Ask celebrity trainer and Lift to Get Lean author Holly Perkins what the very best move is to strengthen and tone your arms, legs, butt, or [insert your trouble zone here], and she'll respond honestly: there's no single "best" exercise for any part of your body. Instead, she insists that every strength-training exercise can work your entire body; you just have to set up correctly. Utilize Holly's five-step checklist to build every move from the ground up and achieve the results you're after. I worked out with Holly last weekend as part of Westin Wellness Escapes, and I definitely felt the difference — I've still got the sore muscles to prove it! Whether you love to lift dumbbells, swing kettlebells, work weight machines, or use your body's weight, these minor changes will have a big impact on your strength-training results.
- Pull up your arches: According to Holly, it's essential to set a strong foundation for every single move, starting from the ground up. Plant your feet into the floor and actively lift your arches while anchoring your heels and toes into the floor. Ever so slightly roll the outside edges of your feet down toward the ground in order to root down; yoga-lovers can imagine they're setting up Mountain Pose.
- Press your knees out: It's important to keep your legs safe, strong, and activated, and pressing your knees out makes all the above happen. Straighten your legs and imagine your knees are pulling out and away from each other. It's a very small shift, so if you think you look like a frog, reel your knees back in.
- Squeeze that booty: When you activate your glute muscles, the pelvis comes forward and untucks, so you're able to power through every move with more energy. When in doubt, squeeze your booty! Whenever a move feels so challenging that I can't move on, I check to see if I'm engaging my tush. Nine times out of 10, this is the shift I need to finish a set strong.
- Brace your core: Every rep requires engaged abs. Activating your abs allows the pelvis and rib cage to come down and locks your pelvis in the perfect position. If you're not sure what an engaged belly feels like, Holly says it should feel like someone is about to hit you in the stomach. You want to feel this tightening in your abs with every new rep.
- Anchor your shoulders back and down: Pull your shoulders up toward your ears, and then roll them back and down your spine. This activates your back and anchors the muscles around the bottom rim of your shoulder blades. When you make this shift, you'll engage all the muscles in your back instead of only building up the muscles around your neck.