses on balance.
Setup & Starting Position
Stand in Mountain Pose.
Step your feet out across the floor (or yoga mat, if you have one).
Turn your left foot out 90° so that your left heel is aligned with your right heel.
Raise your arms to the sides, keeping your shoulders down and your palms facing the ground, and turn your head to the left.
Exhale and bend your left knee. Your thigh should be parallel to the floor (if possible), your knee should be above your ankle, and your tailbone should be tucked in slightly. Make sure to distribute your weight evenly between both legs.
Inhale and exhale slowly several times.
Inhale and straighten your left leg, returning to Mountain Pose.
Repeat exercise on the opposite side.
Tip: If the exercise seems easy, try sinking deeper into your lunge so that your thigh is parallel to the floor.
Sources: Slim, Calm, Sexy Yoga by Tara Stiles and yogajournal.com
Most people have unbalanced chain muscles, focusing too much on the anterior (front) chain and less on the posterior (back) chain. This disproportion creates uneven strength, which causes poor posture, as well as upper and lower back pain. The “Superman” is a great exercise to emphasize and strengthen the posterior chain muscles, thereby evening out this unbalance.
Setup & Starting Position
Lay prone (face down) with your arms in front of you.
Bring the shoulder blades together and down while tightening the lower back and gluteal muscles.
Lift arms and legs, holding the upper and lower body off the ground. (Your weight should rest comfortably on your lower abdominals and pelvis.)
Hold for a count of 2 and repeat for 10-15 reps.
Jeffrey L. Cumro, DC, is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor with Better Life Chiropractic and Wellness, LLC. For more information, visit betterlifeNE.com.
This shoulder bridge is perfect to strengthen and stretch your glutes, hamstrings, obliques, hip flexors, and pectoral major. For this exercise, you will need small handweights (or something of an equivalent weight, like a half-gallon milk carton filled with water).
Setup & Starting Position
Get into bridge position with your pelvis and spine neutral, holding the weights in your hand.
Leave your left foot on the floor and keep your hips extended as you raise your right leg, pointing your toes to the ceiling.
Inhale through your nose.
Exhale as you lower your right leg, reaching your arms out to your sides (palms facing up).
Inhale as you raise your right leg and your arms to the ceiling once more.
Repeat 5 times and switch sides.
Wendy Andersen is co-owner and lead instructor/trainer at Pilates Center of Omaha and is a Fully Certified STOTT PILATES® Instructor. For more information, visit pilatescenterofomaha.com.
Think “good posture.” Doing standing exercises is a good way to focus on muscle groups while maintaining work in the core of the body. This workout is ideal to use as a fitness break—like at your office desk or in the kitchen while you’re waiting for food to cook. I personally like to do these exercises to wake up while I’m brushing my teeth or waiting for my coffee to brew.
To perform these moves, you’ll need open space and a sturdy chair or the back of a couch. With each exercise, keep the core of your body lengthened, creating a longer distance between the ribcage and hips.
Deep Knee Bends
With feet shoulder-width apart, extend arms forward and squat low, squeezing your butt and keeping your heels on the ground (Imagine you’re sitting in a child’s chair).
As you rise back to standing position, swing your arms back as you stand.
Place your hands on the back of a sturdy chair or couch with your feet about two feet apart, toes facing outward.
Bend your knees and lower down so your butt is level with your knees, keeping your butt tucked in.
Rise halfway and hold the position for 30 seconds.
Back-Angled Leg Lifts:
1. Place your hands on the back of a sturdy chair or couch and lift one leg backward, keeping your foot flexed (toes not pointed) and your heel pointed to the back of the room.
2. Lower and lift your leg for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
Tip: Practice pulling and holding the navel to the spine, widening and flattening out your tummy when you’re sitting and standing throughout the day.
Peg Ryan is a Certified Personal Trainer/Group Fitness Trainer with Prairie Life Fitness in Omaha. For more information, visit prairielife.com.
Burpees are a very simple concept, yet they are difficult movements to execute across many repetitions, which makes them a total body workout. There’s no equipment needed, just your body and some floor space. However, coordination is necessary as you control your body throughout the properly timed movements of getting on the ground and back up. Burpees elicit a great metabolic (cardiovascular) stimulus. Depending on current level of strength, you may gain strength and body control. If the exercise is relatively simple for you, you will be able to move quicker and gain even more of a conditioning response.
This is an awesome exercise to work the hamstrings, buttocks, inner thighs, lower back, and lower abdomen, as well as upper body stabilizers. Think butt lift—not butt squeeze—and picture everything toned throughout the whole backside of the lower body! Thinking about these things while you are exercising is part of the traditional Pilates and yoga experience. Think about what you want, not what you don’t like.
To perform this move, you will need a large towel—like a beach or bath towel. That’s it!
Setup & Starting Position:
Fold a large towel in half and then in half again.
Lay on your belly with the towel under your pelvis, so that the towel is approximately between your belly button and the top of your thighs (Those with longer torsos or longer legs will need to adjust more to find the correct center of gravity needed for this movement).
Place your hands palms down under your forehead.
Engage your lower abdomen/core.
Lift both legs a few inches off the floor without sagging the lower back (Remember: Your abs must be engaged, so the lower back doesn’t strain with excess pressure).
“Beat” your heels together while lifted in the air.
Inhale for 5 beats and exhales for 5 beats (Remember: Going for “the burn” means a lack of oxygen, which will make your technique suffer; and when your technique suffers, your lower back and/or neck will strain forehead.)
Tip: If your lower back is hurting, that means the lower abdomen isn’t doing its job. To ease back strain, try only lifting one leg at a time and move slower to get control over the movement—then increase to faster beats and/or with both legs.
Cindy Cook is ACSM Certified and owner of Legacy Pilates, Yoga & More. For more information, visit mindbodyprograms.com.