To get the most bang for your buck, lean into compound exercises — or movements that target multiple muscle groups at once. Here, Erin Bailey, Boston-based personal trainer, offers up four excellent moves to incorporate into your routine.
Move 1: Squat and Press
A squat to press is a great total-body, low-impact exercise. “You’ll get your heart rate up quickly without putting excessive pressure on your joints,” Bailey says. “Plus you’re engaging your lower body with the squat, your upper body on the press and your core to stabilize the full movement together.”
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at your shoulders, palms facing in. (“You can typically choose a weight that’s a little heavier than what you might typically do for a standard shoulder press because you’re using the momentum of your squat to lift the weights up,” she adds.)
- Sit down into a squat and press the dumbbells overhead as you stand up.
- Complete 12 reps.
Move 2: Double Crunch
This exercise strengthens your lower abs, says Bailey, stressing the importance of keeping your lower back glued to the floor throughout.
- Lie on your back with your legs straight and your hands behind your head, elbows wide.
- Press your lower back into the ground to engage your core.
- Lift your head, neck and chest off the ground, while bringing your knees up to your chest.
- Pause and return to the start.
- Don’t let your feet or head touch the ground between reps. Do 15 to 20.
Move 3: Rotating Plank
Your core is one of the most important muscle groups in your body, supporting you through day-to-day movement. Rotating planks are one of the better core-strengthening exercises because they don’t just isolate the core, you’re also engaging your shoulders, back, glutes and quads, adds Bailey. “It’s more bang for your buck.”
- Begin in a straight-arm plank, shoulders above elbows, elbows above wrists. Your body should be a straight line from your head to your feet.
- Engage your core and shift your weight to your left palm, rotating your right arm up toward the ceiling. Your heels will pivot to the floor, and your body will form a “T.”
- Pause before returning to the start and repeating on the other side.
- Complete 10 reps on each side.
Move 4: Flutter Kicks
This one works your full abdominals — and can be super difficult, says Bailey. “The feeling you’ll get — especially in those lower abs that women are often trying to target — is brutal,” she says. “This is a great go-to movement to add to your at home routine.”
- Lie on your back and extend your legs.
- Place your hands under your hips and press your lower back into the ground to engage your core.
- Lift your legs about five inches off the ground and kick your feet up one at a time.
- Complete 25 kicks on each side.