Your body is a marvel of efficiency: Do something over and over and, before long, you get so good at it you do it on autopilot. That’s a wonderful thing when it comes to learning a new language, it’s not so great when it comes to your workout.
There’s a simple way to get your body back in fat-blasting mode: Temporarily ditch your go-to moves. "When you change up your workout, your body works harder because it’s in unfamiliar territory," explains Amy Dixon, a Santa Monica, California–based trainer and exercise physiologist. "That’s what causes it to burn more calories and build more muscle."
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Mix it up
Cardio-wise, there's no need to completely abandon what you love. Just tweak it. "At least one day a week, do a different activity than usual," Dixon advises. "If you're a walker, hit the pool. If you're a cyclist, get to know the rowing machine." Increase intensity during your second cardio workout of the week, and up your workout time during the third session. "Those three changes will keep your body guessing," she says.
To shake up your strength workout, replace the everyone-does-'em moves (crunches, etc.) with this fresh routine created by Dixon. Do this series two to three times per week, alternating with cardio days; you'll start to see results in as little as two to three weeks. Each move hits the same major muscle groups as the old standbys, but challenges them more, giving you a stronger, sleeker
body in the same amount of time. So it's efficientin the best way possible.
4 of 11Jason Todd
Skip squats, do: Bridge drag
Lie on your back with heels and calves on a stability ball, arms by your sides. Press shoulder blades into floor and lift hips so body forms a straight line from shoulders to heels. Tighten core and slowly drag both heels in toward butt, bending knees and keeping body lifted.
Without dropping hips, slowly extend both legs back to previous position. Do 3 sets
of 15 reps.
Why it’s better: It challenges your core more than a squat does, plus
sculpts and defines the same muscles without the
impact on your knees.
5 of 11Jason Todd
Skip rows, do: Lat-pull lean-back
Kneel in front of a stability ball with forearms on the ball. Roll
ball out to come into plank position on knees, chest lifted off ball; body should be in straight diagonal line from head to knees.
Retract shoulder blades and pull, dragging ball in toward body; pick up ball and hold it in
front of you, leaning back from knees while keeping spine
long. Return to previous position, then roll back to starting position. Do 3 sets
of 15 reps.
Why it’s better: It’s more challenging and dynamic than a row, requiring a bigger
range of motionand that means more calories burned. Plus, it really works your
core and stretches your hips.
6 of 11Jason Todd
Skip lunges, do: Knee-cross curtsy
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Lift right leg straight back and up; at same time, hinge at waist and bring hands or fingertips to floor in front of left foot. Bend both knees, bringing right knee behind left knee. Press back up through left foot to return to previous position. Do 15 reps, keeping leg raised, then switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.
Why it’s better: It allows for a greater range of motion than a basic lunge (adding flexibility to the mix), plus challenges your balance, strengthening your core.
7 of 11Jason Todd
Skip push-ups, do: Ball fly
Sit on a stability ball with a 5- to 10-lb dumbbell in your right hand. Slowly roll down and back until head and shoulders are on the ball, feet hip-width on floor with knees bent. Brace core, press heels into floor, and raise hips up to bridge position.
Extend right arm toward the ceiling so weight is directly above your shoulder with palm facing in; lift and straighten left leg. Keeping leg raised, slowly lower right arm out to the side until it’s at shoulder level. Use chest muscles to bring right arm back up. Do 15 reps, keeping leg raised, then switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.
Why it’s better: More muscle challenge in the hips and butt, thanks to extra work needed to keep you stabilized.
8 of 11Jason Todd
Skip plank, do: Get down, get up
Stand with feet hip-distance apart in front of a bench, back to bench, hands together in front of chest. Bend knees and push hips back (keep knees over ankles) to come to sitting on bench.
Brace core and lean torso back while lifting and straightening legs to come into V-position, balancing on
sitting bones; open arms out to sides. Slowly lower
feet and return to starting position. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
Why it’s better: This move elevates your heart rate much more than a plank and is more challenging to your leg, hip, butt, and deep core muscles.
9 of 11Jason Todd
Skip shoulder press, do: Balancing overhead toss
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a 6- to 8-lb medicine ball in left hand, arms out to sides. Bend right knee and lift leg so thigh is parallel to floor. Keeping knee raised, toss ball from left hand to right. Toss it back to left; that’s one rep. Do 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.
Why it’s better: It works more shoulder muscles than a press, plus involves balance, which gets your core involved, big time.
10 of 11Jason Todd
Skip crunches, do: Leg drop
Lie on back with arms by sides, palms down, legs long with a stability ball between lower legs. Engage abs and lift legs, bringing ball directly over hips. Keeping lower back pressed firmly into floor, slowly lower legs toward the floor (try not to let them touch floor). Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
Why it’s better: Not only does it target the rectus abdominus muscles
(your inner six-pack) in the same way a crunch does, but it also works the muscles
in the lower abs.
11 of 11Jason Todd
Skip bicep curl/tricep extension, do: Single arm cut
Stand with feet wide, left toes turned out, a 5- to 10-lb
weight in your right hand, arms by sides. Bend right knee and pivot right toes toward left foot, rotating body; at same time, lift weight up and left, ending in upper-cut position with elbow bent and upper arm shoulder level.
Rotate back to right, bringing weight down toward right while bending knees and pivoting left foot and knee toward right. Extend right arm to outside of right knee. Do 15 reps; switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.
Why it’s better: It’s a much more dynamic move than a curl or extension, so you get a bigger burn.