3 Signs You Need A New Workout Routine

When you’re already going to the trouble of working out, it can feel like unfathomable betrayal to hear that you should, in fact, be doing a completely different workout. Or at least, that’s the logic I once used to justify doing nothing but yoga for six months, while slowly ceasing to fit into my pants. As someone who really wants to be fit but is decidedly not an athlete, I’ve spent a of time and energy on different gyms, classes, and even trainers and physical therapists over the years, trying to find the perfect workout that would turn me into a *fit person* once and for all. As all those professionals have explained to me repeatedly, not all workouts are created equal. What’s more, switching up your workout routine has consistently proven to show better results. So, while I reluctantly follow this advice myself, here are my past trainers’, physical therapists, and preferred internet authority’s tips for knowing when it’s time for a new workout routine.

1. You’re Not Getting Sore Anymore

Sorry! But also, not really because you should know this. If a workout stops making you sore, it’s not a sign that you have ascended to a new level of athleticism in which your muscles are no longer capable of strain. It does probably mean that you have strengthened the specific muscles involved in this particular workout (congrats!). But if you don’t up the difficulty of the workout, or switch out the muscles you’re working on, you won’t keep seeing results. At best, you’ll maintain the very specific strength you’ve gained. But even that isn’t a guarantee, since you’re continuing to do a workout that was appropriate (and difficult!) for you in a less fit state. Trainer Faheem Mujahid explains it as your body realizing “it doesn’t need to expend as much energy anymore:” meaning you burn fewer calories, get less tired, and are less likely to feel sore. Time to level up, b*tch!

2. You’re Getting *Too* Sore

The flip side of the whole soreness thing is that you have to be careful not to overdo it. There’s a difference between it hurting when you laugh the day after an ab routine and needing to strap on a knee brace every time you leave the gym. Fitness instructor Trish DaCosta puts it plainly: “A reoccurring injury or too many injuries is often a sign we’re doing too much of an exercise program.” Pulled muscles, joint pain, or persistent aches are clear signs that your body needs a break. Injuries aside, extreme soreness—or persistent soreness in only a few, select places—also mean you should switch out your routine, or at least add some variety. Trainer Jessica Thiefels stresses the importance of making sure your body feels “balanced in strength,” and adds that “working the same muscles, time and time again” is a bad idea. Muscles need rest periods in order to get stronger; so you’re really just robbing yourself of #gainz if every day is focused on the same body part.

Obvs, if you’re repeating the same workout over and over it’s because you like it, and I get that it’s tough to motivate yourself to make the switch. I once spent two weeks obsessed with barre and loving my life. Then I promptly re-pulled an old thigh injury, and my physical therapist at the time told me that barre was “the worst thing” I could do for my body.  The fact that I had just purchased both a “barre so hard” tank and a month-long barre studio membership apparently meant nothing to her. As much as I was dying to be a fancy barre girl, I had to accept that my body just wasn’t built to benefit most from that particular workout.

Me to my useless barre studio membership:

3. You’re Not Getting The Results You Want

So, this goes back to my whole “only doing yoga” period in time—despite feeling like I was gaining weight, or at least sort of…spreading out. Before my yoga phase, I’d been getting most of my workouts in at the gym, where I lifted weights and ran intervals on the treadmill. Then, I moved to NYC and decided a gym was a luxury I could no longer afford. Even though I’d read countless times that yoga is not the most effective calorie-torching workout out there (particularly not when done for 15 minutes at a time in one’s living room), I hated the idea that completing any workout wasn’t enough for my stupid body. I felt more flexible and balanced for sure—but I felt like I was losing muscle, and my clothes weren’t fitting as well.

The point here? Don’t be like me! Yes, some exercise is better than no exercise at all. But that doesn’t mean you can go on a jog and expect your triceps to be more defined after. DaCosta notes the importance of seeing “continued progress” from your workouts, which could come in any of the following forms: “more muscle definition, decreased body fat, more energy, stronger lifts, faster recovery times, weight loss, faster pace, etc.” While yoga was pushing me on some of those fronts, it wasn’t satisfying others. For a fully varied workout routine that pushes you on all these fronts, Mujahid recommends trying for a mix of “cardiovascular, strength, agility and flexibility sessions,” making sure you’re “hitting every muscle group” in a week’s worth of workouts.

