How It Works
This routine keeps you challenged by progressing in difficulty each time you do it, says Ashley Borden, coauthor of Your Perfect Fit. Complete the entire circuit three times, moving from one exercise to the next with little rest. Each move will tell you how to adjust the first, second, and third time you do it.
Each circuit takes about 15 minutes. Do the routine three times a week.
What You'll Need
- A set of light (2- to 3-pound) and medium (5- to 10-pound) dumbbells
- A yoga mat or towel
- A chair or wall (for balance)
Targets Shoulders and Upper Back
- Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, abs engaged and chest lifted. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand, arms close to sides.
- Bend elbows 90 degrees with palms up (as if carrying a serving tray). Pressing shoulders down, bring elbows slightly forward, then rotate forearms to bring thumbs toward back of body.
- Return to start. Do 10 reps.
1st time: Stand on both legs (shown).
2nd time: Do 5 reps balancing on left leg, then 5 reps balancing on right leg.
3rd time: Stand on a folded thin yoga mat or bath towel and do 5 reps balancing on left leg, then 5 reps balancing on right leg.
Targets Shoulders and Biceps
- Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, abs engaged and chest lifted.
- Holding a light dumbbell in each hand, bend elbows 90 degrees and raise arms out to sides at shoulder height with palms facing each other and forearms parallel to floor.
- Pressing shoulder blades down, rotate arms so palms face head (arms will look like goalposts).
- Return weights to shoulder level and repeat. Do 10 reps.
1st time: Use light set of dumbbells (shown).
2nd time: Do 5 reps balancing on left leg, then 5 reps balancing on right leg; use medium set of dumbbells.
3rd time: Stand on a folded thin yoga mat or bath towel and do 5 reps balancing on left leg, then 5 reps balancing on right leg; use medium set of dumbbells.
Close-Grip Bent-Over Row
Targets Upper Back
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding medium dumbbells at sides.
- Hinge forward from the waist until back is almost parallel with floor, keeping arms extended directly below shoulders with palms facing each other.
- Pull elbows toward ribs, squeezing shoulder blades together.
- Lower weights and repeat. Do 15 reps.
1st time: Stand on both legs.
2nd time: Do 7 reps balancing on left leg (shown), then 7 reps balancing on right leg.
3rd time: Stand on a folded thin yoga mat or bath towel and do 7 reps balancing on left leg, then 7 reps balancing on right leg.
Single-Leg Instability Pump
Targets Biceps, Triceps, Core, and Glutes
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, fingers interlaced and pressed into belly, elbows back.
- Shift weight onto left leg while lifting right knee toward hip, foot flexed.
- Hinge forward from hips, sending right leg behind you; keep knee bent, foot flexed and hands pressed into belly. Press through left heel and squeeze glute to bring right knee back to front.
- Do 15 reps. Switch legs; repeat.
1st time: Keep hands interlaced on belly (shown).
2nd time: Do "running arms": Balancing on left leg, bring right arm forward with elbow bent and left arm extended behind you. As you stand up, bring left arm forward and right arm back.
3rd time: Do weighted running arms: Hold light dumbbells and do a biceps curl with right arm (bring weight toward shoulder) while doing a triceps extension (press weight behind you) with left arm. Reverse movement as you stand back up.
One-Arm Stable Switching Plank
Targets Arms, Chest, Core, and Glutes
- Begin in full push-up position with legs extended behind you, feet hip-width apart and hands on floor with thumbs in line with bottom of chest. Pull abs in and squeeze glutes.
- Keeping glutes and abs tight, shift weight to left arm and place right hand along outside of right thigh. Keep pushing away from floor, staying strong through left shoulder.
- Hold for 2 counts, then bring hand back to floor. Repeat on opposite side.
- Continue, alternating sides, for a total of 10 reps.
1st time: Bring arm to side of leg for 2 counts.
2nd time: Do a side plank, rotating to right side, extending right arm directly over shoulder (shown). Alternate sides.
3rd time: Do a push-up in between each side plank.
Hair-Wash Torso Twist
Targets Transverse (Deep) Abdominals and Obliques
- Lie faceup on floor with hands interlaced behind head, gazing at chest. Pull left knee toward chest, foot flexed, and extend right leg.
- Twist upper body to the left, bringing right elbow toward outside of left knee.
- Switch sides, twisting upper body to the right while bringing right knee toward chest and extending left leg.
- Continue, alternating sides for a total of 20 twists.
