You don’t need to search relentlessly for it, because it resides within you- in the form of sweat. Exercise can absolutely tighten your muscles and make you look younger. And if the moves you do are functional- meaning, they mimic actions you perform in your everyday life- they can actually help you to move more easily and function younger, too. Here are 7 gravity defying exercises which will make you sweat just a trickle and let you eat your heart out.
Carousel horses are essentially mini-lunges, with support. Large muscle groups are engaged by lunges and that’s why they are incredibly efficient. Doing them once a day can provide results within as little as 2 weeks. Steps: Rest your hands lightly on the back of a chair with your feet hip-width apart. Step back with your left foot, and bend both knees into a lunge. Make sure your hips are level and facing the chair back, your core is engaged, and your shoulders are over your hips, not slumped forward. Hold for 5 breaths, with your right knee directly over your right ankle and your left knee under your left hip. Next, lower your left knee 1 inch toward the floor, keeping your right knee directly over your ankle. Press your feet into the floor to lift up 1 inch, and repeat for 30 reps. Repeat on the opposite side.
Image: Thomas MacDonald
This exercise engages the muscles of your inner thigh, which also works your butt and hips. Steps: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes facing out. Squat and lower your butt to about the depth of your knees. Then, as you straighten your legs and return to standing, drag your right foot across the floor toward your left leg (you should feel it in your inner thigh as you pull your leg across your body). Repeat the move to the other side, this time stepping your right leg out to the right, lowering into a squat, and dragging your left foot toward your right as you stand back up. Continue alternating sides for each rep. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. Work up to 3 sets, 3 times a week.
Work the muscles of your hips, butt, and back with this exercise without destabilizing your spine and making it vulnerable to strain and injury. Steps: Get down on all fours with your knees under your hips and your wrists directly beneath your shoulders. Engage your core, and pull your shoulder blades back toward your hips. Next, simultaneously lift and lengthen your left leg until it's parallel to the floor, and lift and lengthen your right arm until it's parallel to the floor. Don’t lift your head or let it sag. Return to starting position and switch sides. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. Work up to 3 sets, 3 times a week.
Glute bridges take the muscles of your hips, thighs, and butt through a full range of motion without making your knees scream. They also zero in on your hip extensor muscles. Steps: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about 12 inches away from your hips. Slowly tuck under your pelvis (you’ll feel as though you’re bringing your pubic bone toward your navel), push into your heels, and lift your back off the floor until your hips are completely open at the top. Make sure your pelvis stays tucked to prevent your back from arching. Hold for 5 breaths, then slowly lower to the staring position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. Work up to 3 sets, 3 times a week. To add difficultly, hold a light dumbbell on top of your pelvis throughout.
Planks are perfect because they are easy on your back and hard on your core. Steps: Lie on your stomach with your elbows close to your sides and directly under your shoulders, palms down and fingers facing forward. Engage your abs and flex your ankles, tucking your toes toward your shins, then slowly lift your torso and thighs off the mat, keeping your torso and legs rigid. Don't allow any sagging in your ribcage or low back, and avoid hiking your hips into the air or bending your knees. Continue to breathe, keeping your abs strong. Hold for 5 to 15 seconds to begin; work up to 1 minute at a time, 3 times a week.
This move instantly goes to work on your lower belly. If you feel any discomfort in your low back, don't lower your legs as far. Steps: Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, elbows out to the sides, shoulders lifted, and legs lifted over your hips. Keeping abs engaged, slowly lower your legs toward the floor (stopping right before your back starts to arch), then lift them back over your hips. Repeat 10 to 15 times. Work up to 3 sets, 3 times a week.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, and fingertips resting lightly behind your ears. Engage your abs, and lift both feet off the floor until your thighs and hips form a 90-degree angle and your knees are bent at 90-degree angles, too. Contract your abs to curl your head and shoulders off the mat and simultaneously bring your right knee in toward your right armpit and straighten your left leg in front of you. Rotate your torso slowly to bring your left elbow toward your right knee (this movement will press your low back into the mat). Continue moving until your elbow touches or comes close to touching the opposite knee. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement to the opposite side. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. Work up to to 3 sets, 3 times a week.
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