The fitness spotlight has shifted to strength training – free weights, barbells, kettlebells, even bodyweight workouts. Losing weight and toning up is now a two-for-one deal. Gone are the days of brutal, endless cardio. If you have weight to lose, pick up the weights! If you're looking to tone and shape your body — guess what — pick up those weights!
Days 1 and 2: Before you jump into this, take the time to learn your body. Stretch. Really sink into these stretches and take note of what feels tight and where your body wants you to stop. You have to establish your range of motion. Tight, inflexible muscles are not going to respond well to work. During these first two days, increase your water intake, stretch, foam roll, self massage and take 10 to 20 minutes to walk or flow through a gentle yoga sequence to get the blood flowing.
Days 3 to 7: For a long, sleek build, you want to work the muscles in a lengthening method. One of the best workouts you can do for this type of training is barre. Yes, it's very niche and new, but it works. Using ballet poses like the plié and varying versions of points, lifts and jetés paired with isometric holds and pulsing will fire those longer muscle fibers. Complete up to 30 minutes of a barre-inspired workout for the first 7 days. Want to know what this looks like? Real Mom Model Jean Sherfick leads you through a tummy and thigh toning workout (not for the faint of heart!):
Days 8 to 12: Maybe barre isn’t your thing or you want to mix it up a bit. Grab hand weights between 1 and 3 pounds. Utilize them with L-raises, which are compound movements with presses or extra resistance while you focus on the legs. By simply adding a couple pounds, you are telling your muscles to work harder and you’re also thinking about the work you’re doing, improving your form. Double up on exercises when you can, doing lower-body and upper-body movements together. Not only do you knock out more work in less time, but you increase your body’s coordination skills!
Days 13 to 20: Get familiar with the bells – the dumbbells, kettlebells and barbell. You don’t need to put a lot of weight on, but you do need to perform fewer reps than you would during a barre workout. You also need to have good form. Alternate your workouts based on the equipment. Try your four favorite kettlebell moves, doing 8 to 12 repetitions for three sets, resting 60 seconds in between sets. Repeat this for your barbell and dumbbells, too. Don’t be afraid of squats and deadlifts. Booty gainz, anyone? Yes, please!
Days 21 to 22: Go back to the beginning and stretch. You should stretch after each workout, but give your body some extra love here. Yoga is a powerful form of exercise. Try another sequence, but be aware of your body’s limitations so that you’re helping it, not hurting it. At this point, you should know what’s feeling really tight, so pay attention to those areas and loosen them up! Drink plenty of water.
For the final part of your fitness regimen, continue onto the next page.
Days 23 to 28: Return to the lengthening exercises you used during the first week. Incorporate more bodyweight exercises that challenge the core and your balance and coordination. Examples of this would be plank variations, plie or lunge holds with light hand weights, elevation changes (using a bench, chair or step) and ensuring a deeper range of motion. Need inspiration? Check out these four Pilates moves.
Days 29 and 30: Utilize dynamic exercises to fully incorporate the muscle groups. This means the exercises you choose are ones where you’re constantly moving, like a forward-stepping lunge with a twist. These workouts can be circuit style. Roll out a mat for some floor work, focusing on the abs, hip flexors and thighs (think bridges and V-openers). Stand up for those lunges previously mentioned, then go into planks and tummy burners (like these 11 moves here). Grab the dumbbells for some overhead presses while moving in and out of a plie position. Keep it light, quick and fun!
>> Read more: 17 Free Weight Exercises For Toned Arms [VIDEO]
Don’t forget these babies! Your helpful, but often stubborn hip flexors want some attention, too. Women often have issues related to incontinence or bladder control, pelvic pain, low back aches and weakness due to flimsy hip flexors. If you can whip them into shape, all of your core work will be so much easier! Try incorporating leg lifts while lying on your back or knee lifts while standing. Be sure to stretch them after you work them so they continue to play nice!