Five 15-Minute Workouts
The Fitness-Ball Workout
These moves (the how-tos are on the following pages) target every major muscle group and get your heart beating. Exercises by Kimberly Spreen, national director of group fitness for Life Time Fitness and instructor in 10 Minute Solution: Fitness Ball Workouts ($15, collagevideo.com).
March in place for two minutes, swinging your arms and lifting your knees high.
The Dynamic Push-Up
What it does:
Strengthens the arms, chest, abdominals, backs of thighs, and buttocks.
How to do it: Lie on the ball. Place your hands on the floor in front of you, shoulder-distance apart. Bend both elbows into a push-up and raise your legs. Straighten your arms, then lower your legs, and push off with your arms until your feet touch the floor, toes turned out. Move into The Frog.
What it does:
Strengthens the upper back, shoulders, buttocks, thighs, and calves.
How to do it: With your belly on the ball and your feet in a squat (frog) position, press into the ball with your knees and abs. Roll your shoulders back and open your chest. Reach back and down with both hands, arms straight. Release and lie over the ball, pushing into another of the dynamic push-up.
The Supported Side Crunch
What it does:
Works the sides of the abs and the shoulders.
How to do it: Kneel with your left side leaning against the ball. Straighten your right leg to the side, foot on the floor. Raise your left arm overhead and point your right arm straight out to the side. Bend to the right a few inches, right arm pointing toward the floor, then raise your torso slowly. End with your right arm up and your left pointing to the left.
The Rolling Reverse Plank
What it does:
Works the abs, buttocks, back, and thighs.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your feet on top of the ball, knees bent, hands resting by your sides. Press down into your heels, toes up, and lift your lower back (relax your neck). Roll the ball away to form a straight line from shoulders to heels. Contracting your abs, bend your knees to draw the ball back in. Don’t lower your buttocks to the floor until you finish your reps.
The Yoga Workout
Besides building strength and increasing flexibility, yoga helps you focus and relax your mind. Exercises by Cyndi Lee, founder of Om Yoga, in New York City, and lead instructor in the DVD Om Yoga & Meditation Workshop ($25, amazon.com).
Sit cross-legged on the floor, back straight and hands relaxed in your lap. Close your eyes and breathe deeply and evenly through your nose for two minutes. Slowly bend your torso from side to side for 15 breaths, exhaling to each side.
Try to make the movements flow from one to the next. Hold each position (the how-tos are on the following pages) for three breaths unless instructed otherwise.
- cow and cat poses: From the cross-legged warm-up pose, move into cow pose on an exhale. Inhaling, switch to cat pose. Alternate between cow and cat poses for 15 breaths.
- Press up into downward dog. Lower knees to floor, then push back up. Repeat five times.
- Step your right foot forward between your hands into a classic lunge, with your bent right knee directly over your right foot, your left foot straight behind you, both feet pointing forward, and fingertips on the floor.
- Move into extended side angle.
- Do a lunge and an extended side angle on your left side.
- Lie facedown for the locust pose.
- Turn over to lie flat on your back. Close your eyes and breathe deeply for two minutes.
Cow and Cat Poses
What they do: Warm up the muscles along the spine; stretch the hips, back, abs, shoulders, and neck.
How to do them: Start on your hands and knees. For cow (shown), arch your back and press your shoulders down and back, away from your ears, and open your chest. For cat, round your back, lower your head, lift your belly, and look at your thighs. Try to create space between your shoulder blades.
What it does: Strengthens the arms and legs; stretches and energizes the shoulders, thighs, feet, and hands.
How to do it: Starting from cat pose, press your buttocks high into the air to form an upside-down V. Contract your thighs and lengthen your abs. Press your shoulder blades together and away from your ears; reach your heels toward the floor.
Extended Side Angle
What it does: Strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, and ankles; stretches the inner thighs, back, hips, chest, and shoulders.
How to do it: Start with your right leg forward in a lunge. Lower your left heel and turn your toes out about 45 degrees. Lower your right forearm to your knee. Reach overhead with your left hand, creating a straight line from heel to fingertips.
What it does: Strengthens the back, buttocks, arms, and legs; stretches the shoulders, chest, abs, and thighs.
