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Better Body Boot Camp: Rev Up Your Workout

We collected the best calorie-burning, ab-flattening, total-body toning secrets and fire-you-up tricks from top boot camp instructors to help you make over your body and drop a size fast. (No barking drill sergeant required!)

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Meet Your Better-Body SWAT Team

We asked 10 of the country's best boot camp instructors to spill their playbooks for getting fit in no time flat. "Just by using your body weight, you can burn tons of calories and create moves that tone everything," says Lacey Stone, who leads BootyCamp! in New York City. Follow the team's tips here and you'll hear a different kind of whistle.

The Instructors

Jason Strong, manager at Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York City

Bob Weinstein, instructor for Beach Boot Camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Lawrence Biscontini, creator of Buddha Camp at Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York City

Kimae Dolan, director of programming at Seattle Weight Loss Boot Camp

Nancy Fudacz, director, performance training, at the East Bank Club in Chicago

Mario Hortis, instructor at Crunch gym in Miami Beach and Chicago

Adrienne Howell, instructor at Body Fusion studio in Woodland Hills, California

Jay Kerwin, owner of Boot Camp L.A. in California

Paul Frediani, master trainer at the JCC in Manhattan Health Club

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Tone from Every Angle for Super Sexy Arms

Doing loads of biceps curls without getting sleek, defined arms? Here's a tip: Flip your grip. "After a set of traditional, knuckles-up curls, turn your wrists so palms face in and hinge your forearms out 45 degrees," says trainer Jason Strong. "Last set, turn knuckles down and hinge forearms out to sides."

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Kick Up Your Cardio

Mix basic-training moves (jumping jacks, crunches, lunges) into your cardio to torch as many calories as a five-mile-per-hour run while also shaping your chest, arms, abs, and butt -- jiggle zones a jog alone won't target, says instructor Bob Weinstein.

When time is tight, use some of Weinstein's sweatastic moves to burn about 11 calories per minute.

Air Jump 'n' Jab
Jump in place, shifting weight from side to side, as you punch forward with left fist. Jab with each jump for 1 minute. Switch arms; repeat.

Speed Slide
Lower into a squat with arms extended by sides. Shuffle to the right 2 steps and back to the left 2 steps. Go as fast as possible for 1 minute.

Foot Fire
Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, knees bent. March in place as fast as possible -- as if stomping out a fire -- for 30 seconds.

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Blast Calories: Do Curls in Double Time

Move it! Move it! Strength moves help you burn 10 more calories over four sets when done lightning-quick on the lift portion, according to a study conducted at Anderson University in Indiana. Lower weights in two seconds and press up superfast for the ultimate calorie blast.

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Clock In with Power Push-Ups

Get an old staple to chisel your chest and arms in a whole new way by playing with your hand placement, says Nancy Fudacz. Her clients get visible va-va-voom with this round-the-clock twist that targets your chest, arms, and core.

  • Get in full push-up position, with wrists under shoulders, body in line from head to heels.
  • Place right hand at 2 o'clock position, left hand at 8 o'clock; do 5 push-ups.
  • Next, place right hand at 4 o'clock, left at 10 o'clock; do 5 reps.
  • Last, return hands to standard position (right at 3 o'clock, left at 9 o'clock); do 10 reps.

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Think Beyond the Dumbbell

Want to de-jiggle your arms faster? Trade your triceps kickbacks for this body-weight-only Crab Crawl from Nancy Fudacz that targets and tones your triceps and core.

  • Sit on ground with knees bent, feet flat, and place palms on ground by sides and slightly behind you.
  • Lift hips to form a tabletop from knees to shoulders.
  • Crawl forward 10 steps, then crawl back 10 steps.
  • Rest 20 seconds; crawl left 10 steps and right 10 steps.

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Downsize Thighs with a One-Two Punch

Target underworked leg-muscle fibers for a sleeker look: Plant your feet farther apart for squats to sculpt jiggly inner thighs, and press through your heels on lunges to tone hamstrings. This Sumo Squat and Walking Lunge combo from Lacey Stone will do the trick.

