Your reps don’t always work the muscles they’re meant for. But get firming results fast with these on-target moves.
Photography Chris Fanning
While you’re sweating through your favourite barre DVD or Crossﬁt WOD, consider this: Certain muscles may be holding back. Those glutes are not doing their part during plie pulses or bridges. Your abs are letting the hip ﬂexors take over during sit-ups. The truth is, some of your major muscles have a tendency to tap out during exercises in which they should be starring, and that means many of your reps may be missing their targets.
To find foolproof exercises that would whip every body part into shape, we went to 45 Grand, Nike’s fancy defacto fitness lab in New York City, where top trainers are in residence cooking up next-level workout routines. That’s where we enlisted Joe Holder, the Nike run coach and trainer who heads the studio’s smart running programme. Joe has a term for the phenomenon of your muscles phoning it in: junk reps. “People tend to be concerned with the quantity or difficulty of moves rather than the quality,” says Joe, who’s also a certified women’s fitness specialist. “But if you want exercise to deliver results faster, you need to focus on two gamechanging words at the beginning of any session: muscle activation.”
No matter what Joe is teaching – interval runs, private training sessions, group HIIT workouts – he always starts with key primer moves to activate the abs and the oftenoverlooked muscles on your flip side : your rear shoulders, glutes, and hamstrings. “These kinds of high-quality compound exercises require all your muscles to work in tandem, forcing them to wake up and making it virtually impossible to cheat,” Joe says.
Ready to finally get the sleek physique you’ve been repping for? You won’t even need a set of dumb-bells! Do Joe’s super seven series, shown on these pages, as a compact total-body workout (it will take you about 30 minutes) or pair it with his 20-minute interval run (check it out at far right) or your favourite cardio workout for a complete firm-and-burn session. “When you start striding, you’ll go faster and feel stronger for longer, which equals more calories burnt, more muscles worked, and another workout closer to the body you desire,” Joe says.
Do each exercise in order without rest for the number of reps indicated. When you’ve done all seven, rest for one minute. Repeat the circuit twice more. Follow it up with trainer Joe Holder’s interval run, below, twice a week on alternate days. You can also do the moves before any HIIT or cardio work out you choose.
Right after completing your last rep, head outside or hit a treadmill and start running at a comfortable pace (shoot for a six out of 10 on the RPE* scale). For the next 20 minutes, alternate between recovering at this comfortable effort and doing bursts where you bump up your intensity to an eight or more. If you’re outside, Joe suggests using landmarks to dictate the length of your sprint intervals: Sprint to that stop sign or big tree in the distance, then recover until you get to the house on the corner. If you’re on a treadmill, you can time your sprints and recoveries to the duration of the chorus in a song you’re listening to, or the length of an advertisement if the TV is on in the background, or to the point of burning a specific number of calories between one and 10. Whether you’re indoors or out, the only rule is to vary your pace and the length of each interval.
Just a good pair of running shoes.
*Refer to www.shape.com.sg/rpe for rate of perceived exertion (RPE).
HIP ABDUCTION BIRD DOG
Works shoulders, abs, butt, hamstrings
Start on all fours. Raise left knee out to side (keeping the 90-degree bend in your leg) [a]. Return to start position, then draw in right elbow and left knee to meet at your centre [b]. Next, extend right arm and left leg straight out [c]. Pause, then return to start position. That’s one rep. Do eight to 12 reps. Switch sides; repeat.
Works abs, butt, hamstrings, outer thighs, inner thighs
Start in a side plank on right forearm with feet stacked and left hand on left hip. Raise and lower left leg 10 times [a]. Rotate forward into a plank on forearms. Next, alternate lifting and lowering left leg and right leg [b] five times each. Then rotate into a side plank on left forearm and repeat. That’s one rep. Do four reps.
HAND-RELEASE PUSH-UP CLIMBER
Works shoulders, chest, abs, quads
Start in plank on palms [a]. Slowly lower to floor on a count of four. Lift hands and extend arms forward [b], then place palms beside chest and push back up. Next, alternate bringing left and right knees between arms [c] five times each. That’s one rep. Do eight to 12 reps.
Works abs, obliques
Lie face up with arms extended overhead and lower back pressed into floor to start. Sit up explosively, driving right arm forward with elbow bent and left knee bent and up [shown] (as if sprinting while sitting). Roll back to start position. Switch sides; repeat. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps.
DONKEY-KICK KNEE DRIVE
Works butt, quads, hamstrings
Start on all fours. Slowly lift left leg (keeping the 90-degree bend in your leg), driving sole of foot towards ceiling until thigh is parallel to floor [a]. Lower knee towards floor, then lift again. Do that five times. Next, kneel on right leg with left foot planted in front of you [b]. Then explosively drive right knee and left arm forward, landing in a half squat [c]. Return to kneel, and do that five times. Repeat the whole move on opposite side. That’s one rep. Do two reps.
WALK-OUT T-BAR BURPEE
Works shoulders, chest, abs, butt, quads, hamstrings
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart; fold forward and plant palms on floor. Walk hands forward [a] into plank. Do a push-up, then reach left arm out to side and straight up, looking up at hand [b]. Return to plank, then do a push-up. Repeat reach with right arm. Do a push-up, jump feet towards hands, then jump as high as you can. That’s one re Do eight to 12 reps.
LATERAL BOUND HIGH KNEES
Works quads, hamstrings, outer thighs, inner thighs, calves
Stand on left leg with knee soft, right arm forward, and left arm back with elbows bent to start. Jump as high and as far right as you can [a], landing on right leg with left arm forward, right arm back. Then quickly drive right knee up, followed by left knee [b], alternating arms, two times each. Repeat, jumping to left . That’s one rep. Do eight to 12 reps.