One of the biggest excuses (yes, excuses) for not getting the body of your dreams is time. It's lacking, it's rushing, it's apparently not there. However, if you have time for Pinterest or Real Housewives or sleeping in an additional half hour, you have time to schedule a workout. Like Women's Health states, "the trick is to sweat smarter, not harder, and, in many cases, for shorter durations. In fact, a study from McMaster University in Ontario found that people who did brief, fast-paced workouts for a total of 90 minutes a week got just as fit as those who did lower-intensity training for four and a half hours. (Hello! That's an extra three hours a week!)"
Keep that train of thought and check out seven shape-up shortcuts from Women's Health.
1. Jump To It. Rather than plod through a slow (and time-sucking) warm-up jog, kick off your routine with 20 jumping jacks [or jump r, says trainer Larysa DiDio, founder of PFX Fitness in Pleasantville, New York. In less than a minute, these simple but explosive old-school moves activate your upper-and lower-body muscles and quickly raise your heart rate and body temperature to prime you for your workout. Another reason to keep it short: A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that lengthy warm-ups can fatigue you, compromising your true workout.
2. Start Strong. People who pushed themselves in the first half of a workout and eased up during the second half burned 23 percent more fat than those who did the opposite, according to a study from the College of New Jersey. The study also found that a period of moderate-intensity exercise prior to a milder one can elicit greater fat oxidation while making the overall workout feel less stressful. One more reason to get the hard part out of the way.
3. Hit the Right Notes. Music moves you to burn more calories in less time by spurring you to crank up—and keep up—the effort. But not just any playlist will do (sorry, Adele). To increase workout intensity, listen to songs with a tempo of 125 to 140 beats per minute and lively lyrics, says Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., author of inside Sport Psychology, who has studied music's impact on exercise for 20 years. His picks: "Moves Like Jagger," by Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera (128 bpm), "The Time (Dirty Bit)," by The Black Eyed Peas (128 bpm), and "Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny)," by A. R. Rahman & The Pussycat Dolls featuring Nicole Scherzinger (137 bpm).
More picks from Women's Health "The Edge of Glory," Lady Gaga (135 bpm) "Are You Gonna Go My Way," Lenny Kravitz (130 bpm) "Hot and Cold," Katy Perry (128 bpm) "You Belong with Me," Taylor Swift (130 bpm) "Use Somebody," Kings of Leon (135 bpm) "We Found Love (Cahill Club Remix)," Rihanna (128 bpm) "What Are You Waiting For," Gwen Stefani (136 bpm) "Burning Up," Madonna (138 bpm) "Womanizer," Britney Spears (140 bpm)
If these songs don’t move you, download free software at mixmeister.com to check the tempo of your favorite tunes.
4. Defy Gravity. Sculpting a perkier posterior may be as simple as hoisting heavier weights. The challenge to your muscles builds lean muscle faster, which is the secret to a tighter, lifted backside, says trainer Rachel Cosgrove, WH fitness contributor and author of The Female Body Breakthrough. Plus, it's a stellar metabolism booster: Research shows you can burn nearly twice as many calories in the two hours after lifting heavier weights. Add this move—the bent-knee deadlift—to your routine up to three times a week: Set a pair of heavy dumbbells (try 15 pounds) on the floor and squat down to grab them. Quickly stand, pushing your hips forward and squeezing your glutes. Do 10 reps.
5. Join the Workout of the Month Club. When you stop seeing results, your first instinct may be to stay on the treadmill or elliptical longer. But tacking on extra minutes won't rescue you from a plateau. What will: switching up your routine every 28 days—before you have a chance to stagnate. "It takes four to six weeks for your body to adapt to a workout," says Cosgrove. "Once it becomes efficient at it, you use less energy and burn fewer calories and fat." The good news is, you don't need to completely overhaul your fitness routine every month, says Cosgrove. Even simple tweaks—say, adding a few hills to your daily run—can make the difference.
6. Lose your Balance. Multitasking is a useful skill at work—and during a workout. "Do upper-body strength training—biceps curls, overhead presses—on an unstable surface, such as a BOSU, a balance board, or even a couch cushion at home," says DiDio. "You'll use your core to stabilize yourself and keep from falling, so you'll strengthen and tone your midsection while you work other muscle groups."
7. Walk, Don't Jog. Though it may seem counterintuitive, walking at a brisk pace is a better use of your workout time. "During a fast walk, your muscles are working harder to keep you on the ground and still push you forward. So, compared to a slow jog—say, 10-minute miles—you're using more muscle and burning more calories," says fitness instructor Therese Iknoian, author of Walking Fast and Fitness Walking. While jogging is a fluid, natural body movement, speed walking is more physically demanding because it requires you to move in an awkward way. You'll also get shapely calves and glutes, because these muscles are more engaged during a power walk, says Iknoian.
And while you're at it, pick up a pair of poles. Sure, they might look like goofy gadgets reserved for hikes up Kilimanjaro, but walking poles come with benefits any serious saunterer will appreciate. "You can burn 20 to 25 percent more calories walking with poles than you would walking without them, and you'll also increase upper-body endurance by 40 percent," says John Porcari, Ph.D., a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, who has conducted five studies on the equipment's benefits. He likes Exerstriders ($70 to $90, walkingpoles.com).
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For more quick tips on pumping up your workout, check out Step It Up: The Advanced Versions of Your Favorite Moves! And if you're ready to work your booty off (in 20 minutes or less!) check out these fab Skinny Mom workouts for your tush, triceps, total body, and core.