Targets: Glutes, hips, inner thighs, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out 15 degrees, hands on hips.
  • Squat (knees behind toes) and hold for 1 minute.
  • Stand up and bring feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lunge forward with right leg, press off heel to return to start, then lunge with left.
  • Do 6 lunges, alternating legs. Repeat combo.

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Boost Your Butt as You Work Your Abs

Add mini-lifts as you whittle your middle for twofer benefits. "Hold a plank pose -- stay in full push-up position -- for 30 to 60 seconds, lifting a hand or foot off the ground every 10 seconds and squeezing your glutes for 5 seconds between lifts," says Kimae Dolan.

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Sculpt Your Lower Body with a Super Squat

Do squats on one leg at a time to get more butt firming per rep, says Lacey Stone. Try her version with a hip-slimming side raise to get a sleek, toned lower body.

  • Stand on right leg with left foot raised 6 inches off ground in front of you.
  • Squat, keeping left foot raised.
  • Hold for 1 count, then stand up, extending left leg out to left side. Return to start.
  • Do 10 reps. Switch leg; repeat.

Bonus tip:
Having an energy slump? Try squats, not sugar!

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Keep Your Muscles Guessing

Every routine needs a good shake-up, say our pros. Do 12 to 15 reps with light weights one day, 8 to 10 reps with moderate weights another, and 6 to 8 reps with heavier ones another -- scientists agree this firms better than doing the same ol' sets. Try this new ab toner from Paul Frediani: Stand holding a 5-pound dumbbell with both hands in front of you. Keeping body still, move weight from right to left 20 times; repeat.

Get Stronger, Faster
Boost strength an extra 20 percent by limbering up between sets. Target the same muscle in your stretch and your workout. For example, do 10 squats followed by a 20-second-long quad stretch.

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Slow Down to Beat Belly Fat

Resist the temptation to use momentum to get you through ab moves -- it allows other muscles such as hip flexors to take over for your tummy and sap sculpting potential. This slow-motion cincher from Adrienne Howell defies cheating.

  • Lie faceup with arms by sides, palms down.
  • Lift both legs straight over hips.
  • Take a deep breath and lower legs for 4 counts, until heels almost touch ground. Raise legs to start position in 4 counts.
  • Do 8 reps.

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Cinch an Inch Faster

To give your obliques all the waist-whittling benefits of a bicycle crunch, freeze your legs in mid-spin, says Adrienne Howell.

  • Lie faceup with right arm extended out to side, palm on ground, and left hand behind head.
  • Lift left leg 6 inches off ground and bend right knee 90 degrees so shin is parallel to ground. Bring left shoulder toward right knee.
  • Keeping left leg elevated and right knee bent, lower torso.
  • Do 15 crunches.
  • Lower legs. Switch sides; repeat.

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Upgrade Your Yoga Routine

Yes, you can even downward dog like a boot camp instructor!

Whether you aim to de-stress or drip sweat in yoga, these tips will get you there faster. "To promote an inward focus, breathe solely through your nose with slow, steady breaths," says Lawrence Biscontini. Want a bigger burn? Do Sun Salutations to toast four calories per minute, about the same as a brisk walk.

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Excuse-Proof Your Workout

Here, our panel's top stick-with-it tricks:

  • Make a list of how being fit positively affects your life and read it before bed.
  • Set your cell phone or PDA with an alarm to send you motivating messages ("Endorphins on the way!") or a favorite song when it's time to get to the gym.
  • Tape a calendar to your mirror or fridge and check off each day you work out. Aim for at least three checks a week.

Heed the 10-Minute Rule
Forget the all-or-nothing attitude toward exercise and you may never miss a session. "When you're not in the mood to work out, tell yourself that you'll do just 10 minutes," says Jay Kerwin. "Once you get going, you'll remember why you're there and probably stick it out for a full routine."

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, October 2008.

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