4 Exercise Rules You Need to Break

If you’re following the tenets of fitness as you learned them a decade ago, it’s time to toss those outmoded rules. Start the new year with a new style of training and achieve your goals!

These four simple but powerful moves add new tools and more efficient ways of training to your current routine. They target every major muscle group — legs, back, butt, arms, shoulders and core.

Before starting, perform a dynamic, rhythmic 5-minute warm-up: arm circles, brisk walk or jog, alternating knees lifts, stepping up and down, or marching in place. Then perform one set of the moves in any order you choose. (The reps and/or weight recommendations are given with each.) Repeat two to three times for a quick, but complete workout.

Finish the workout with some gentle stretches for all of muscles, particularly hamstrings, quads and back.

1st Rule You Need to BREAK

Lift only light weights.

Go heavy … and go light.

Lifting heavier weights has proven its value through research, not only as a way to reduce fat, but also as a way to combat lifestyle diseases, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure and Type II diabetes.

Plus, for women especially, strength training maintains bone health. Pushing moderate to heavy weight for as little as 20 minutes twice a week can significantly reduce symptoms and disease risk; lighter weight training doesn’t supply the same result.

Include both types of training and alternate your intensities. During the week, do at least one day of heavy weights with fewer reps (6–8) and one day with lighter weights and higher reps (20–24). Or, get the best of both worlds with a drop set where you start with the heavy weight and then reduce it to finish as shown in the following move.

This style of heavy-to-light training improves both strength and endurance more quickly.

Start with your “heavy” dumbbells. Hold them by your sides, palms facing in. (You’ll need two sets, one heavy, 12–15 pounds or more, and one 5–8 pounds.) Step back with your left foot into a staggered stance.

STEP 1 Bend both knees, lowering hips toward the floor, with right knee aligned with right ankle, left heel lifted.

STEP 2 Pause in the lowest position, then straighten legs. Repeat 10–12 times. Step forward with your left foot so feet are parallel and slightly apart.

STEP 3 Switch to your “light” weight (one you can lift overhead 10 times), holding a single dumbbell on your left shoulder, palm facing in. As you press the dumbbell overhead, step forward with your right foot, bending both knees, left heel lifted.

STEP 4 Step back with your right foot to starting position and lower dumbbell to your shoulder. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs and repeat 10 times.

To progress Increase both weights.

2nd Rule You Need to BREAK

To change your shape, isolation training is best.

Do full-body training.

It’s faster, more efficient and definitely more fun. The flaw in classic body-part-specific exercises — biceps, triceps, back, glutes — is that in real life all those parts are connected, and unless you train that way, you’re not optimizing what your body is capable of. Although multiplanar movement is initially harder to master, it offers the greatest rewards, whether you’re using weights or your own body as resistance, as in the move that follows.


Keeping your core muscles engaged the entire time will give you a full-body workout. Up the challenge by adjusting the angle of your body — the more you lean back, the harder it becomes to lift your own body weight.

Attach a suspension strap securely overhead (doorjamb, tree branch, cable cage). Holding a handle in each hand, step back from the unit until you can stand with arms outstretched in front of you.

STEP 1 Lean back at a 45-degree angle, feet flexed and legs together, arms outstretched.

STEP 2 Contract your upper-back muscles and bend your elbows back toward your torso.

STEP 3 Keep your back engaged and straighten your arms, maintaining the same body angle. Repeat for 10–15 reps.

STEP 4 Bring your body to an erect standing position, still holding the handles with arms extended, and leap on 1 foot side to side for 1 minute. Use the support of the cable to increase both the lateral and vertical depth of the leap.

To progress Do the row standing on 1 leg or get into a steeper incline.

3rd Rule You Need to BREAK

Floor work is the best way to train your abs.

Get off the floor!

If you want a flat midsection and firm hips and thighs, you’ll get better results with some added instability from balance products such as the Xerdisc, BOSU or ChiBolster. Counteracting the constant slight motion of these products will stimulate muscles better than an isolated crunch, plus additional muscles in your legs, hips, back, chest and arms have to kick in as well. The move below uses the oblong, nubby ChiBolster.

Balance tools increase the difficulty of core moves simply by adding instability.

Sitting on the floor, place the ChiBolster behind you. Lie back on it so it’s under the center of your buttocks and spine. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place hands on your hips, elbows on the floor.

STEP 1 Bring your bent right knee in toward your chest to align directly over your right knee, calf parallel to the floor.

STEP 2 Extend your left leg so it hovers above the floor.

STEP 3 Staying balanced on the ChiBolster, with abs engaged, continue to switch leg positions 16–20 times to complete 1 set.

TO PROGRESS Do this same exercise, keeping both legs straight in a scissors move instead of bending 1 knee.


4th Rule You Need to BREAK

stay in the “fat-burning” aerobic zone.

Combine intervals with weight training.

If you’re still trying to “sweat off the fat” with hours of moderate-intensity steady-state cardio, it’s time to switch gears. The secret to weight loss is resistance training combined with cardio intervals.

The best weight-loss program includes three or four days a week of varying intensity cardio and two or three days of strength training. On cardio days, skip the “fat-burning” mode and focus on changing up your intensity: Train hard for short intervals and then recover.

Unlike traditional bodybuilding isolation moves, kettlebells are total-body training.

Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with the kettlebell on the floor slightly behind your feet, arms at your sides.

STEP 1 Sit back on your heels and bend both knees into a squat position as you grasp the kettlebell handle with both hands in an overhand grip, keeping arms and back straight and abs engaged.

STEP 2 Begin to straighten legs out of the squat as you swing the kettlebell back between your legs then out and up in front of your body to about chest height, driving hips forward as you stand erect.

STEP 3 Fluidly squat and repeat the swing motion, keeping the arc of the kettlebell moving from back and behind you to progress up to an arc at forehead level.

TO PROGRESS Once you’ve mastered the two-handed swing, progress to alternating, one-handed swings, changing hands at the bottom with arms straight. Use 8–13 kg to start and master the technique before you increase weight. Do 8–12 swings, depending on weight.

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To see the story as it originally appeared in VIVmag, click here.