6 Moves that Strengthen from Head to Toe
There’s no doubt that total-body high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help you get the most out of your workouts. Research has actually shown that just six 15-minute sessions of high-intensity exercise over a 2-week period can have a positive impact on both strength and endurance.
However, this does not mean you need to go to the gym and hop on a machine or head to your local track to run sprints. To be sure, exercises like running and swimming aren’t for everyone, and neither is spending hours pumping iron. There are plenty of total-body workouts that can be done outside, in a park or in your backyard, with little to no equipment.
L.A.-based personal trainer and fitness expert Christine Lusita puts it simply: “The advice I always give is to be honest with yourself and choose workouts that feel good and right to you. There are no right or wrong workouts, it’s just what works for you!”
To help you inject a bit of variety into your workouts, we consulted 3 top trainers about their favorite dynamic moves that can be done just about anywhere and anytime. We recommend choosing 46 of these exercises and repeating them 2–3 times each session. Overall, this workout should take you 20–30 minutes total.
How to do it: Stand on your right leg, bend at the waist and reach down to the floor with your left hand as if you were going to pick something up off the ground. Stand back up and repeat 5–10 times without touching your left foot to the floor. Then switch sides. Watch a video demo.
What it works: “This works your hamstrings—the stabilizing muscles around your ankles—activates your core and improves balance,” says Lusita. “I love this one key move, because it works a lot of the small muscle groups we don’t often pay attention to and should. They are vital to our daily function.”
How to do it: Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, and put your weight in your heels. Hold a dumbbell or a kettlebell, or even simply a (full) water bottle, at chest height in front of your body with your forearms perpendicular to the floor. Slowly lower your body down into a squat position, keeping your chest up and pushing your hips back and knees out. Stand back up and repeat 10–15 times. Watch a video demo.
What it works: “This is hands down the best way to teach someone how to squat properly,” says Tony Gentilcore, CSCS, cofounder of Cressy Sports Performance in Hudson, Mass. “The load in the front forces one to engage her core to a higher degree, which helps stabilize the body better.”
Goblet Reverse Lunge
How to do it: Start in the same beginning position as the squat, with your weight or a water bottle at chest height, you’ll do a reverse lunge instead of a squat. Slowly step your right leg back, place your foot on the ground behind you and lower your body until the right knee almost reaches the floor. Return to the starting position, and repeat on the other side. Complete 10 on each side. Watch a video demo.
What it works: “I like reverse lunges, as I feel they’re a more knee-friendly lunge variation for most people,” says Gentilcore. “Reverse lunging is awesome because it targets the hamstrings and glutes.”
How to do it: Start in a push-up position. Bend your right knee, bring it up toward your chest, then bring it back to the original position. Do the same move with your left leg. As you get into a rhythm, quickly alternate sides to increase the intensity. Start with 20–30 total steps. Watch a video demo.
What it works: “This move focuses on your abs, back and shoulders, and is a great way to combine cardio and strength training,” explains Lusita.
How to do it: Squat down, and place your hands on the ground in front of you. Kick both feet back until you’re in a plank position. Do a push-up, then jump your feet back up to your hands. Stand, jump up and repeat 10–15 times. Watch a video demo.
What it works: “In one movement, this works every part of the body that my clients say they would like to improve—thighs, buttocks, core, back, chest, shoulders and arms—while skyrocketing the heart rate to condition the cardiovascular system and ultimately burning more body fat,” says Austin-based personal trainer David King.
Yoga Push-Up Complex
How to do it: Get in a push-up position, and do a regular push-up. Immediately after, get into downward-dog position by pushing your backside up into the air and back, while keeping your hands firmly planted and your arms straight in front of your body. Go back to a push-up position, bring your right foot to your right hand, then your right arm straight up into the air. Return your right hand to the floor and your foot back behind your body. Repeat on the other side. Start with 10 on each side. Watch a video demo.
What it works: “This is a drill that hits many movements at once,” says Gentilcore. “The push-up component will help strengthen the upper body, but more importantly, it will also strengthen the core.”