If that sounds totally unattainable to you (same girl), take some comfort in knowing a lot of these categories overlap. For example, a HIIT workout could be your lower body workout, and combines a cardiovascular and strength workout. Then you could work your upper body with yoga on alternate days, which would count as your agility and flexibility sessions. Throw in an ab day and you’re done for the week. (And if that sounds like a month’s worth of workouts to you, once again I say SAME GIRL. I’m just the messenger for what the pros are recommending.)

Me during my yoga phase:*

*To be clear, yoga absolutely can and does help people with all kinds of body goals. But my refusal to do any other workout meant I really hit a wall.

This article is not meant to shame anyone out of the workout routine that they’re doing. Everyone who has broken a sweat (on purpose) in the past week: I am proud of you. But I also know firsthand how frustrating it can be to feel like you’re making a huge effort and not getting anything for it. If anything, this article will hopefully inspire you to make a change and find the workout that leaves you sore, satisfied, and not feeling like you need a wheelchair. Everyone’s body is different, and once you find the (healthily varied & not at all overwhelming) routine that works for you, working out will feel 1000% more worth it. I promise.

Images: Giphy (3); Pexels / bruce mars

The Full-Body Workout You Can Do In A Corner Of The Gym

If you go to the gym right before 9am or right after 6pm, you know how annoying it can be to get around the place during workout rush hour. As much as we’d all love to work out in an empty gym with the whole place to ourselves, it’s v unrealistic unless you’re like, a psychotic morning person or like, super rich. Luckily for you, we’ve put together a workout can literally be done with one mat in a tiny corner of the gym, so you don’t have to bother waiting for a machine to become available or for people to step away from the dumbbell racks. Here’s a quick workout that will tone your whole body and burn a ton of calories while staying in one space the whole time.  

1. Walkout Push-Ups

The walkout push-up is a great warm-up move because it gets your lower and upper body working without diving right into a cardio or strength move. The idea here is to first warm up your hamstrings by starting in a standing position and folding your arms and head forward, and then get your upper body warmed up by crawling your hands out to a plank position. Once you’re in your plank, perform one push-up (drop to your knees if you have to) and then crawl your hands back to your ankles to stand back up, engaging your core at the top each time. Start off slow, and then try to speed up on your last few reps. Do 10 of these in total.

2. Glute Bridge To Oblique Reach

This is another lower and upper body movement, but this time you’re working your butt and your obliques, aka your side abs and love handle region. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Then, extend one leg straight out and lift your hips into a bridge, squeezing your glutes and specifically feeling the burn on that same side. After the bridge, lower your hips back to the ground and reach your arms toward the straight leg while extending the leg upwards. Remember that you’re crunching with your abs, so don’t just use your arms to swing your body up. This combo is slightly complicated since it’s technically two moves in one, so you can take your time on these until you get the hang of it. Do eight reps on each side.

3. Tricep Extensions

You’ll need a weight for tricep extensions, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find because you can literally use whatever you want—a dumbbell, a weighted medicine ball, or a kettlebell. If you have a kettlebell available to you, you’re gonna hold it by its horns (AKA the non-bell part) and lift it up over your head, keeping your elbows straight forward and your arms tight. Then, extend the bell toward the back of your neck, using your triceps to bring the weight up and down each time. If you feel like your elbows are widening out to the side, take a break and reposition yourself. The tricep muscles are really what give your arm that toned, sculpted look, so go heavy on these and take your time. Aim for 10-12 reps.

4. Deadlift To High Pull

The good news with this move is that you can use the same weight you were just using. Again, this is a combo move, so you’re totally killing two birds with one stone by working your legs and your arms in one exercise. Place your kettlebell on the ground in front of you, and make sure it’s between your legs, but like an inch or two forward. Then, bending your knees slightly, you’re going to hinge your hips backward and lift the kettlebell keeping your arms straight, bringing it to your waist as you hinge the hips forward. That’s the deadlift part. Then, you’re gonna pull the kettlebell up to your chin, using your shoulders to row upright, with your elbows wide towards the sides. Once you complete one rep, bring the kettlebell down to the ground and do five more.