How to do it: Lie facedown, arms at sides, feet pointed. Press your legs down, inhale, and lift your head, shoulders, and arms. Take two full breaths, then lower everything. With your forehead down, lift both legs and take two full breaths. Lower. Lift your upper and lower body at the same time and take two breaths.
The Strength Workout
Strength training not only tones muscles but also helps to boost your metabolism. Exercises by Jari Love, a personal trainer and the creator of the Get Ripped! video series ($20 each, razorfitness.com).
Walk in place for two minutes, swinging your arms back and forth.
The Reverse Lunge
What it does: Strengthens the buttocks, thighs, and calves; stretches the hips; improves balance.
How to do it: Stand on a step stool or the bottom step of a staircase. Take a large step back with your right leg, landing on the ball of your foot; bring both fists near your waist, elbows back. Bend both knees as much as 90 degrees, with your left knee over your left foot. Step back up to the stool. Switch legs.
The Pulsed Push-Up
What it does: Strengthens the chest, shoulders, backs of arms, and abs; improves posture.
How to do it: Place your hands on a step stool, shoulder-width apart. Straighten your legs behind you, shoulders over your hands. Bend your elbows to lower your chest as far as you can. Hold the low position; pulse slightly higher and lower three times. Return to the high position.
The Triceps Dip With Leg Lift
What it does: Works the backs of upper arms and the shoulders, abs, and fronts of thighs; improves balance.
How to do it: Sit on a step stool with your hands grasping the front edge. Place both heels on the floor, hip-distance apart, knees almost straight. Slowly lower your buttocks toward the floor by bending your elbows and lift your right leg. Press up with your arms as you lower your foot. Repeat, switching legs.
The Leg-Lift Crunch
What it does: Strengthens the abs and fronts of thighs; improves balance.
How to do it: Sit on a step stool, hands behind you. Place both heels on the floor, feet and knees together, knees almost straight. Lean back and, balancing on your buttocks, bend both knees up toward you by pulling with your abs. Lower your legs, but don’t let them touch the floor.
The Walking Workout
A brisk walk provides a low-impact workout that revs your heart rate. You can simply walk fast for 15 minutes or add some variations. Exercises by Leslie Sansone, creator of more than 80 walking videos, including 5-Mile Advanced Walk ($20, walkathome.com), and the author of Eat Smart, Walk Strong.
Walk at a moderate pace for two minutes.
Alternate regular walking for three minutes with one of the moves below, also for three minutes.
- Marching Drummer: Lift each knee high in front and tap both hands on it.
- Side Raises: Lift both arms, slightly bent, out to the sides to shoulder height with each step.
- Kick-Backs: Lift each heel high, as if trying to kick yourself in the rear. Swing both arms slightly back at the same time.
The Perfect Walk
What it does: Conditions the legs and arms; improves posture and balance.
How to do it: Stand tall with hips over ankles, shoulders above hips, ears above shoulders. Bend both elbows to 90 degrees. Relax your hands in loose fists and press your shoulders down and back. Step forward, swinging your opposite bent arm forward. Swing your arms faster to pick up the pace.
The Jump-Rope Workout
High-impact activities like this are extremely efficient calorie burners and bone builders. Exercises by Marty Winkler, founder of RopeSport, a company that develops jump-rope classes for gyms, health clubs, and schools. RopeSport has four videos available ($15 each, ropesport.com).
One minute of swinging the rope: Hold the handles in one hand and swing the rope in a figure-eight pattern.
- Two minutes of two-footed jumping, then one minute of just swinging the rope.
- Two minutes of two-footed jumping, hopping forward and back; then one minute of swinging.
- Two minutes of running jumping, then one minute of swinging.
- Two minutes of two-footed jumping, then two minutes of swinging.
- Two minutes of two-footed jumping.
The Perfect Jump
What it does: Strengthens the calves, thighs, shoulders, back, abs, and arms.
How to do it: Hold the handles at hip height. Bend your knees slightly and jump over the rope with both feet. Land on the balls of your feet, with a slight bend in your knees, and lower your heels briefly. Next, try the running jump: Lift one foot at a time, tucking the other foot up behind as you jump.