Free Weights vs. Weight Machines

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In December, I bought myself a year-long membership to my local Planet Fitness gym. If you’ve ever been to a gym, you know they have cardio machines, free weights, and weight machines.

I’ve been going to the gym about 4 days a week, mostly using the cardio machines. I use the free weights and weight machines once in a while, and it got me wondering.

What’s better: free weights or weight machines? So, I’ve done some research, and as usual, I want to share with my readers!

Before I get into the nitty-gritty about the differences in the actual weights, we need to talk about fitness goals. Different fitness goals mean different fitness needs and training.

Structural Goals

These are goals pertaining to the structure of your muscles, like building mass or losing fat. Free weights are the optimal tool for structural goals, but weight machines are a good second choice.

Performance Goals

These are goals that focus on improving the function of your muscles, like training for a competition or sport. Free weights or body weight exercises are best for performance goals.

Now, we can focus on the weights themselves. I’ve used BodyBuilding.com and AWorkoutRoutine.com for the following information.

Free Weights

  • More versatile for different exercise moves
  • Stimulate the total body
  • Help your balance and core strength
  • You can train anywhere, even at home
  • Allow for natural movement
  • Use additional muscle groups, not just the one you’re targeting

Weight Machines

  • Can target a specific muscle group
  • Can isolate one muscle
  • Are easier and quicker to learn for beginners
  • Have less potential for injury
  • No spotter needed
  • You can lift heavier without as much risk of injury
  • Good for bodybuilders to use after a free weight workout

From my own personal experience, I feel like free weights give me a better, harder, more effective workout than weight machines. When I do a free weight routine, everything is tired, and I even get a really good cardio workout. I feel like I get more done in the same amount of time.

However, I do like the machines when I want to try squatting with a really heavy weight. I can’t squat much with free weights because I don’t have the upper body or back strength to hold a barbell that weighs more than I do. But with a machine, I can easily attempt squatting more than my bodyweight without the fear of hurting myself. The machines are also quicker and easier for adjusting the amount of weight.

Overall, I’d say it really depends on personal preference, fitness goals, weight lifting ability, and overall strength. Let me know in the comments whether you prefer weight machines or free weights!

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Wake Up and Smell the Workout: Exercise Schedule

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If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time figuring out your workout schedule for the week/month. There is so much conflicting information out there. I’ve read that you should workout at night, that you should workout in the morning, that you should do an hour of cardio each day, that you should do 30 minutes of cardio per day, that you shouldn’t workout if you’re sore, that you should do yoga if you’re sore, that you should lift weight before cardio, that you should lift weight after cardio, you get the point… enough with all this information!

I’m not an expert or anything, but after years of working out with different types of exercises and different lengths of sessions, I think I’ve finally figured out a good workout schedule for myself. I’m not going to say it’s best for everyone, but it is what works for me. I like to do different types of cardio, weight/strength training, and pilates.

I always like seeing how others set up their workout routines and schedules, so I thought it might be helpful for all of you to read about mine!

I workout 5 days a week, Monday through Friday. I let myself have weekends off, so I can rest and have some fun!

I workout whatever time of day I can. If I have time in the morning, I get up early. If I have time at night, I do it then. I don’t think the time of day you exercise matters; it’s whatever works best for you.

I typically exercise for 1 to 1 and a half hours per day, depending on how I’m feeling or how much time I have.

I usually do 30-40 minutes of cardio each day, alternating between HIITs (high intensity interval training) and running on the elliptical machine.

My routine is separated into 2 lower body days (1 day of weights and 1 day of pilates), 2 core training days (pilates for abs, 1 day of weights for back, and one day of pilates for back), and 1 upper body day (half with weights and half pilates). I only do one upper body day because I started getting really bulky shoulders/arms, so I decided to cut back.