5. Squat Jumps

Now that we’ve done a bunch of strength work, it’s time for some cardio. Your legs burn the most calories out of all the muscles in your body, so doing jumping exercises while combining squats or lunges is super effective. It’s also really hard, so pace yourself. Start in a squat position, making sure your knees are behind your feet so you don’t hurt yourself. Get super low, and then jump up explosively while straightening out your legs and arms. Aim for 20 reps here, but you might want to die by the time you get to 15. Try to fight through it.

6. Burpees

Burpees are annoying and difficult, but there’s a reason you see them in every fitness magazine and at every workout class—they WORK. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Then, lower your body into a squat and place your hands on the floor in front of you, jumping your feet back so that you’re in a plank position. Once your body is in a straight line, lower your chest to the floor and then bring it back up as quickly as you can. Then, jump your feet forward, outside of your hands, and jump up with your arms in the air. Do 8-10 of these, depending on your energy at this point in the workout. Also, keep in mind this is a full-body move, so make sure you follow the motions without just slamming your body down to the ground in the sloppiest way possible.

Images: Trust Tru Katsande; Unsplash, Giphy (5), Pinterest (1)

Upper Body Exercises To Target The Muscles You’re Ignoring

When it comes to choosing workouts, some exercises just seem obvious, like doing squats for a perky butt or planks for rock-hard abs. And don’t get me wrong, I’ll do squats and planks until they’re out of style. *BUT* I think it’s also important to work on the muscles we don’t often think about, especially as girls. We tend to think we just need a little toning and cardio here and there, but there are a lot of important muscles that we neglect at the gym, especially our upper body muscles. It’s time to address WTF to do about them. Here are some underrated upper body exercises and why you should be working them.

1. Chest Presses

Aside from a few modified push-ups as a warmup, most girls never think about working their chest muscles. I mean, the chest press seems like a guy’s exercise, and it can be super intimidating. What many women don’t realize is that your chest muscles just create a stronger upper body in general, which literally makes it easier to do basic activities, like opening doors and holding heavy bags. People also find that chest presses can even give yourself a little chest lift, so you can stop buying push-up bras. So start your upper body exercises with chest presses. Grab two dumbbells and lie flat on a bench with the weights at chest height and your elbows out toward your sides. Then, press the weights upward, keeping them over your chest the entire time, and bringing them back down after every rep and avoiding pushing with your shoulders.

Use real weights, not a cat. 

2. Lying Back Extensions

People tend to do a lot of rowing and lat pulldowns to target back muscles, and these exercises are great, but we tend to forget about our back extensor muscles, which are located at the lower back. They’re super important for core engagement, stability, and avoiding injury. Doing lying back extensions will help you avoid hurting yourself at the gym, considering you basically use your back in any exercise, like even running or spinning. Lay out a mat and then lie on your stomach with your head facing the floor and your arms out over your head in a “Y” shape. Then, slowly lift your legs and arms off the floor, keeping only the area from your stomach to your thighs on the mat (if that’s too hard, leave your legs alone and just lift your upper body). Lower back down and then lift back up, feeling the tension in your lower back.

3. Inner Core Leg Lifts

We do a lot of ab movements around here, but there’s a major difference between your ab muscles and your core muscles. Most ab workouts, like bicycles and Russian twists, don’t target the transversus abdominis, which is the muscle that connects to our pelvic floor and internal organs. In order to strengthen these inner muscles, do inner core leg lifts. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, and slowly lift your right foot off the floor, keeping your core engaged as you lower it back down. Then, do the same on the left, and switch back and forth, exhaling with each rep. These are supposed to be slow and controlled movements, so don’t worry if you’re not getting your heart rate up or sweating, but DO worry if you’re just kicking the ground without feeling it in your abs. Then you’re probs doing it wrong.

