Whether you’re an advanced athlete or re-entering fitness, enjoying your workout is important. We can all agree that working out has to be fun. Let’s face it, if it’s not fun, it’s not going to happen!
I’ve designed a simple workout for you to add to your current routine, or start fresh with this one. In my workouts, I always try to touch every muscle group, including the core, and also incorporate a little balance training. Everyone is so different and has different workout goals. But remember — we don’t want our bodies to plateau. I’ll often grab a workout that I’ve designed for one my clients and do theirs. Granted, I’ll adjust it to suit my training needs, but it’s fun, it’s different and I love it.
This workout will be about 45 minutes and offers a little something for everyone. I recommend you try it first in the order I’m presenting, especially the warm up and the core work. You can mix and match the strength training portion in any way that suits you. I like to save abs for last since they support us all throughout the workout.
Equipment: Medicine ball (4-8 pounds), resistance tubing with handles, tube circle or Thera-Band®, stability ball, dumbbells (5-15 pounds).
Training Tip: When you change “variables” in your training routine, your body will likely respond more quickly vs. doing the same old thing. A variable may be increasing or decreasing the number of reps, changing the order in which you select the exercise, changing the platform you are training on; such as an inflatable disc, or increasing the amount of weight used for the exercise.
Active Warm Up
I prefer and recommend my clients to do active warm up exercises vs. static stretching (stretches where you hold the stretch for a period of time). It can be a quick spin on the stationary bike, walk on the treadmill for 5 minutes, or try the exercise below.
MEDICINE BALL SQUAT, PIVOT TO REACH (1 set, 10-12 each side) – Here, I am holding an 8 pound medicine ball. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, feet facing forward. Squat down to the right side, keeping heels on the ground, then with both arms straight out in front, pivot on foot, reach up and across body, with hips facing opposite side. Perform in smooth fashion on other side. More conditioned people should use a heavier medicine ball.
When I design a program for a client, I give them lots of options. Usually 4-6 core exercises then have them choose maybe 2-3 for their workout. It’s important to warm up the core — it is a combination of supporting muscles that allow you to perform and execute your exercises efficiently. Simply stated, your core is everything excluding your extremities.
BALL BRIDGING (1-2 sets, 10-15 reps) – If your stability ball is inflated less, you will have more balance and this will be easier. If more air, less stable. If you’re a beginner, you may feel a little shaky, or feel your low back straining. Your focus is to build and utilize your glutes so that the other supporting core muscles fire in accordance.
- Sitting on stability ball, activate the core by drawing in the navel towards the spine & squeezing your glutes.
- Walk your feet out and lay back on the stability ball.
- Keep your head & shoulders on the stability ball with your head slightly tilted back.
- Lift your hips towards the ceiling until you’re in the position of a “plank” with shoulders, hips & knees all at the same height. Then, contract your glutes as you lower yourself down to the ground, but do not touch the ground.
- Keep the knees stacked over the ankles.
- The ball should not move. Imagine gripping a small ball between the knees.
- Think of pushing the hips toward the ceiling and directing the tailbone towards the scapulae (emphasizing erector spinae).
- Tempo is down, press up and hold for 2 seconds, then down. Breath out on the way up. Keep your glutes contracted throughout the entire movement.
- You can easily advance this exercise by decreasing your base of support, which is simply by putting your feet together vs. having them shoulder width apart.
- If you’re really looking for a challenge, try keeping one leg extended as you lift your hips up and down. But watch out — this burns!
TUBE SHUFFLE (15-30 seconds or 30 to 50 reps per side) – Elastic tubing or tube circles are great to have in your gym. They come in different strength grades, so start out light then go to heavy when ready. This exercise is great for hip strengthening and IT Band strengthening, but the focus here is the core.
- Place tubing (elastic resistance) above ankle.
- Place feet straight ahead and shoulder width apart.
- Position your body in a quarter squat position.
- From the quarter squat position, draw your belly button inward toward your spine.
- Maintaining proper spine and leg/knee alignment perform a SLOW, CONTROLLED, lateral shuffle to the right.
