Your Calorie-Blasting Plan
Pump up your strength workout and you'll reap the rewards long after you've put down the dumbbells. Research has shown that your metabolism can stay revved by 25 percent for up to 15 hours after a high-intensity strength session. Plus, regular resistance training helps keep your metabolic fires ignited daily, notes Michele S. Olson, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama. This workout focuses on a slower lowering phase for each exercise, which forces the muscles to work harder, says Cindy Whitmarsh, president of Ultrafit Nutrition Systems in San Diego.
For each rep, lift the weight in two counts and lower it in eight. Do two or three sets of each move. Aim for a total of three workouts a week — after six weeks, you'll have sleeker muscles and a metabolism that roars!
Your Calorie-Blasting Plan
Mix the strength moves here with short, high-energy bursts of cardio and you'll boost your calorie burn by as much as 25 percent, blasting about 320 calories in 45 minutes.
Warm up: Do any form of moderate-intensity cardio (jogging, cycling, elliptical machine, stair stepper, etc.) for four minutes.
Intervals: Alternate one strength move with three minutes of cardio — try jumping rope, jogging in place, or quickly stepping up and down off a step bench. (To make it harder, lift your knees into your chest or raise both arms overhead while stepping.)
Cool down: After your last weight move, do four minutes of moderate-intensity cardio.
1. Diagonal Extension
Targets: Quads, Outer Thighs, Core, and Shoulders
- Hold a 3- to 5-pound dumbbell in right hand, elbow bent, at shoulder height with palm facing floor.
- Lift left foot a few inches out to side, toes on floor and heel raised.
- Bring left knee to hip height while lowering right arm diagonally across body to outside of left knee.
- Hold for 1 count, then lower leg and lift arm in 8 counts to start.
- Do 8 to 12 times; switch sides and repeat.
2. Bridge Flye
Targets: Chest, Core, Triceps, Shoulders, and Hamstrings
- Lie faceup on floor with knees bent, feet hip-width apart, holding an 8- to 12-pound dumbbell in each hand, arms extended above shoulders, palms facing in.
- Lift your glutes and lower back off the floor.
- Bend elbows, lowering arms in 8 slow counts until upper arm lightly touches floor, then press back up in 2 counts.
3. Suspended Bridge
Targets: Core, Triceps, Biceps, Shoulders, Glutes, and Hamstrings
- Sit on floor with heels on top of a stability ball, knees bent into chest and palms on floor under shoulders, fingertips pointing toward feet (not shown).
- Tighten abs and press hips up off floor, rolling ball forward; keep head up and chin forward.
- Hold for 1 count, keeping chest pressed toward ceiling.
- Lower hips and roll ball back toward body in 8 counts.
- Do 8 to 12 reps.
4. Balance Lift
Targets: Shoulders, Glutes, Quads, and Core
- Hold a 3- to 5-pound dumbbell in your left hand, palm facing behind you (not shown).
- Lean forward slightly from hips, lifting left foot about 6 inches off floor.
- Place right hand on hip with abs engaged.
- Keeping left leg raised, lift left arm up directly above shoulder and over head.
- Lower in 8 counts to start.
- Do 6 to 8 reps; switch sides and repeat.
Targets: Upper and Middle Back, Shoulders, Biceps, and Core
- Lie facedown on ball, holding a 3- to 5-pound dumbbell in each hand; keep feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Straighten arms next to head, palms facing in; lift chest off the ball, slightly arching back (not shown).
- Sweep arms behind body until elbows are at waist, palms forward.
- Hold for 1 count, then take 8 counts to return to start.
6. Roll and Curl
Targets: Inner Thighs, Glutes, Quads, Core, and Biceps
- Stand with left knee bent, left toe on top of a stability ball, holding an 8- to 10-pound dumbbell in each hand (not shown).
- Straighten left leg out to the side, rolling the ball away from your body; at the same time, curl weights toward shoulders.
- Take 8 counts to roll back to starting position.
- Do 6 to 8 reps; switch legs and repeat.
7. Hip Twist
Targets: Glutes, Outer Hips, and Core
- Lie with right side over ball, legs extended and right palm on floor, balancing weight on right hand and outside of right foot.
- Place left hand on hip and stack left leg directly over right (not shown).
- Lift left leg to hip height.
- At top of movement, rotate leg, turning toes up.
- Keep leg rotated as you lower in 8 counts.
- Rotate leg back to start.
- Do 8 to 12 reps; switch sides and repeat.
Find Your Metabolic Rate
Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) — the amount of calories you burn before adding in any activity — accounts for roughly 70 percent of your daily calorie burn. Knowing this number should help you estimate just how much you need to eat and exercise every day. But until recently, finding your precise RMR could be done only in a laboratory setting. Enter personal RMR monitoring devices such as the BodyGem, a small tool that measures oxygen output from the breath. It is routinely used at high-end health clubs. But at about $50 for a BodyGem test, we wondered if the investment was truly worth it.
"While this data may be helpful to someone on a strict calorie-controlled diet, it has its drawbacks," says Reed Humphrey, PhD, a professor of physical therapy at Idaho State University. "If you log in a low number, you might be tempted to cut your calories too far, which can harm both health and metabolism," he says. Instead, concentrate on a balanced diet and regular workouts. "These are the things to invest in, since they have an impact on what you see in the mirror," he says.
Does Water Speed Metabolism?
Q&A: Can drinking water speed up your metabolism?
Yes, says Rachel Brandeis, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, but the effect is tiny and temporary at best. "You might burn a few extra calories, but it won't translate into any long-term, meaningful changes," she explains. One study found that subjects who drank half a liter of water a day had a 30 percent increase in metabolism — but the boost lasted just 40 minutes.