Want to know the secrets to getting a toned, trim body in record time? We did too, so we went straight to the top personal trainers, exercise physiologists and fitness instructors for the ultimate moves and motivation tricks to kick a fitness routine into high gear. Put a few of these tips into action each week and you're guaranteed to see faster results!
- Tone Up on the Treadmill
"Save time at the gym with this 10-minute cardio/sculpt session: Hop on a treadmill holding a three- to five-pound dumbbell in each hand, and set the speed to a brisk walk. Do a one-minute set each of shoulder presses, biceps curls, triceps extensions, side laterals, front laterals and standing triceps kickbacks one after another as you walk. I's an amazing upper-body challenge that also gets your heart pumping. Do this series two or three times each week. As you improve, work up to doing four-minute sets."
—Michael George, trainer and owner of Integrated Motivational Fitness in Los Angeles
- Power Up Your Runs
"Adding wall sits to the end of every run will strengthen your quads, hamstrings and glutes, improving your speed and endurance. Lean against a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart, then squat until your knees are bent at 45 degrees. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds; work up to doing 10 sets. Add a challenge by including heel raises: Lift your left heel, then the right, then lift both together twice."
—Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of the Running Center, New York City
- Chart Your Progress
"Stay motivated using a fitness report card. Jot down these subjects: Cardio, Muscle Conditioning, Flexibility and Attitude. Set goals (for example, doing 10 "boy" push-ups) and grade yourself A through F at least four times a year. When you see how much you improve, you'll want to stay in great shape."
—Ken Alan, Los Angeles—based personal trainer
- Try This All-in-One Toner
"A side-step squat with wood chop works your arms, torso, abs, back, legs, inner thighs and butt. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a three- to four-pound medicine ball in your hands. Bend your arms up so that the ball is at eye level over your right shoulder. As you bring the ball toward your left knee, step out with your left leg and bend it no further than 90 degrees, keeping your right leg straight. Return to the starting position. Do 10 to 15 reps and repeat on the other leg."
—David Kirsch, trainer and author of The Ultimate New York Body Plan (McGraw-Hill, 2004)
- Break Out the Shovel
"Why pay someone to clear snow from your driveway? Besides burning nearly 400 calories per hour, shoveling snow develops muscular endurance and power. But be safe: Minimize the amount of snow on each shovelful, and bend from your knees and hips, not your back."
—Tom Seabourne, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and sports psychologist at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant, Texas
- Work Out During Your Workday
"Sit on a stability ball to strengthen your core, and keep dumbbells or exercise tubing at your desk. Squeeze in 12 to 15 reps of exercises like dumbbell curls, overhead presses and ab crunches; aim for two or three sets of each. This gives you more free time to fit in fun workouts like biking or tennis."
—Gregory Florez, personal trainer and CEO of Salt Lake City — based FitAdvisor.com
- Take This Jump-Rope Challenge
"The best cardio workout is the jump-rope double-turn maneuver. It's intense: You'll burn about 26 calories per minute! Do a basic jump for five minutes, then jump twice as high and turn the rope twice as fast so it passes under your feet twice before you land. This takes timing, patience and power. But you'll get in great shape just by working at it."
—Michael Olajide Jr., former number one world middleweight contender and cofounder/trainer at Aerospace High Performance Center in New York City
- Give Yourself a Break
"You don't have to be a fitness saint to get results. Follow the 80/20 plan: Eighty percent of the year, you'll exercise regularly and eat well. Know that you'll slip 20 percent of the time due to holidays and work deadlines. When you accept that fitness isn't an all-or-nothing proposition, you're more likely to stick with it for life."
—Maureen Wilson, owner/personal trainer/instructor, Sweat Co. Studios, Vancouver, B.C.
- Get a Jump on Weight Loss
"Add plyometric box jumps to your workout to improve your cardiovascular stamina and leg strength — you'll really sculpt your hamstrings, quads and glutes. Find a sturdy box that';s at least one foot high [like a Plyo Box, $139.95; 888-556-7464; performbetter.com]. Starting from a standing position, explosively jump to the middle of the box, then jump back down. Repeat 20 times."
- Don't Skimp on Carbs
"Your body needs them to fuel a workout, so reach for fruit or high-fiber crackers an hour beforehand. If you'e exercising for 90 minutes or longer, include some protein so that the carbs break down more slowly, giving you longer-lasting energy. Your best bets: low-fat cheese and crackers, trail mix or half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."
—Cindy Sherwin, R.D., personal trainer at the Gym in New York City
- Maximize Your Crunches
"Don't relax your abs as you lower your chest away from your knees during a crunch — you get only half the ab-toning benefit! To get the firmest abs possible, you need to sustain the contraction on the way down."
—Steve Ilg, founder of Wholistic Fitness Personal Training and author of Total Body Transformation (Hyperion, 2004)
- Intensify Your Push-Up
"Squat-thrust push-ups get you in great shape because they work your upper body, core and lower body and improve agility, strength and endurance all at once. From a standing position, bend down, put your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, and jump your feet back into plank position. If you're strong, cross your ankles; otherwise, jump your feet wide apart. Do a push-up, then jump your feet together or uncross your ankles. Jump your feet back to your hands and stand up. Do eight reps total, rest for one minute, and repeat."
—Keli Roberts, Los Angeles — based trainer
- Paddle Your Way to Flatter Abs
"Go kayaking to get a taut stomach — it's ideal because much of your rowing power comes from your core. Mimic the motion and resistance of the water at home by looping an exercise band around the bottom of a table leg or other fixed object. Sit on the floor with legs extended, knees slightly bent; grasp one end of the band in each hand. Rotate your torso to one side as you bring the elbow back slightly, then switch sides. Do three sets of one to three minutes each."
—Barbara Bushman, Ph.D., associate professor of health, physical education and recreation at Southwest Missouri State University
- Make Over Your Running Routine
"Unless you're training for a marathon, skip long, slow, distance running — sprinting builds more muscle. Add a few 10- to 60-second sprints to your run, slowing down just long enough to catch your breath between them."
—Stephen Holt, 2003 ACE Personal Trainer of the Year
- Super-Sculpt Your Butt
"Get great glutes by targeting the muscles and connective tissues buried deep in your body. To hit them, do high-intensity squats, such as jump squats. Then, blast off butt flab with cross-country skiing, bleacher running and stair climbing."