Your exercise regimen doesn’t have to take over your life. Getting the fitness result you want—whether it’s losing weight or reshaping your body—can be as simple as squeezing in an extra 30 seconds here or minute there. These fast, tiny tweaks to your program will help you rev your energy level, burn more calories and sculpt new muscle. Incorporate our one-minute workout boosters into your daily routine and say good-bye to flab for good.
1. Do a Kegel while you crunch.
Contract your pelvic-floor muscles—the ones that you use to stop the flow of urine—as you lift and lower. “This will help you recruit more of the entire abdominal group and make the muscles work harder,” says Michele Olson, Ph.D., a professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama.
2. Close your eyes on the ball.
"Doing abdominal moves on a stability ball with your eyes closed is extra challenging," says Nick Martella, a fitness trainer at Sky Athletic Club in Rockville Centre, New York. "Because you don’t have a focal point, your body senses that it’s in an unstable environment and your core muscles have to work harder to stay balanced."
3. Target your belly during strength-training breaks.
That minute between weight sets is valuable workout time. Take advantage by filling it with ab moves. You won't have to do crunches at the end of your workout (when you may be tired out), and it'll keep your heart rate elevated, upping your calorie burn.
4. Bump up the resistance.
"To sculpt any muscle you need to add resistance, and since your arms are extended in this exercise, it's more difficult," says Ellen Barrett, founder of buffgirlfitness.com and star of the new video Crunch: Fat-Burning Pilates (Anchor Bay, $9.95). Grab a pair of dumbbells or a medicine ball. Lie back with knees bent, feet flat. Extend arms straight back so that your biceps are next to your ears and dumbbells are about an inch off the floor. With abs tight, slowly crunch up and down, keeping arms stationary. Do two sets of 15 lifts.
5. Slo-mo your moves.
"Take four counts to lift and two to lower," says Peter Francis, Ph.D., a professor of exercise and nutritional sciences at San Diego State University. "Research has shown that abdominal-muscle activity is significantly greater when lifting than when lowering," he explains. "When you slow down the upward phase, you spend more time in the most beneficial part of the exercise." At this rate, you should be able to do only about 10 crunches per minute.
6. Lunge day and night.
First thing in the morning and last thing before bedtime, do five rear lunges (step back and lower until front thigh is parallel to floor) on each leg and then do five squats, suggests Lawrence Biscontini, a Reebok master trainer and group fitness manager for Wyndham's Golden Door Spa in Puerto Rico. You'll definitely notice the difference in your rear view: "This one-minute addition to your day adds up to 300 lunges and 150 squats per month. That's a lot of leg and butt toning," he says.
7. Tighten your tush while you wait.
Make use of your downtime — standing in line, sitting in the car or waiting in the doctor's office — by squeezing and releasing your gluteal muscles for one minute, suggests Biscontini. "And when you're finished, draw your navel toward your spine for 30 seconds to work the deep abdominal muscles."
8. Give your triceps an extra boost.
"After finishing a set of overhead triceps extensions, hold the weight up with elbows slightly bent. Squeeze your elbows in toward your head 12 to 15 times as an extra push for the backs of the arms," suggests Liz Neporent, a FITNESS advisory board member and creative director at Plus One Fitness in New York City.
9. Tone during commercials.
Try this one-minute butt booster from The Commercial Break Workout Book by Linda J. Buch and Seth Anne Snider-Copley (Prima, 2002). Lie on the floor with your left knee bent and foot flat; keep right leg straight, six to eight inches off the floor. Inhale and push down through the heel of your left foot until your butt and lower back come off the floor. Exhale and squeeze your glutes for about 15 seconds. Repeat four times, alternating legs.
10. Work your calves on the stairs.
For every three steps you take, stop and do five calf raises (coming up onto the balls of your feet and then lowering heels to just below step height).
11. Do "office push-ups."
"These will work your chest, get the blood pumping and give your brain a mini refresher," says Neporent. Stand up, lean over, and place your palms on the edge of your desk (make sure it's sturdy). Keep your body straight as you lower and press up. Push-ups on an incline are slightly easier than on the floor, so you can do more in one minute without compromising your form.
12. Challenge your balance.
At the end of your workout, stand on a balance board or disk for 60 seconds. "It'll force you to recruit more muscles, especially in your core, legs and hips," says Stephen Holt, 2003 American Council on Exercise Personal Trainer of the Year. "Your body has to work up to 30 percent harder on a wobbly surface than it does on a stable one." Once you feel comfortable balancing, try doing lunges with your front foot on the board.
13. Squeeze a medicine ball.
To work your legs, glutes and inner thighs, lean against a wall and squat. "Make sure your thighs are parallel to the floor," says Brooke Siler, owner of re:AB studio in New York City.
14. Stand on one leg during upper-body exercises.
"You'll work your arms and also target your abs and the quadriceps and hamstrings of the standing leg," says Reebok master trainer Annette Lang. "To stay balanced, tighten your core and contract the muscles of the leg you’re standing on."