4. Lateral Raises

Toning your shoulder muscles will make your whole arm look more defined and just so much better, and the most ideal way is to work the front of the muscle and the side of it in one workout to tone every angle. The lateral deltoid, aka the side of your shoulder, is really what gives your arms a toned look, and it’s often neglected because people just don’t realize what a difference it makes. Standing up with a dumbbell in each with your palms facing your thighs, keep your elbows slightly bent and raise your arms to the side until the weight reaches shoulder height. Then, slowly lower the dumbbell back down to your thigh. Keep raising them up and down, and try not to bounce your legs to use momentum to lift them. The goal is to keep tension in your shoulders the whole time and not get any help from your lower body.

5. Single-Arm Planks

Obviously your abs aren’t a “forgotten about” muscle, but we often overlook the most basic functions of our core muscles, which include stability and balance. Upper body exercises like single-arm planks strengthen the core while testing your stability. By doing moves like these, you’ll notice that yoga poses get easier to hold, being in third position on a spin bike feels more natural, and other ab movements are just less painful. So basically, the single-arm plank is essentially a regular plank, but you only use one hand at a time. Duh. It’s easier to start with your hand centered in front of your chest, but try to work it back out to under your shoulder as you get stronger. The idea is to keep your body square to the ground without raising your hips on one side, and keep your core tight the entire time.

Images: Ayo Ogunseinde /Unsplash; Giphy (4), Pinterest (1), 

6 Moves To Tone Your Legs And Butt For Shorts Season

After a god-awful winter and no spring season whatsoever, summer has arrived, and it literally has no chill. We totally skipped over denim jacket weather and basically went straight to face-directly-in-the-AC-vent weather, so it’s time to dress accordingly. If you’re putting on your shorts for the first time in a year and notice your legs could use some much-needed toning and tightening, don’t panic. Do these six leg exercises, and once you’re done, repeat the whole circuit another three times to really tone and strengthen your legs. And also, like, try not to cry when you sit down tomorrow. Consider yourself warned.  

1. Curtsey Lunges

Regular squats and lunges can get boring and repetitive, so trying out different leg exercises and variations help target your muscles in a different way. Curtsey lunges are great because they hit various muscle groups in your quads and glutes, and they also challenge your body’s overall balance and stability. They’re v underrated. The idea here is to lunge backwards like you would regularly, but instead of bringing your knee directly behind you, bring it in a diagonal direction, crossing behind your other leg. Like a curtsey, get it?? Bend your knees and lower your hips until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Then, return to standing position and do the same on the other leg. Complete 10 reps per leg, and if you feel like it’s too easy, hold a weight in each hand to add resistance.

2. Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls

This exercise is based on using a swiss ball, but if your gym doesn’t have one, this can also work using TRX bands or the rowing machine. Begin on the floor by lying on your back with your feet up on top of the ball. You want your ankles to be on top of the ball when your legs are fully extended. Raise your hips off the ground, keeping your weight in your shoulders and your feet. Then, flex your knees, pulling the ball inward toward your body while squeezing the backs of your legs. Once the ball is “curled” inward, straighten out your legs again, rolling it outwards. Aim for 15 reps.

3. Single Leg Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are a classic butt exercise, but by focusing on one leg at a time, you also hit your hamstrings, which are the muscles that make up the backs of your legs. You’re basically getting the best of both worlds because you’re working your thighs and butt in one simple move. Lucky you. Lying on a mat, keep your hands at your sides and your knees bent out in front of you. Then, extend one leg as you lift your butt off the ground, squeezing your glutes and lifting your hips toward the ceiling. Think about pushing down with your left heel as you lift. Do 10 reps on one leg and then switch to the other.

4. Jumping Sumo Squats

We tend to do a lot of squats and jump squats in our leg workouts, but the sumo squat is a different variation that a lot of people ignore. The idea here is to do a jump squat, but your stance is more like that of a ballerina, with your toes turned outward and your legs further apart than they’d usually be. This way, when you squat down, the resistance shifts from your quads to your glutes, and it becomes more of a butt-focused movement. You’re also getting your heart rate up and burning calories because like, you’re jumping. Duh. Try doing 15-20 jumps without stopping.