- Repeat lateral movement and reptitions/time to the left.
- Generating strength from the core and hip musculature is the key! At first, perform movements in front of a mirror to ensure optimal alignment is executed.
- Tip: Do not allow your knees to cave inward, or slide your feet!
- Lift hands above the head or ad a medicine ball or body bar to pump it up. Anything over the head becomes cardio — mix it up!
I’ve written many articles on the importance of balance training and to me, this is a really important component that I suggest everyone include each time they workout. Missing a step or placing your foot on an unstable rock while you’re hiking can literally make or break you or lead to a nasty sprain or mishap.
Balance training is also like training your brain to react when you need to have all engines firing and connecting when you need to perform, walk down the street, on the beach or cross a rambling creek.
SINGLE LEG TOUCHDOWN (1-2 sets, 10 each side) – This exercise recruits all the stabilizing muscles around the hip, knee and ankle and wow, it’s great!
- Begin balanced on one leg with the knee slightly bent (15-20 degrees).
- Draw your abdomen inward toward your belly button for spinal stabilization.
- Without allowing further knee movement, bend over at the hip, trying to touch down with the opposite hand.
- As you come back to start position, push through the heel back to start position.
- Try to be sure your knee is tracking over your second toe. A mirror is great for feedback.
- Add a dumbbell of 5-10 pounds in the opposite hand opposite your supporting leg.
STABILITY BALL BALANCING (30 seconds or more) – This is one of my favorites, and the bonus is you work the core as well! If you’ve never done this before, please use a sturdy stationary object to assist you at first. If your ball is heavily inflated, it will be firm and less stable. Less air is easier and more stable.
- Mount the ball with knees hip width and abs contracted.
- Find an object to focus on.
- Slowly try to unhook your feet from behind so it’s just your knees on the ball.
- Get very centered and keep your upper body quiet. This is your first goal.
- Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell while balancing on the stability ball.
Strength & Resistance Training
Simple Fact: Muscles do not turn to fat, they are eliminated! So if you don’t use it, you lose it AND muscles will help you burn calories, even while you sleep. Most women underestimate their own strength. Strength training or resistance training must be a part of one’s routine to not only help maintain what you have, but to also increase lean muscle mass. In this section I’ll touch each muscle group with simple exercises you can do with minimal equipment. I’ll also tell you how to increase the challenge.
Tips: Do not death grip the dumbbell, remember to breathe and maintain optimal posture. Start out light and increase accordingly so you maintain good, smooth form.
SHOULDERS: Seated Stability Ball Shoulder Presses (1-3 sets, 8-12 reps)
- Sit on the stability ball in optimal alignment with both feet flat on the ground, spaced wider apart to start.
- Hold dumbbells in each hand at shoulder height with elbows flexed, palms facing forward.
- From the start position, draw your belly button inward toward your spine.
- Maintaining a “sit tall” position, slowly press both dumbbells up through your natural range of motion. Breath out.
- Next, slowly lower the dumbbells as far as you can control.
- Do not allow your head to “jet” forward! Keep your eyes focused straight in front of you.
- Use very light resistance with a slow tempo in beginning phases.
- For an intermediate progression, alternate arms overhead and space feet closer together.
- For an advanced progression, alternate arms overhead and lift one foot off the ground.
BACK: Standing Back Row Tube Presses (1-3 sets, 8-12 reps) – The key for this exercise is scapular retraction and isolation all the way through the entire repetition. Slow and controlled, steady and even!
- Start with medium tubing secured around a post or affixed with a door anchor, about shoulder high.
- Back anchor leg is secure as you squeeze that glute, draw in your stomach to the back of your spine with tall posture
- Keep shoulders retracted or squeezed together throughout entire movement.
- Exhale, as you press the tube away from you. Try to hold the retraction until you have completed the entire repetition back to the start position. Focus on the back muscles — imagine holding a dollar bill between your shoulder blades, and do not let go. Nice and steady, LOOSE hands on grip!
- Tip: Only press as far as you can manage so your shoulders and back do not round forward.