15. Triple up on weight moves.
"Hold a dumbbell in each hand and do a biceps curl as you squat," suggests Lang. "When you stand up, press the dumbbells straight overhead to work your shoulders and back." You can do one set of 15 in one minute.
16. Add squat thrusts to your routine.
"Incorporating 60 seconds of these between weight sets will target several large muscle groups and burn 140 additional calories during a 30-minute workout,"; says FITNESS advisory board member Joe Dowdell, owner of Peak Performance in New York City. Squat down with palms on floor. In one motion, hop both feet behind you so that legs are extended in push-up position. Jump knees back underneath you and stand — or jump — up.
17. Take your daily dose of vitamin E.
According to a study out of Tufts University in Boston, a group of men who took 1,000 IUs of vitamin E supplement every day (a relatively high dose) for three months showed a significant reduction in muscle damage and inflammation post-workout. Researchers say women are likely to reap the same benefits and that 200 to 400 IUs daily may be sufficient.
18. Pump up your plank.
Pressed for time? "This total-body strengthener takes only a minute to do," says Kari Anderson, owner of ProRobics Conditioning Clubs and Gold's Gyms in Seattle. Begin on your elbows with your torso off the floor, legs extended and toes tucked. Lift one foot at a time and hold for eight counts. Then, with knees slightly bent, jump feet wide and hold for two counts. Jump feet back together. Repeat series three times. "You activate your entire lower body to push off and control each landing," explains Anderson. Plus, the abs have to kick in even more to help you jump, she says.
19. Sculpt your upper back with "wall angels."
Stand with your back against a wall, feet about a foot away from it and knees comfortably bent. "Start with arms overhead, palms out and your upper body flush with the wall," says Holt. From this position, slowly move your arms down, then up, keeping elbows and the backs of your hands on the wall at all times. "This strengthens your mid back and the rotator cuff muscles," Holt adds. Do two sets of 10 sweeps.
20. Exercise at your desk.
Chair squats and toe-ups are both easy to do in an office or cubicle, says Anderson. "Stand several inches in front of your chair with arms extended in front of you, and squat down until your butt barely touches the seat. Then stand and rise up onto your toes." Repeat eight to 12 times.
21. Think yourself stronger.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation found that study participants got 14 to 35 percent stronger after 12 weeks of imagining themselves strenuously moving certain body parts. Think about your workout for 60 seconds while you're changing clothes in the locker room, or if you can't get to the gym, picture yourself doing a grueling weight-lifting set.
22. Time your workouts.
Set your watch to beep every 30 to 45 seconds, then begin your upper-body moves. Do as many reps of the exercise as you can — while still maintaining good form — until the alarm beeps. Either rest or, to keep your heart rate elevated, switch immediately to the next exercise. (This can be done with lower-body exercises as well.)
23. Sculpt while you chat.
"When you're stuck talking on the phone, stand with your feet in a V — heels together, toes apart — and plié," says Siler. “Lower hips until your knees are just past your toes. Focus on squeezing your inner thighs together as you rise up again." Do 20 slow pliés. On the last one, stay in the bent-knee position and lift and lower your heels eight to 15 times to target your calves. Still on the line? Do another two sets and soon your sexy legs will be the topic of conversation!
24. Strengthen your neck.
Place the palm of your dominant hand on your forehead and press your head against it for five seconds, suggests Mary Leonard, co-owner of the U.S. Athletic Training Center in New York City. Repeat on the right and left sides of your head. Finally, drop your chin, put both palms against the back of your head and lift up against your hands. "Doing this not only will strengthen your neck muscles, which can prevent injuries and enhance posture, but can also help alleviate stress-related headaches," Leonard says.
25. Limber up at the sink.
Biscontini suggests practicing the "hip hinge" while you brush your teeth or wash your face. Instead of hunching your back and bending from the waist, keep your spine lengthened and bend forward from the hips (you'll look like an L). With knees soft, lower as far as you can without rounding your back. "This is a great stretch for the hamstrings and glutes," he says. Hold for 10 counts, lift up, and repeat four times.
As you stand up, squeeze your butt to target these same muscles. "When you can, practice on a single leg."
26. Get down on all fours.
"Downward dog and upward dog are two of the best total-body stretches around," says Maureen Madden, a physical therapist at the Stone Clinic in San Francisco. "Together, they target the hamstrings, calves, hips, lower back, chest and shoulders." Hold the downward dog for five to seven deep breaths and the upward dog for two to three breaths. "You can do about three sets in a minute."
27. Stretch the opposite muscle in between sets.
If you're doing leg extensions for quadriceps, for example, stretch the hamstrings. "Stretching the opposite muscle makes it relax, which allows the muscle you're working to contract more forcefully," says Olson.
