Photography by Jennifer Biswas
I long for the day when my workouts aren’t squeezed in between meetings and auditions. Perhaps one day I’ll be one of those Bel-Air women who spend their afternoons in yoga pants, walking their dogs and gossiping with neighbors all day, but until then, my workouts need to be as efficient as possible.
People tend to be surprised when I tell them that I rarely use weights in my fitness routine but, it’s a misconception to think you can’t tone your body without them. On the contrary, the exercises I utilize to maintain core strength and define muscle are simple calisthenics that can be done almost anywhere.
These three maneuvers are my favorite exercises to do whenever I have a spare 10-15 minutes to fit in some “gym time”. Although it may seem like I’m only targeting the gluteus, you are in fact, toning arms and abs as well! I’d like to think of them as ninja techniques because they are swift, effective and relatively painless. Try this routine everyday for at least one week and tell me you don’t see and feel a difference in your body. I bet you can’t!
Exercise 1: SQUATS!
The dreaded squats! Don’t worry, they’re not so bad if you break them up into sets. Start by standing as tall as you can with your feet spread apart about shoulder-width. Then lower your body as far as you can by bending your knees and pushing your hips back. Pause for a moment and then slowly push yourself back to the starting position. If you are already physically active, try doing 4 sets of 25 throughout this routine. If not, begin your first few days by starting with 2 sets of 25 and incrementally adding more throughout the week.
Exercise 2: BACKWARDS LEG EXTENSION
The name sounds more complicated than it is. You can do this while on hands and knees for more stability, or try facing a chair, bend your body at the waist and place your hands flat down near the edge of the seat. Kick your left leg straight back, keeping your foot flexed so it forms a straight line with your torso. Lower your leg back down and repeat. Do an equal number of sets for each leg. I would recommend you start with 25 each and gradually add more throughout the weeks ahead. Be sure you squeeze your glutes and leg muscles during the kicks and use slow, steady movements. When your leg is as stretched back as possible, hold for a few extra seconds and really try to elongate your spine and leg as much as you can. You should be able to feel your abs tightening.
Exercise 3: KNEE TO ELBOW PLANKS
Planking may not be the most exciting exercise but it is a great core strengthening workout. You can try normal planking until you feel more comfortable to step it up to the next level of difficulty. When you’re ready, start in a plank position and bring your right knee in towards your chest, keeping your other foot on the floor to balance. Bring your knee into your chest a total of 25 times and then alternate sides. For advanced people, try doing a push up in between each rep.
**These exercises should be practiced safely and with the correct techniques. If you ever feel pain that does not feel like normal discomfort caused by exercising, stop immediately and make sure you are training accurately so you do not injure yourself. Saftety first!