Fiercely Fit: 10 Ways To Max Out Your Workout

Let's get physical…and not via that boring treadmill-and-squats routine you've been doing three times a week since forever. (Your booty called, and it's bored). Summer temps keep rising, and that means that it's high time to kick our staid workouts to the curb in favor of dynamic exercises that will kick our butts and rock our bods.
From core tighteners to booty busters, these moves are not for the faint of heart, but they're completely doable, whether you're a seasoned gym rat or a proud lazy girl. If you're ready for our fitness test, check out our trainer-approved tips that will kick your endurance, strength, and hotness factor into high gear. Let's do this!
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For Marathon-Worthy Endurance

Move 1: Jumping Rope

Forget dialing in a half-assed workout on a machine — you'll get much more bang for your buck by kicking your cardio routine into high gear with this simple (and inexpensive!) piece of equipment, says Sabrina Nieves-Greenstein, group fitness instructor at Equinox. "To start, begin at a steady pace, and keep it up for a minute. Then, during the last twenty seconds, go hard, and then bring it back to that steady pace again. Repeat!"

Exercising in this way gives you maximum benefit for the time you put in, says Nieves-Greenstein. "Your 'anaerobic state' occurs when you exercise at a high intensity for a very short period of time, triggering a lactic acid fermentation — otherwise known as the burn." Alternating between paces keeps your muscles confused, which will in turn result in improved cardio endurance.

As celebrity personal trainer Reggie Chambers says: "Keep your jumping low and quick — 20 minutes of jumping rope in this way can burn the same amount of calories as 45 minutes of running." We'd say that's a burn notice!

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Move 2: Interval Sprints

If you love a good, low-key run but want to take your cardio endurance to the next level, Equinox T3 personal trainer Ben Hart suggests incorporating short sprints into your runs, by alternating one minute of sprinting with a minute of jogging.

According to Chambers, you'll want to alternate jogging and sprinting in this way for 20 minutes (well, 21, to be exact). Says Chambers: "For the beginner, you can start with more time at your lower pace, and then build up to more time sprinting. As time goes on, you can increase your 'on time.'"

Either way, you'll want to practice your intervals at least three times a week, says Chambers. "Intervals — and exercise in general — is like trying to learn a new language," says Chambers. "If you do it once a week, you won't see much of a difference." But, stick to your guns, and Chambers claims that you will see major results. Plus, Hart adds, "When you push the limits of your body with interval training, you end up burning more calories throughout the day — even while sitting at your desk."
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For Glorious Gams & Glutes

Move 1: Donkey Kicks

To get your lower body (read: thighs, glutes and calves) into seriously stellar shape, the burn should start before you even begin your regular workout. Says Equinox trainer Jaime Morales: "Use 10 to 20 pounds in ankle weights to do a variety of donkey kicks before your regular squat/lunges workout." This move will warm those key muscles up, ensuring that you'll get more out of whichever lower-body moves you choose to do next.

To do a donkey kick, start on all fours. Bring one knee in in the direction of your elbows, then extend your leg straight out while keeping your toes pointed. Morales recommends starting with three minutes of kicks as a warmup, then working up to five minutes for each individual leg.

Starting your workout in this way, according to Morales, is the best shortcut to seriously sexy buns. "The gluteus maximus is one of the strongest muscles in the body, and can handle a lot of work. I recommend the client varies from kicking the leg up twelve times to isometrically holding it for 12 seconds, and then switching to similar move at a different angle, rotation or body position."

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Move 2: Single-Leg Deadlifts

Another great (and challenging) exercise that you may not have considered for your lower body? The dead lift. To do it, stand straight while holding eight-to-10-pound weights in both hands. Bend one leg slightly at the knee and then slowly pitch forward as you lift your leg up straight behind you. Return to standing, and repeat.