28. Open your chest.
Standing with feet hip-width apart, place hands together behind your back in a "prayer" position, fingers pointing down. If you can, flip your hands so that fingers point up. Keeping shoulders back and down and elbows out to sides, slide hands up your back as high as possible. Hold for 60 seconds, breathing deeply. "This opens your chest to create more room in your lungs for revitalizing breaths," says Sara Ivanhoe, creator of the On the Ball Yoga Workout video (Natural Journeys, 2003). "It also keeps your chest from getting too tight during the day and promotes good posture."
29. Skip the walking.
"If you're a beginning runner, try skipping for 60 seconds whenever you get the urge to walk,” says Barrett. "Your heart rate will stay elevated and you'll burn more calories than when walking. When you return to your jog or run, your pace may even be faster."
30. Nix the third set.
If you're pressed for time or are always on the lookout for a way to sneak some extra cardio into your routine, cut your weight workout down to two sets per move. Doing three sets takes 50 percent more time than doing two sets — with less than 10 percent more sculpting results, explains Holt. Use the minute you save to jump rope. (You'll burn 11 calories per skipping session, which adds up to about 100 extra calories per total-body weight workout!)
31. Leap in a zigzag up a trail.
As you bound from side to side, you'll work your legs, back and core double-time to keep your balance. Plus, you'll have to watch where you jump to avoid loose sticks and rocks, so it'll keep you more focused, says Barrett. Take narrower leaps until you feel comfortable, and try to land on your entire foot, not just the sides or toes.
32. Do 60-second speed intervals.
Incorporate several of these quick moves throughout your running workout for a quick calorie and metabolism boost, suggests Neporent. Alternate 60-second sprints at one to two miles per hour over your typical running pace with one to two minutes at regular speed. Repeat five to eight times. "You can gradually up the number of intervals, but since this type of workout is intense, do it only twice a week," she says.
33. Step up on the escalator.
You've heard it a million times — take the stairs instead of the elevator. What about escalators? Walk up or down as if it were a regular staircase. You'll burn seven and a half times more calories than you would just standing there, says Joan Price in her book The Anytime, Anywhere Exercise Book (Adams Media, 2003).
34. Tone in the pool.
"Kicking drills can help increase your speed while firming and tightening your lower body," says Doug Stern, a swimming expert based in New York City. To practice, grab a kickboard and kick quickly with toes pointed for 60 seconds. Repeat eight to 10 times during your regular swim.
35. Pace while you work.
Walking back and forth while you’re on the phone, brainstorming or discussing projects with colleagues will burn more than one and a half times as many calories as sitting. That's 61 extra calories an hour, which (at two hours per workday) adds up to 30,134 calories — or nine pounds — per year!
36. Jump to a higher heart rate.
"Plyometric exercise — jumping, hopping and bounding exercises — will keep your heart rate elevated and improve your agility and coordination," says Lang. Replace one set of regular squats and lunges with plyo moves.
37. Change your riding position while cycling.
The smoother your rhythm at any resistance, the more calories you'll burn. While warming up for your group cycling class, try this drill from Lucinda Christian, director of education at Mad Dogg Athletics, creators of the Spinning indoor cycling program, Over a one-minute period, transition every 15 seconds from a seated flat (sitting with light but even resistance) to a standing flat (standing in the pedals with your hands on the handlebars and moderate resistance) and back to a seated position. Maintain your cadence during all transitions.
38. Power up your stair climbs.
"Instead of walking leisurely up a flight of stairs, gradually increase your speed and the number of stairs you take in one minute," says Anderson. "Take two steps at once — if you're able to do it safely — and you'll target your glutes even more."
39. Tune in to your acupressure pointsTo help reduce anxiety and increase energy, rub or press your temples, one side of the bridge of your nose or just beneath your bottom lip, suggests Biscontini. "Rubbing the temples is relaxing, because people tend to wrinkle their face when they get stressed."
40. Take long, deep breaths.
Before your workout, spend a minute doing deep belly breathing and visualizing energy surging gently to the muscles, joints and tendons, suggests Steven Ungerleider, Ph.D., a psychologist and author of Mental Training for Peak Performance (Rodale, 1996). "This will pump extra oxygen and blood through your system," he says.
41. Relax your muscles.
Tension is an energy sapper. To fight it, lie on your back and, one by one, tighten every muscle from your feet to your face, holding each for two counts and then releasing, suggests Leonard. "The contrast between the contraction and the relaxation helps relieve stress and loosen up muscles."
42. Rev up with aromatherapy.
"Add a few drops of eucalyptus, lemon, camphor or peppermint oil to a cool, wet washcloth, hold it in front of your face, and take several deep breaths,"; says Kent Burden, coauthor of Yin Yang Fitness: The Whole Package of Health (Amberwood Press, 2003) and the mind/ body program coordinator at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in California. Fold the cloth and wipe your face (don't get the oil in your eyes or on your skin, as it may cause irritation). "The combination of cool water and the invigorating scent will give you a quick energy surge."