5. Elevated Reverse Lunges

Reverse lunges are a staple leg movement, and by elevating your front leg, you’re adding pressure to that leg’s quad muscle, and you REALLY feel the burn on these. The idea here is to find some sort of box or elevated step that you can put your front foot on, and then lunge backwards, bringing the back leg even further down than you would on a regular surface. This way, your quads get more resistance—kinda like when you turn up the torq on a spin bike. Remember to keep your chest up and head straight the whole time to avoid leaning forward. If these are too hard, lose the elevation and just do lunges on the ground. And if they’re easy, hold a weight, like the badass chick in this gif.

6. Wall Sit

Wall sits look relatively easy, but you might notice after a few seconds that your thighs are on fire and you want to die. This is normal. This move is also great because your body is basically in a squatting position, but your back is protected, so you can really engage all of the muscles in your legs to keep you stable. With your back flat against a wall, set your feet about shoulder-width apart, about two feet out from the wall. Slide your back down the wall, bending your knees as low as you can get. Hold the position for one minute, and remember to contract your abs while you’re holding it. Your legs will probably start shaking, but that just means it’s working. Just think about how good your legs will look in your new romper.

Images: Shutterstock; Giphy (6)

6 Foods You Think Are Helping Your Summer Body But Aren’t

I once learned in AP European History that the first king of England was too fat to get on his horse, so he decided to eliminate all food from his diet and only drink alcohol in the hopes of shedding a few pounds. A thousand years have gone by, and it feels like our diets haven’t really progressed (and tbh his sounds pretty logical). We’re constantly being harassed by new diets and healthy foods, and some of the facts can get confusing, mostly because it all comes down to your own individual body. Although there aren’t specific foods that will straight-up make you fat, there are some foods that are marketed as super healthy, but they aren’t really doing you any favors. Here are some of health foods that are not so healthy.

1. Gluten-Free Bread

The “gluten-free” buzzword is often written on food items, but unless you’re actually gluten intolerant or have Celiac disease, these products aren’t necessarily healthier for you. In fact, gluten-free bread is usually packed with so many artificial ingredients and sugars to make up for the lack of gluten. You’re honestly better off eating regular bread. 

2. Orange Juice

The whole “fresh orange juice” health fad started like, 60 years ago, but let’s keep in mind that women were still smoking while pregnant at the time. AKA, it’s outdated. I mean, I’m not saying orange juice made with minimal ingredients is at all dangerous for you, but if you think you’re drinking a glass of health with your oatmeal in the morning, you’re wrong. Orange juice is basically a cup of sugar, and even if it’s just made with oranges, which have a ton of vitamins, it’s a lot of sugar to gulp down at once. Plus, lower sugar fruits like strawberries and papaya have more vitamin C than oranges do, so there goes that excuse.

3. Granola

Granola is one of those foods that really isn’t terrible for you, but it’s marketed as this magic bag of health and wellness, and honestly, nobody takes the serving size into account. Most granola companies, even the ones that use “clean” ingredients, don’t make it clear that the serving size is usually 1/4 cup. Anyone who’s ever looked at a measuring cup knows that is tiny. Many people (hi) end up eating entire bowls of granola, ingesting like, 600 calories in one snack. Granola is meant to be sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt or snacked on in small doses, so keep that in mind when eating half the bag before lunch.

4. Restaurant Veggie Sides

I’m one of those people who are guilty of going out to dinner and ordering a bunch of vegetable sides, thinking that it’s the healthiest option on the menu. Honestly, they’re usually not that healthy. It’s pretty much known that vegetables suck, taste-wise, so these restaurants often douse them in oils and sauces and butter to make people want to order them. Like, if you’re wondering why your Brussels sprouts appetizer tastes like french fries, maybe it’s born with it, maybe it’s tons of added fat. You’re better off ordering a lean protein, like fish or grilled chicken. You don’t have to avoid vegetables completely, but just be wary of what you’re actually ordering when you’re out to eat.

