No matter what your fitness goals are for this summer (run faster, build muscle, burn fat, get healthy), including strength training as part of your regular workout routine will help to support them. From improving athletic performance to revving up your metabolism, strength training offers a long list of health and fitness benefits that make it an imperative part of any exercise regimen.
Together, the following strength moves (most of which require no equipment at all) will help you build total-body strength by strategically targeting all of the body’s major muscle groups. Plus, some incorporate a little bit of cardio so you’ll get your heart pumping and amp up your calorie burn while you’re at it. For a complete total-body, circuit workout, simply work through each exercise on the list for the recommended number of reps, then repeat the 10-exercise circuit two or three more times.
How to: Start in a seated position. Lean back slightly, lift your feet off the ground and extend your arms forward to come into boat pose. Keep your core tight and a neutral spine as you slowly extend your legs and lower your torso towards the floor simultaneously. Pause for a beat before returning to the starting position. Repeat for 8 to 12 reps.
Targets: hamstrings, glutes, abdominals
How to: Start standing with your feet about hip-width distance apart. Lift your left leg off the ground slightly and keep your core tight and spine neutral as you hinge forward at the hips, letting your hands fall towards the floor and your left leg extend behind you. Slowly return to the starting position (challenge your balance by trying not to let your left leg touch the ground) and repeat for 8 to 12 reps before switching to the other side. (Holding weights like dumbbells or a kettlebell is optional.)
How to: Find a sturdy surface like a bench or a chair that you can place your feet on, or for an even bigger challenge, you can use an exercise ball. Starting on all fours, lift up into high-plank position and slowly raise your feet onto the bench, chair or ball, one at time. Once you’ve safely assumed the starting position lower yourself towards the floor—using the same motion as an ordinary push up and while concentrating on keeping your core tight and your spine neutral. Push yourself back up to the starting position and repeat for 8 to 12 reps.
Targets: quads, glutes, cardiovascular system
How To: Start standing tall with your feet hip-width distance apart and your core engaged. Squat back as if you were preparing to sit down into a chair. Focus on sitting back into your heels. Be sure that your knees stay in line with your ankles. Once you’ve assumed squat position, quickly push through your feet and jump up as high as you can. Land lightly and quickly re-assume the squat position, jumping up and down at a quick pace for 8 to 12 reps.
Targets: abdominals, obliques, shoulders
How to: Start seated with your knees slightly bent (holding a dumbbell or weight is optional). Lean back slightly so your core is engaged. Keep your core tight as you touch the floor on your left and then twist to the right as you raise your arms above your head until they're are extended completely. Lower your hands back to the floor on your left by reversing the twist and repeat the movement for 8 to 12 reps on the left followed immediately by 8 to 12 reps on the right.
Targets: upper body, abdominals, glutes, abductors (outer thigh)
How to: Start in side plank position. Keep your core tight as you slowly lift your top leg towards the ceiling, raising it as high as you can. Lower back to the starting position and repeat for 8 to 12 reps on each side. (You can extend your top arm straight up or place it on your hip. You can also modify this move to make it less challenging by dropping your bottom knee to the floor.)
Targets: abdominals, shoulders, upper body
How to: Start in high plank position, making sure that your core is tight and your spine neutral. Slowly alternate between raising your right and left arm straight out in front of you. Repeat for 10 to 20 reps (each lift is one rep).
Targets: quads, glutes, abdominals, cardiovascular system
How to: Start standing tall with your feet hip-width distance apart and your core engaged. Leading with your right leg, jump into a lunge position—make sure both knees form 90-degree angles upon landing, with your forward knee landing directly above the ankle. Immediately after landing jump back up and alternate your legs so that next time you land your feet have switched positions (left in front, right in back). Repeat this sequence for 8 to 12 reps (one jump equals one rep).
Targets: back, abdominals, glutes, shoulders
How to: Start lying on your stomach with your toes flat on the floor and your arms extended in front of you. Slowly lift your arms, chest, and thighs off the floor (concentrate on squeezing your glutes as you lift your legs) and hold for one or two seconds before slowly lowering everything back to the floor. Repeat for 8 to 12 reps.
Targets: total body, cardiovascular system
How to: Start on all fours and keep your core tight as you lower onto your forearms. Alternate between shuffling your arms and legs to “crawl” forward, staying as low to the ground as possible. Concentrate on keeping your hips low. Perform this move for 30 seconds.