Summer is right around the corner and the pressure is on to look and feel good. Exercises that work more than one muscle at a time, or compound exercises, will help you get the most out of your trips to the gym. But just because these moves may speed up your workouts, the last thing you want to do is put exercise off until the last minute. Instead of overworking yourself in the days before you go on vacation, get an efficient head start for summer with these four compound movements.
Floating Bicep Curl
Muscles targeted: biceps and deltoids (shoulders)
This exercise takes your average bicep curl up a notch by holding your arms up in the air instead of down at your sides. Just by holding your arms up, you are working the shoulder muscles without contracting your muscles or moving your joints; they are holding your arms up in order to facilitate the bicep curl.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and with a slight bend in your knees. (A) With your palms facing the ceiling, bring your arms up and out to your sides, parallel to the ground and keep a slight bend in your elbows so they don’t lock. (B) Keeping your upper arm steady, bend in at the elbow and then back out without fully straightening the arm and while keeping your wrists in alignment with your forearms.
Squat to Standing Bicycle
Muscles targeted: quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and rectus abdominus (abs)
Squats alone work the quads, hamstrings and glutes, so adding in a bicycle works your core and takes this move to the next level.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your weight in your heels and your hands behind your head. (A) Sit low into a squat while maintaining a flat back and ensuring that your knees don’t go past your toes. (B) Upon standing, bring one knee up and crunch one elbow to your opposite knee. Return to standing and repeat, lifting the opposite leg the next time around.
Calf Raise in Plié Squat
Muscles targeted: adductors (inner thighs) and gastrocnemius (calf)
Adding a calf raise into this exercise will not only work the calf muscle, but will increase the intensity of the plié by further lengthening the adductors. Depending on your stability, you may want to hold onto the back of a chair while doing this exercise.
Start in a low squat with your feet wide and your toes pointing outward in the same direction of your knees. Keep your feet wide enough so that when you squat, your knees don’t pass your toes. You’ll want to keep your back flat by tucking your tailbone under your torso, keeping your chest lifted and your core tight. As you come up to standing, rise up onto your toes by lifting both heels off of the ground. To increase the burn, (A) stay low in a squat and (B) just lift and drop the heels without coming to a standing position.
Muscles targeted: rectus abdominus and trapezius (upper back)
The closer your body is to being parallel to the ground, the stronger the force of gravity is against you. Doing rows in a plank will not only activate your core, but will also increase the intensity of your row as you fight gravity to raise your elbow.
Place two weights parallel and shoulder-width apart on the ground in front of you. (A) Assume a plank position with a flat back and with your hands directly under your shoulders, but with your hands gripping the weights as opposed to on the floor. Keep your back flat, your core tight, your butt down and your elbows soft. (B) While keeping your weight centered, slowly raise one arm by driving your elbow up and toward the ceiling. Bring the weight back down and repeat on the other side.