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Burn, Baby, Burn: The Metabolism-Boosting Superset Workout
How This Workout Works
It's one of our most flab-melting routines ever: Eight of the best lab-tested toners mixed together to boost your metabolism, with no sweaty cardio required. You'll get up to three times more firming per rep as you torch a third more calories each minute — during and after your workout — compared with typical strength training. The skinny secret? Supersets! Cutting out downtime between sets, as with these alternating pairings of moves that work opposing muscles, "increases your metabolism not only because your heart rate stays higher throughout but also because the body works harder afterward to recover," says Mark Schuenke, PhD, assistant anatomy professor at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine. Schuenke's research suggests that the bonus after-burn for a 140-pound woman can be up to 306 calories in the 24 hours postworkout. All you'll need is a set of five- to eight-pound dumbbells and a sturdy chair to net this slimming side benefit. Go on — turn up the burn!
Superset 1: Back and Chest
Targets: Back and biceps
Tones 93 percent of your upper back muscles — more than any other move tested.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms by sides.
- Hinge forward 90 degrees from hips so that back is parallel to floor and arms extend down, palms facing each other.
- Drive elbows directly behind you to bring dumbbells by ribs. Lower.
- Do 10 to 12 reps, then move on to the Decline Bench Press.
Decline Bench Press
Targets: Chest, shoulders, butt, and hamstrings
6 percent more chest toning than the flat-on-your-back version.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie faceup on floor with knees bent and feet flat; bring arms out to sides at shoulder level, then bend elbows 90 degrees so that forearms are perpendicular to floor (like a goalpost), palms facing forward.
- Lift hips off floor so that body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders.
- Maintaining bridge position, extend arms to press dumbbells toward ceiling. Lower upper arms to floor.
- Do 10 to 12 reps, then return to the Bent-Over Row. Continue alternating sets until you've done 3 sets of each exercise.
Superset 2: Biceps and Triceps
Better arm firming than a standing biceps curl, targeting 90 percent of the muscle.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, sit on chair backward with arms hanging over its back, palms facing up.
- Curl weights toward shoulders. Lower.
- Do 10 to 12 reps, then move on to the Diamond Push-Up.
Targets: Triceps and chest
25 percent more sculpting than standard triceps moves, like overhead extensions.
- Start on floor in modified push-up position, balancing on hands and knees with arms extended so that body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees; move palms close together under chest, thumbs and forefingers touching, to form a diamond shape on floor. MAKE IT HARDER: Start in full push-up position, on hands and toes.
- Bend elbows to lower chest toward floor. Return to start.
- Do 8 to 15 reps, then return to the Preacher Curl. Continue alternating sets until you've done 3 sets of each exercise.
Superset 3: Butt, Hamstrings, Quads, and Calves
Targets: Butt, hamstrings, and core
Up to double the butt toning of a squat and almost double the hamstring toning.
- Start on floor on all fours, knees under hips, palms under shoulders.
- Keeping right knee bent 90 degrees, lift right leg until thigh is parallel to floor. Lower to start.
- Do 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides and repeat to complete 1 set.
- Move on to the One-Legged Calf Squat.
One-Legged Calf Squat
Targets: Quads and calves
Done while standing on a step with your heel off the edge, this engages 79 percent of your calf muscles.
- Stand on left foot, holding on to back of chair for balance if needed, right leg bent behind you.
- Raise left heel off floor as high as possible, then bend left knee to lower into a single-leg squat.
- Return to standing, then lower heel to floor.
- Do 10 to 12 reps, switch legs and repeat. Then return to the Quadruped. Continue alternating until you've done 3 sets of each exercise.
Superset 4: Obliques and Deep Abs
Targets: Abs and obliques
Triple the toning for your obliques compared with a standard crunch.
- Lie faceup on floor with elbows bent out to sides at shoulder level, hands touching behind ears and knees bent, feet flat.
- Crunch up, lifting feet off floor, and rotate torso toward right as you bring right knee into chest; simultaneously extend left leg diagonally up at a 45 degree angle.
- Keeping torso and legs lifted, switch sides and repeat to complete 1 rep.
- Do 10 to 12 reps, then move on to the Roll-Up.
Target: Deep abs
26 percent more ab flattening than a typical crunch.
- Lie faceup on floor with arms extended behind head, palms up.
- Engaging abs, raise arms overhead, and slowly lift shoulders and then torso off floor; hinge forward at hips to reach hands to touch toes. MAKE IT EASIER: Place a folded towel or small pillow under lower back for support.
- Slowly reverse motion back to start.
- Do 10 to 12 reps, then return to the Crisscross. Continue alternating until you've done 3 sets of each exercise.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, September 2011.