Rounds 1, 2, 3: No variations needed.
Wide Sumo Squat
Targets Glutes and Legs
- Stand with legs wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out, knees soft and chest lifted. Interlace fingers and place hands on belly.
- Slowly squat, bringing thighs almost parallel with the floor; press knees outward over toes.
- Pause, exhale, then inhale as you return to start position, squeezing glutes as you stand back up.
- Do 15 reps.
1st time: Interlace hands on belly (shown).
2nd time: Place interlaced hands behind head.
3rd time: Extend arms overhead in a V shape; keep elbows slightly bent with thumbs pointing behind you.
- Lie faceup with feet lifted and soles pressed together, knees out to sides. Extend arms in front of you with palms together.
- Lift shoulder blades off floor and reach through legs. Pulse forward for 30 reps, exhaling with short breaths; keep upper body lifted throughout.
1st time: Extend arms forward with palms together (shown).
2nd time: Hold a light dumbbell with both hands.
3rd time: Hold a light dumbbell in each hand.
Advanced Good Morning
Targets Lower Back, Hamstrings, and Glutes
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees soft, fingers interlaced on belly with elbows out to sides.
- Keeping back flat and abs pulled in, inhale and slowly hinge forward, bringing torso parallel to floor.
- Shift weight into heels, reach your chest out, and squeeze your glutes to pull yourself back to start position.
- Do 10 reps.
1st time: Keep hands interlaced on belly (above).
2nd time: Place interlaced hands behind head.
3rd time: Hold medium dumbbells in front of legs (shown).
Outer/Inner Thigh Kick Stretch
Targets Outer and Inner Thighs and Glutes
- Stand 2 feet away from a stable, waist-high surface such as a counter, wall or chair, holding lightly, shoulders down. Rise onto ball of left foot and lift right leg; abs engaged. Bring right leg across body in front of left.
- Swing right leg out to right side with foot flexed and toes turned out. Use momentum to swing the leg, firing through left glutes; keep hips straight.
- Do 10 reps; switch legs and repeat.
Rounds1, 2, 3: No variations needed.
Part 2: The Cardio Plan
Want results that are both quick and long-lasting? Do a combination of cardio workouts that challenge you at different intensities and work different muscle fibers, says Borden.
How it works: Do the cardio routine of your choice four or five days a week. At least two of these workouts should be a steady-paced program. For the other two or three workouts, choose from the cardio blast, interval workout, or steady-paced options below.
Workout 1: Steady Pace
Time: One hour
Calories burned: About 550
Break your favorite workouts into three 20-minute intervals. For example, do 20 minutes on a treadmill, 20 on a bike, and 20 on an elliptical. Outside, do a combo of running, walking, in-line skating, and cycling. Keep your intensity at a 7 out of 10 (you can speak only in short phrases).
Workout 2: Speed intervals
Time: 35 Minutes
Calories burned: About 400
Do this outside or on any machine. Warm up for 3 minutes, then alternate 5 minutes of speed bursts (an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10; you're breathless) with 5 minutes of moderate-paced recovery (a 5 or 6 effort; you can say sentences). Do 3 intervals; cool down for 2 minutes.
Workout 3: Cardio Blast
Time: 30 Minutes
Calories burned: About 200
This treadmill walking routine features intervals that vary in speed and incline.
|Speed (mph)||Incline (%)||RPE*|
|18:00- 19:00||2.7- 3.0||13||10|
|20:00- 30:00||3.3- 3.7||6||7|
RPE, rate of perceived exertion, is a measure of your exercise intensity based on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most effort. Adjust speed and incline to reach desired RPE above.
"We Tried It!"
More than a dozen women tried the beta version of our winter "You Can Do It" plan. In just four weeks, on average, testers lost at least one inch from their waists. Even without dieting, over half lost an average of three pounds.
"I'm not a morning person, but I did this regularly before work. It was a great way to wake up. I lost one and a half inches from my waist and one inch from my thighs in four weeks."
— Lindsey Groteluschen, 22
"Just two weeks in, I could feel my posture and core strength improving. By the end, I'd lost five pounds and almost 5 percent body fat!"
— Merri Moser, 41
"I have an 8-month-old baby (plus two boys, ages 3 and 5), and this plan was what I needed to get back into my routine. I lowered my body fat by 3 percent and am almost at my pre-pregnancy weight!"
— Michelle Hanson, 35
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, February 2008.