While many people focus their exercise efforts on getting enough cardio, the government’s recommendations also call for incorporating muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. Mayo Clinic explained strength-training is important for managing your weight, increasing stamina, and developing strong bones. And since bathing suit season is just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start working more strength activities into your routine. But don’t worry if you’re not exactly beach ready. There’s plenty of time to tone your arms, legs, and tummy. We’ve rounded up 7 great moves to start incorporating into your workout now to have you ready for summer in no time.
Classics are classics for a reason, and squats are a perfect example. Bethni Lown, a trainer in New York City, told Fitness squats are a great lower body exercise that will help firm up your backside. Lown shared three different moves, so there’s a version for every fitness level. Beginners should start out by sandwiching a stability ball between their back and the wall and then rolling down into a squat. The ball will help ensure proper form.
As you get stronger, you can move on to the other two variations, or give these dumbbell squats a whirl. Adding more weight will help intensify the effort.
In addition to giving you a killer rear end, strengthening your glutes does your body good. Livestrong explained having strong gluteal muscles can improve athletic performance and reduce the risk of injury. Sounds like a great reason to get started.
2. Two-point plank
Ab-mania has gripped the nation for decades, and it’s no wonder. Besides looking great, having a strong core has real-world implications as well. Harvard Medical School explained these muscles provide necessary support for every activity that involves standing, lifting, or bending over. Whether you’re at the office, doing some yard work, or going for a run, a strong core is key.
Get on the path to a tighter tummy with this Two-Point Plank featured in Shape. This move takes an old favorite and gives it a new twist. Start in a push up position, then simultaneously raise your right arm and left leg, forming a straight line. Hold the pose for two counts, then return to the starting position, and proceed with the opposite side. Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist, told Shape this move “works your entire core region, front-and-back, while sculpting great looking abs at the same time.” Just make sure you’re not blowing off your other core muscles in the quest for a perfect stomach.
3. Criss-cross power jacks
Many women are in a never-ending battle to tone their thighs. Start slimming your legs with this move that exercise physiologist Jessica Matthews told Shape targets inner thighs while also engaging the rest of your body. Start out as you would with normal jumping jacks. Instead of bringing your legs together at the return position, cross one in front of the other and let your arms do the same in front of your torso.
But your bathing suit shouldn’t be your only motivation. The Huffington Post explained inner thigh strength can help build a better core since these muscles support your spine.
4. Calf Raises
Even if you’re not a runner, you’re engaging your calf muscles nearly all the time. Web MD explained this muscle is actually two muscles working together to help pull the heel up. If they’re are too weak, simply walking can become a challenge.
To effectively target all parts of your lower leg muscles, Livestrong suggested a series of three different calf raises. Each exercise uses a 25-pound plate as a platform, allowing enough room to raise and lower your heels as you contract your calves. If these moves become too easy, begin to add weight by holding onto dumbbells as you go through the motion.
Working on back strength might sound like something only elderly folks need to worry about, but that’s far from the case. Self explained strong back muscles can prevent injuries and support overall fitness. And good news; it’s easy to target this important group of muscles without any equipment.
Trainer Geri Ainbinder told Fitness she suggests beginners start off with a basic superman move. Lie on the floor with your arms and legs apart so your body forms an “X.” Keeping your stomach tight, raise your head, your right arm and left leg by tightening your glutes, then hold for three counts. Repeat with your other leg and arm to finish one repetition, and repeat 8 to 10 more times. Once you’ve got the hang of it, move on to the next two exercises.
6. Overhead triceps extension
Avoid the dreaded jiggly-arm syndrome by targeting your triceps, the muscle group that runs down the backside of your upper arms. According to Livestrong, working on these muscles can help increase your flexibility and range of motion. That’s good news for anyone who enjoys activities that requires arm movements, like golf or tennis.
To start sculpting stronger triceps, Prevention recommended this overhead triceps extension move. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your arm stretched toward the sky, and your left hand supporting your elbow. Bend your right elbow to lower the dumbbell behind your head, then return to the starting position. Make sure to repeat with both arms.
7. Kneeling single arm curl
Lifting weights at the gym can take a long time, but not if you focus on heavier weights and fewer repetitions. For strong arms, Men’s Health suggested performing these curls using weights that you aren’t able to lift for more than five repetitions. Kneel on the ground with a dumbbell in each hand and curl one weight up toward your chest, twisting so your palm faces your shoulder when you reach the top. Repeat two more times before switching arms. As the move becomes easier, you’ll want to increase your weight.
Even if having ripped biceps isn’t your goal, Web MD explained that maintaining arm strength is crucial for everyday activities like lifting groceries and driving the car. This becomes even more important as we age. Make it a habit now, and you’ll be better off in the future.