5. Agave Nectar

Ever since Miley went vegan and açai bowls became trendier than Momofuku cake, agave nectar is trending in the wellness world—but unless you’re vegan, it’s not that healthy for you. Like, agave is supposed to be the “healthy” sugar substitute, but the reason it has a low glycemic index is because it’s filled with fructose, which, when ingested in large quantities, turns to fat because your liver can’t turn it into energy. Instead of demonizing sugar and turning to agave as an alternative, just add sugar in moderation and realize what you’re actually putting into your body when you buy these alternatives.

6. Dried Fruit

Ugh, this one makes me so sad because dried mango is actually the best thing since watermelon Sour Patch Kids. Dried fruit is similar to granola in the sense that it’s really not harmful for you, but nobody talks about serving sizes, and they’re SO sad. Dried fruit is all carbs and sugar, and often companies add even more sugar to them. Like, have you ever realized why Craisins are so much sweeter than actual cranberries? Spoiler: it’s sugar. If you’re eating dried fruit, find a brand that has no added sugar, and try not to eat the whole bag in one sitting. You can do this.

Fruit

Images: Jannis Brandt / Unsplash; Giphy (4)

The Worst Mistakes You’re Making On Gym Machines

As much as I love bodyweight movements and at-home workouts, using machines at the gym is a good option if you know what you’re doing. The gym is filled with intimidating equipment, and it usually takes a few tries to figure out how to use some of it. In fact, even some of the most simple machines are confusing, and you end up using them wrong, which ruins your workout and could cause you an injury down the line. Here are the workout mistakes you’re making on six basic machines and how to fix your form. 

The Treadmill

The treadmill seems super intuitive, but people still screw up their form all the time, and it can sabotage your workout and lead to serious injuries. For example, a lot of people look down when they’re on the treadmill, and that’s a recipe for disaster. Not only can you lose your balance and eat shit on the Equinox floor, but you can also strain the back of your neck and misalign the rest of your body. To run on the treadmill properly, keep your gaze straight and your chest open. You’ll be able to run for a longer amount of time and you’ll probably be less sore the next day.

Elliptical & StairMaster

The Elliptical and the StairMaster are both go-to cardio machines, but they’re only effective if you’re positioned in the right way. Instead of hunching over and holding onto the side handlebars like your life depends on it, keep your hands to yourself and keep your posture straight the entire time. You’re supposed to feel a burning sensation in your legs on these machines, so if you’re death-gripping the rails to take the pressure off your legs, you’re not doing yourself any favors. The machine is just there to support you, so you don’t have to clutch the handles like you’re gonna fall over. Plus, when you’re hunched over, you’re taking the exercise away from your legs, so you just end up burning less calories than you could have if your form was right.

The Rower

The rowing machine is an even better workout than the electronic cardio machines, because you literally have to use your entire body to operate it. This includes your legs, arms, back, and abs. So, if you feel like you’re just pulling in the bar with your arms, you’re not using the machine correctly. Instead, think about pressing down with your heels and pushing outward, like you’re standing up from a deadlift. The idea is to use momentum from your legs to generate the pull, and then use your back and arms on the second part to finish the pull. And again, if your posture sucks here, you’ll probably injure yourself, so remember to keep your core engaged and your shoulders pulled back.

Lat Pulldown Bar

The lat pulldown bar can be difficult to use because it’s hard to engage your lats. In fact, most people don’t even know what their lats are, so that’s problem number one. The lat muscle, aka the latissimus dorsi, is the huge muscle on your back that goes all the way behind your arms. If you strengthen this muscle, your back will look toned and tight, and your waist will end up looking more narrow in result. So, in order to pull down this bar using only your lats and not your shoulders, you need to really think about squeezing your back and engaging the muscle before you pull down. If you’re leaning back too far or bringing the bar to your waist, you’re overextending. Focus on bringing the bar to chest height and on keeping tension away from your neck and shoulders.

Hanging Leg Raise

This is a great piece of equipment for ab exercises, and it’s super effective for leg raises, knee-tucks, and holds. It’s also a tricky one because people tend to start doing leg raises before their core is engaged, so only the hip flexors are being worked. Instead, prop yourself up and get comfortable first. Engage your core by pulling your belly button in toward your spine, and then start the exercise. Another mistake people make is by keeping their shoulders too close to their ears. Instead, draw your shoulders down and think about pulling them away from your neck. This will help prevent tightness and injuries that are caused by locking out your shoulder and neck muscles.

