Exercise 1: Bicycle the Abs
It's often said that the best fitness program is one you'll stick
with. True enough. If you don't like what you are doing, you'll look for
a reason to quit. But if you're going to invest time and energy into
getting fit, you also want the biggest bang for the buck. So here are
three of the best exercises any woman can do.
Exercise No. 1: Bicycle the Abs
study of 30 healthy women and men, ages 20-45, sponsored by the
American Council on Exercise (ACE) and led by Peter Francis, Ph.D., at
the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University, compared 13 of the
most common abdominal exercises and ranked them from most to least
effective. Overall, the best exercise for strengthening the rectus
abdominus, which includes the long flat muscles extending along the
front and sides of the abdomen, is the bicycle maneuver. Here's the
ranking of the 13 abdominal exercises from most to least effective.
bicycle kick is the overall best abdominal exercise," agrees Michael
Stefano, a 20-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department and
author of The Firefighter's Workout. Having strong abdominals helps you maintain balance and provides a foundation for many other activities.
How to Do It
on your back on a mat or padded carpet with your knees bent and feet
flat on the floor. Press your lower back into the floor, engaging your
abdominal muscles, as you put both hands behind your head (don't pull on
your head). Bring your right elbow over to your left knee, and then
bring your left elbow over to your right knee in a twisting, bicycle
pedal motion. Continue to breathe naturally. Alternate opposite elbow to
opposite knee with hands interlaced behind your head in a slow and
controlled manner and with full extension of each leg on every
Breathe naturally, extend your legs fully to increase
intensity and perform the motion very slowly. Keep your knees bent
throughout the movement, while you tap your feet to the floor (instead
of extending your leg straight out), to decrease intensity. Repeat to
Goal: Two sets of 20-30 repetitions
Exercise 2: Squat the Gluteus
Most trainers agree with Stefano that squats, done with or without
dumbbells, are the quickest route to more shapely, tighter glutes. The
compound exercise also gets high marks for toning quadriceps, hamstrings
How to Do It. Stand with your feet
shoulder-width apart, holding arms at your sides. The head is straight
with a natural arch maintained in your back. Inhale, swing your arms
slightly forward for balance, bending at the knees and hips to a sitting
position, thighs parallel to the floor or as low as you can comfortably
squat without experiencing pain in your back, hips, or knees. Your
buttock remains above the level of your knees, and your knees do not
extend beyond your toes. Exhale, slowly rising to a standing position
with knees and hips straight. Allow your hands to drop back to your
sides. You can also squat against a wall using a resistance ball. Repeat
to muscle fatigue. See it now.
Goal: Two sets of 10-20 repetitions
Variation on a Theme: Walking Lunges
Gregory Florez, chief executive officer of FitAdvisor.com,
and a spokesperson for ACE, also recommends walking lunges for tighter
glutes. Start by stepping forward with one leg and planting your foot
firmly on the floor. Then, drop the rear knee down so that your rear
thigh and front shin are perpendicular to the floor. Using the heel of
the front foot, push upward to return to standing position, then step
forward so that feet are together again.
Goal: 1-2 sets of 12 repetitions
Exercise 3: Push-Up for Sculpted Arms
"Push-ups have a dramatic effect on the arms," says Stefano,
particularly biceps, triceps and shoulders. They also help condition the
chest and abdominals.
How to Do It. Lie face
down on the floor or mat, with your hands on the floor, palms down,
slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and toes curled under on the
floor. Your back and legs are straight. Exhale as you slowly push your
body away from the floor. Inhale, lowering yourself back down to the
point where your chest barely touches or comes within a few inches of
the floor. Repeat to muscle fatigue.
To lessen intensity, says Stefano, do the modified push-up,
in which everything remains the same, except the knees are bent and
remain on the floor during the movement. To increase intensity, perform
both the up and down phases of the push-up very slowly by counting to
four when pushing away from the floor and to eight while lowering to the
floor. Indeed, holding the position during any exercise for at least a
count of two will increase intensity.
Goal: Two sets of 10-20 repetitions.
modification suggested by Florez is the wall push-up, in which you
stand facing a wall and lean on it with hands. Arms are shoulder-width
apart. Do 1-2 sets of push-ups, 10-12 repetitions.
To Ensure Results
people who begin a resistance program tend to overtrain, says Stefano,
who recommends that each muscle group be adequately worked at least
twice each week (2-3 sets of 10-20 repetitions). "The key to results
isn't only how many sets or reps you do, but more importantly what level
of muscle fatigue is hit on each set."