Says Hart: "This is a great lower-body strengthener, as well as a toner — keep it to 12 to 15 reps for a great workout for your hamstrings and glutes." Your balance may seem a bit precarious on your first attempt at this one, but stick with it — that slightly off-kilter feeling is a result of your body (and key muscle groups!) being challenged.
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For Strong And Sexy Arms

Move 1: Wide-Arm Push-Ups

So, if you're able to do a significant amount of regular push-ups, we'd like to raise our hats to you, Private Benjamin (we might still rely on the girly version in a pinch). But, if you're ready to take your upper-body workout to the next level, try widening your stance, says Nieves-Greenstein. "A wide-arm push-up places and targets mostly the pecs, while a regular push-up works the triceps as much as the chest," explains the fitness pro.

Bonus: This move can even give your girls a boost, says Nieves-Greenstein."Because the wide-arm push-up takes some the emphasis off of the shoulder and triceps and places that strain the chest, a woman may experience the sudden look of a 'lift' in that area. Nothing wrong with that!"

Adds Chambers: "People don't always focus on their triceps, because they're not as visible as, say, your biceps. But, it's important to strengthen this area, as those muscles can go slack over time."

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Move 2: Bent-Over Rows

To hit those hard-to-tone (but posture-essential) upper back muscles, Hart suggests rows with free weights. To get into proper form, stand tall with free weights in both hands. Bend slightly at the knees, and then pitch forward with a flat back — abs in! — until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor, and your arms are out in front of you, as shown. Pull your weights straight back while keeping your back in the same position. Imagine your upper back muscles contracting as you row.

This move is another multi-benefit deal, says Hart: "While you're working your back as you pull the weight up, you're also holding a weighted strength in your hamstrings and butt." And, if you want to make it even more challenging, you can always add in a tricep extension (pull back, then extend your weights straight behind you so your arms are at your sides; return to the row, then extend your arms down).

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For A Core Of Steel

Move 1: Superman Planks

Ah, the core — it's especially tough to tone, especially if you've been some doing basic crunches and calling it a day. A more challenging (and result-producing) exercise? The Superman plank. "Planks, if done properly, are great for your core, but there are many variations that can make them a bit harder," says Hart. "Try getting into a plank position and reaching your arm out to touch something that may be in front of you. Do ten reps with each arm — that is a plank variation. Doing this is going to make your core work harder to balance your body weight."

If you find this move to be a little too challenging, fear not, says Chambers. "If you're a beginner, you can balance with an exercise ball under your stomach to support you; it'll still be challenging, but it'll take the edge off."

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Move 2: Leg Raises

Leg raises are another great fast-track to flat abs. To take this basic move to the next level, try lifting your legs while your hands are on the floor next to your buns, rather than anchoring your hands under your glutes. Doing this will challenge your muscles and sense of balance. "Keep the legs straight and raise them to where your hips are at a 90-degree angle," says Hart. "Keep in mind, you must breathe while doing core exercises to let blood flow and muscle contraction be consistent."

If this move is simply too challenging (or you can't keep proper form in this manner) feel free to take easy street and anchor those arms underneath you — you'll still get a killer ab workout.
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For Limber Limbs

Move 1: Hip Openers

The last (and maybe most important) category: flexibility. Because while we love looking like a hardbody, we don't want to be stiff like one. An important and surprising area to make sure you keep limber? Your hip flexors, says Morales. "Hip-opening moves like lunges help in improving posture, easing lower back pain and allowing for your glute muscles to work more effectively. When you release muscles in the front, your rear muscles become able to perform at full potential." Translation: a more defined body and better flexibility.

To stay anchored and add resistance in this stretch, adds Chambers, you can add light free weights in each hand — and for a different stretch in this position, try popping your toe.

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Move 2: Dynamic Stretches

The last step to your re-vamped and improved workout? Stretching that involves more than just collapsing onto the nearest yoga mat. Dynamic stretching (or stretching while moving), according to Morales, allows blood to flow while also reducing muscle tension. "Dynamic stretching is light movements that allow you to actively stretch, while also contracting your muscles."

One example of dynamic stretching: this core twist. Alternate this twist on either side at a steady pace for a few minutes, Chambers says, to limber up while also increasing blood flow to your back and hamstrings — and ensuring that you walk tall after all of that hard work! Modeled by Kristina with Fenton Moon; Hair and makeup by Katie Mellinger; Styled by Willow Lindley
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