Leg Press Machine

The leg press machine is basically a squat variation in a different position, so you need to make sure you’re not just bouncing up and down and screwing up your back. A lot of people accidentally do partial reps on this machine, so they’re not getting the full range of motion that they would in a standing squat. Position the seat so that when your knees come in, they come close to your chest, so you can target your glute muscles. Also, avoid locking your knees when you straighten out your legs. It’s bad for your knees and you could really hurt yourself, so remember to keep a slight bend even while extending. There’s no need to get injured at the gym if you just take your time to make sure you’re not zooming through every movement.

Images: Giphy (6)

6 Pilates Exercises That Will Tone Your Butt And Abs

I love spending $34 on a workout class as much as the next financially careless millennial, but honestly, you can get just as good of a workout by yourself in the gym or at home if you want to. Pilates classes are amazing because you have the help of a certified instructor, but if you know some of the basic moves, you can do them on your own without a room full of toned women in matching Outdoor Voices leggings. These six Pilates exercises are simple enough to do on your own, and you don’t need any fancy equipment to get a good workout. Add these moves into your regular workout routine to switch it up, or do all six together as a total Pilates circuit. Here are the moves for the Pilates bod you’ve always wanted.

1. Plank Rocks

Plank rocks are exactly what they sound like, but for some reason, they’re so much harder than holding a regular plank. The idea here is to start in a high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your core engaged. Then, using the tiniest motion from your toes to your shoulders, rock your body back and forth, feeling the burn in your abs the whole time. This is a small, controlled movement, so your body should only be moving a couple inches toward your hands, and then a couple inches back toward your heels. Think about drawing your belly button in toward your spine and keeping your butt low the whole time. Don’t cheat yourself.

2. Glute Bridges

This is one of those Pilates exercises that you probably didn’t even know was from Pilates. The glute bride is a simple move, but if you’re doing it right, you’ll feel the burn in your butt and hamstrings pretty quickly. Start lying on your back with your legs hip-width apart, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor. You can keep your hands on the floor next to you, or raise them toward the sky to make it harder. Then, keeping your feet on the ground, lift your pelvis off the floor and squeeze your butt at the top, holding for a second before lowering down to the ground. If you’re advanced, you can also do this with one leg off the floor to really target each part of your butt separately.

3. The Hundred

This looks like a standard boat pose, but it’s actually so much harder because the idea is to pulse your hands, literally, a hundred times. Hence the name. This move is a Pilates staple because it works your abs and tests your stability and endurance at the same time. The Hundred refers to the 100 beats you hold the pose for, but if you’re a beginner, start with 50 and we won’t tell on you. Start in a boat pose with your tail bone and lower back on the floor and your legs and upper body elevated. Then, keep your arms out toward your sides and pulse up and down, feeling it in your core. FYI: be careful with your head placement on this one. You want to keep your chin slightly tucked, as if you’re holding a tennis ball on your chest. Don’t start looking up and taking the pressure off of your core.

4. Kneeling Leg Lifts

This exercise is literally the reason Pilates instructors have the perkiest butts ever. Well, maybe also genetics and years of experience, but you get the point. It works. Kneeling leg lifts are one of the only lower body moves that are just as effective without any weights, so the key is to think about activating your glutes and squeezing on each rep instead of just kicking around by using momentum. Keeping your weight on your forearms and knees, lift one leg straight up behind you in a 90-degree angle so your heel is facing towards the ceiling. Squeeze your butt cheek at the top each time, and then switch to the other leg after 10 reps. You can also hold for a few seconds at the end or add a pulse.

 

5. Kneeling Side Leg Twists

The kneeling side leg twist sounds complicated, but you’re basically working three muscle groups in one movement: abs, arms, and legs. AKA, it’s a winner. Kneel on the right leg with your left leg extended out to the side, and keep your right arm supporting you with your palm on the floor under your right shoulder. Lift your leg and your left arm up to the sky, and then, as you lower your leg back to the mat, thread your left arm under your waist to twist toward the floor. You want to make sure that when you twist your torso, you’re essentially crunching your oblique with the help of your arm. After 30 seconds to a minute, switch to the other side.