- Advance to heavier tubing and to one leg, or stand on an unstable platform such as the BOSU.
CHEST: CHEST PRESS ON STABILITY BALL (1-3 sets, 8-12 reps)
- Place head & shoulders on ball, keep chin up so neck is in neutral position.
- Position feet apart to form good base of stability.
- Activate your core (pull belly button towards spine and hold).
- Start with weights on chest.
- Push both weights towards the ceiling while exhaling.
- Upon reaching peak of repetition, lower weights back to chest while inhaling, and repeat.
- Keep body in “table top” position.
- Maintain even speed when performing the exercise.
- Push weights above the chest not over your face.
- Tip: When starting out, increase your stability by placing your legs shoulder width apart!
- Alternate arms, move feet closer together and, if you’re really brave, try one leg!
LEGS: LUNGES (as many as possible!)
- Tall posture, spread feet shoulder width apart (or wider to work different aspects of the legs) and forward of knees.
- Step forward with one leg and lower hips towards ground until they reach knee height. At that point, stop and press back up to starting position. Repeat, alternating legs. Be sure to keep knee tracking over second toe.
- Tip: If you’re just starting out, you don’t have to go down as far. And be sure not to lock the knees as you begin the second rep.
BICEPS: SEATED CURLS ON STABILITY BALL OR STANDING CURLS (2 arms or alternating: 1-3 sets, 8-12 reps)
- Sit on the stability ball with a dumbell in each hand, arms extended, feet together for more challenge or farther apart for more stability.
- From the start position, draw your belly button inward toward your spine.
- Maintaining a “sit tall” position, raise the dumbbells up to your shoulders.
- Exhale as you contract the bicep, inhale as you lower the dumbbell to start position. Repeat.
- Extend one leg.
TRICEPS: TWO ARM EXTENSIONS (1-3 sets, 8-12 reps)
- Start with one leg forward, approximately 2 feet from your back leg, in a stable stance as pictured. Lean forward, drawing your belly button in toward your spine.
- Maintaining optimal alignment, lift your arm so the humerus (upper arm) is parallel to the floor.
- While maintaining upper arm position, extend your elbow, hold and return (flex elbow).
- After recommended repetitions are performed, switch legs and repeat.
- Concentrate on keeping your upper arm stationary and parallel to the floor.
- Maintain optimal alignment throughout the entire exercise.
- For greater, faster results, hold for 2 seconds or longer when arms are extended. Burn!!!
ABS: CRUNCHES WITH STABILITY BALL BETWEEN LEGS (2-4 sets of 25) – This is one of my favorite ab exercises. Want fast results? Do these.
- Lie on your towel or mat, placing a stability ball between your feet as pictured.
- Place hands behind head as pictured. DO NOT lock fingers together.
- Press your lower back on the towel or mat, raise your legs off the ground while ball is held with your feet. The higher your legs, the less pressure on your lower back — find the position that suits you, and keep your back flat!
- As you rise up, imagine a pulley on your chest with a hook. Exhale a steady breath out, eyes fixed on something above your eyebrows, and lift your chest (not too far).
- Hold the contraction for 2 seconds, inhale as you lower back to start position.
- Do not let your feet touch the ground. Do not allow to your elbows to “wing” forward — keep them flat. This also prevents strain on your neck muscles.
- You may feel a bit shaky at first, but this is your core working hard. In time your endurance will build. Keep up the good work!
The cool down portion of your workout is a reward to you and your body. Shooting photos for this series, it was hot with unusually high humidity. I walked on the beach, then jumped into the ocean to literally bring down the core temperature of my body. A cool down should last about 5 minutes. You can also perform static stretches.
Don’t forget to refuel and consume liquids during and after your workout. Be mindful of conditions if training outside. Wear plenty of sunscreen and avoid training in the heat of the day.
Well, I hope you enjoyed some of my favorite fun exercises. You can change it up anytime — add a few of these exercises to freshen up your current routine, or start from here.
Make every rep count!
Suzie Cooney, CPT