If you're sticking to the same old workout routine, you might be neglecting important muscles. The result? Muscle imbalances, which can make you look shorter and less confident than you really are! Even worse, these imbalances can lead to injuries, muscle tightness, and uncomfortable pain. Keep your body functioning well — and look your most gorgeous, confident best — by incorporating these exercises that fix body imbalances into your strength-training routine.
This basic move is essential for correcting posture and imbalances that could slow you down as years go on. "The deadlift is a must-have skill to keep your independence," says Tim Rich, a personal training manager at Crunch. "Proper loading of the spinal column will keep you active and mobile in the later years. You will always have to pick things up for the rest of your life."
- Stand, holding two dumbbells (or a barbell) in front of your thighs with knuckles pointed outward, keeping your arms straight and knees slightly bent.
- Slowly bend at your hip joint, not your waist, and lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back, which should remain straight. Make sure you keep your spine neutral with a natural, low back arch and shoulders down. Looking forward, not at the ground, will help you avoid rounding your back.
- Keep the weights or barbell close to your legs, almost touching them.
- Squeeze your glutes to pull yourself up at a quicker pace than it took to bend down (for example, beginners may want to take four seconds to bend down and two seconds to pull up). Don't use your back, and do not round your spine.
- Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps.
This functional move can be performed with weights, a medicine ball, or the cable pulley machine. It's an amazing way to work your entire body, especially your side core muscles, the obliques. Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson loves the wood chop, since it works many different muscles at once. "I don't do that many isolation movements, like single-joint stuff," Gunnar says. "I do bigger movements." He suggests you try this exercise with a rear or side lunge (see below).
To do the wood chop with the cable pulley machine:
- Attach the double rope handle onto the cable. Set the weight to 15 pounds.
- Stand with your left side toward the machine, about two feet from the machine. Grab the handle, and open your feet to a stable and wide stance.
- Exhale, pull abs to spine, and rotate torso to pull cable down to the outside of your right knee while simultaneously bending it. Imagine you're swinging an axe across your body.
- Keep your arms straight, and do not round your back.
- Reverse the motion, controlling the weight on the cable as you return to the starting position. This completes one rep.
- Do 10 reps on each side for three sets.
Lateral lunges help improve your balance and work neglected lower-body muscles while still targeting the major ones. They are also easier on your knees than traditional squats and lunges. If you are doing this move together with the wood chop, lunge to the side as you are pulling the cable down to the outside of your knee.
- Holding a five- to 10-pound dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet and knees together, hands on your hips.
- Take a large step with your right foot to the right side, and lunge toward the floor.
- Make sure your right knee does not extend past your toes, and keep your left leg relatively straight.
- Push off through your right foot to return to the start to complete one side lunge.
- Do three sets of 10 on each side.
Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak uses this simple exercise to help untrain a lifetime of imbalances created from sitting at your desk all day or doing traditional exercises like crunches. "If everyone really focused more on the muscles behind their body rather than the front, people would look a lot better," Harley says. "They would have a longer midsection, they'd have [fewer] injuries, better posture, [and] a natural boob lift."
- Lie facedown on your stomach with arms and legs extended. Keep your neck in a neutral position by looking at the ground in front of you without straining.
- Keeping your arms and legs straight (but not locked) and torso stationary, simultaneously lift your arms and legs up toward the ceiling to form an elongated "U" shape with your body, with your back arched and arms and legs several inches off the floor.
- Hold for two to five seconds, and lower back down to complete one rep.
- Do three sets of 12.
The classic bridge targets the abs and butt while opening up the chest, which can need a stretch if you spend a lot of time at a desk.
- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted on the floor, hip-distance apart.
- As you contract your ab and butt muscles, push your pelvis upward, away from the floor. Keep your ribs aligned with your pelvis, and make sure your knees are directly above your heels.
- Lower your hips and pelvis to just above the floor, and pause.
- This completes one rep. Raise your hips back to the high position and repeat. Do three sets of 10.
Another back-strengthening exercise to help you stand tall, the tipping row also helps tone triceps, work your core, and challenge your balance. Rowing moves are important, especially if you've been doing too many push-ups and have tight pecs, which round your shoulders and can lead to injury. Add this move to your arsenal, and you'll be working your entire body while focusing on your posterior muscles — from your hamstrings and butt to your upper back.
- Start by grabbing a set of five- to eight-pound dumbbells and standing with your feet hip-width apart, holding the dumbbells by your side. Lift one leg back and tip your torso forward, so you are balancing on the opposite leg.
- Once your body is parallel to the floor, your arms should be straight, facing the floor. Move your arms in a rowing motion by bending your elbows and pulling them back, pushing your shoulder blades together.
- Complete the row by extending your arms back down to the floor. Come back to standing position.
- Do two to three sets of 10 on each leg.