6. The Teaser

IDK why this is called the teaser, but Pilates teachers love it, and it’s because it literally annihilates your core. Doesn’t sound like a tease to me. Start by lying on the ground with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Then, reach out your arms and lift your legs off the floor in a 90-degree angle. Lift your upper body off of the floor using your abs, and then straighten out your legs at the top. Think about lifting your head and shoulders up in one movement, trying to create a V-shape with your torso and legs. Then, roll back onto your back and bend your knees again. Aim for 15 reps.

Images: Form, Unsplash (1), Giphy (5), Pinterest (1)

The Right Foods To Eat Before Working Out

There’s nothing worse than showing up to your workout feeling nauseous, lightheaded, dizzy, or like you’re about to throw up the slice of leftover pizza you ate as you left the house. My esteemed colleague Betchy Crocker recently suggested some good things to eat after you work out, but your pre-workout food is just as important. You want to make sure you’re eating enough to give you energy, but not something you’ll regret as soon as you start doing cardio. Here are some of the best foods to eat before working out.

1. Oatmeal

Whole grains, like oats, are complex carbs that break down into glucose and fuel your muscles during your workout. Try going for a bowl of oatmeal or some granola about an hour before your workout. Professional nutritionists swear by these options because they’re simple and will give your body immediate energy.

2. Apple Or Banana

Apples and bananas are simple carb sources, which means they’ll give your body the energy it needs almost immediately. They digest faster than whole grains do, so even though they won’t keep you as full, they’ll give you a boost of energy if you eat them 20-30 minutes before the workout. Mostly any fruit is good to eat before working out, but stay away from high-fiber fruits like berries and pears because they’ll take longer to digest and may hurt your stomach if you’re jumping around a lot. Also, has anyone in the history of the world gotten full off berries? Lmk.

3. Greek Yogurt

People like to eat yogurt after their workouts because it’s mainly a source of protein, but protein is super important to eat before working out as well. Especially if you’re doing weight training, you’ll need the protein in your body to help your muscles repair themselves from the microtears that occur during your session. Try looking for simple ingredients and minimal sugar in your yogurt. Siggi’s and Fage both make great nonfat yogurts. Chobani works too, but watch the sugar count depending on the flavor.

4. Eggs & Toast

If you have an hour or two before you head to the gym and need something more substantial than a piece of fruit to eat before working oat, the eggs and toast combo is your best bet. The toast will give you the energy from its complex carb makeup, and eggs are a simple protein source with a little bit of fat. It’s enough to fill you up without making you nauseous halfway through.

Eggs Bacon and Toast

5. Maca

Maca root, often found in the form of maca powder, is an ancient Peruvian plant that is literally filled with nutrients that will boost your workout. Maca is rich in amino acids and vitamins, and it’s also an adaptogen, so it aids in adrenal function, increasing your energy levels and enhancing workout performance. Blend it into a smoothie before your workout or mix it into your oatmeal. It’s a game-changer.

6. RX Bars or Lara Bars

Bars are a go-to option to eat before working out if you’re going straight from the office and don’t have time to stop and pick up legit food. Natural protein bars have been all over the health food market recently, and two great pre-workout options are RX Bars and Lara Bars. They’re both made with dates and nuts, so you have a quick carb and natural sugar source from the dates, and a little healthy fat from the nuts to keep you full. RX Bars even include eggs for extra protein. The Maple Sea Salt flavor is a personal fav. Just saying.

 

7. Caffeine

I know this isn’t actually a food, but having a cup of coffee or green tea before your workout is KEY if you want a real energy boost. I would pair this with some real food too, but caffeine has been scientifically proven to boost your workout by tapping into your central nervous system and recruiting muscle fibers in your body. Basically, it helps you fight fatigue and improve physical performance. So like, order the venti. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Images: Melissa Belanger / Unsplash (1); Giphy (2); nbcparksandrec / tumblr