I use FitnessBlender.com videos for all my weight training and HIITs and Blogilates.com for all my pilates workout videos. I also use the elliptical machine in the gym here on my college campus. I have free weights in my room: a set of 2 pounds, a set of 5 pounds, a set of 10 pounds, a set of 15 pounds, ankle weights that go up to 5 pounds, exercise bands, and a 1/2″ thick exercise mat.

So here’s my weekly routine!

Monday 

  • Cardio: HIITs  30-40 minutes
  • Weights: Legs & Glutes 30-40 minutes

Tuesday

  • Cardio: Elliptical 30-45 minutes
  • Weights: Back 10 minutes
  • Pilates: Abs 20-25 minutes

Wednesday

  • Cardio: HIITs 30-40 minutes
  • Weights: Upper Body 15 minutes
  • Pilates: Upper Body 15 minutes

Thursday

  • Cardio: Elliptical 30-45 minutes
  • Pilates: Lower Body 30-40 minutes

Friday

  • Cardio: HIITs 30-40 minutes
  • Pilates: Abs 20-25 minutes
  • Pilates: Back 10 minutes

Again, this is just what works best for me. Everyone is different, so I encourage you to experiment with different routines until you find one that works for you! I hope this helps you get some ideas of what you can do to spruce up your workout schedule!

How to Get Rid of That Stubborn Lower Belly Flab

belly flab

That darn lower belly flab. I hate it. I’m sure everyone does, but it’s sooooooo hard to get rid of it! I’ve been trying forever to get rid of it, but nothing seems to work. Lots of things have helped, but nothing seems to do the trick to vanish it completely.

I can’t be the only one with this problem. Lots of fitness equipment is aimed at reducing belly flab. Many diets target people who want to lose their tummies. Tons of workout programs have specific ab moves focusing on the lower abs.

So, are you a victim of this lower belly pooch (as some people call it) like I am? Before I dive right into my tips to help reduce your lower belly flab, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

You can’t spot-reduce fat. Doing tons of ab exercises alone will not get rid of belly fat; it will just strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles. Strengthening and toning your abs is a great thing! But if you don’t burn the fat on top, no one will see your defined abs.

Genetics play a role in where your fat accumulates. No matter how much you watch what you eat, how long you workout, or how hard your ab workouts are, some body types will hang onto fat. Depending on your genes, you might have a slower metabolism, hormonal causes of weight gain, or a predisposition to having belly fat.

In order to call your fat stubborn, you must already have achieved a high level of physical fitness. Not to be rude or insulting to anyone, but if you’re not in shape at all or you have a high body fat percentage, your fat isn’t stubborn; it’s just part of your body. If you’ve already achieved a low body fat percentage and you still have a spot hanging onto fat, it’s a stubborn problem area.

Now that you’ve got the facts, let’s look at some tips that have helped me reduce my lower belly pouch. (I can’t say it’s gone, but it’s smaller than it used to be)

Reduce your overall body fat percentage. You need to lose fat everywhere, since spot-reduction isn’t possible. If you lose enough fat, your body will tap into your reserves, which might include your belly!

Do cardio. Cardio burns the most calories, and you need a calorie deficit to lose weight and lose fat. Most sources say you need 30 minutes of cardio at least 3 days a week, but I do at least 30 minutes every single day.

Lift weights. Strength training and weight lifting build muscle. Muscle burns calories, even when you’re doing nothing. This can help speed up your metabolism, burning more fat.

Eat clean. I’m sure this one’s obvious, but you need to eat as healthy and clean as possible. Avoid all alcohol, sugar, and refined carbs. Eat more fiber, fruits, veggies, and lean protein. Make sure you’re drinking enough water.

Tone your abs. Even though you can’t spot reduce, you can still tone up your ab muscles so they will look defined when the fat comes off. Not only should you do moves for your lower abs, but also your entire core. Work your upper abs, middle abs, lower abs, transverse abs, and obliques. Pilates seem to be the most effective ab workouts for me. Check out my favorite (and challenging) ab workout video below!

 

Sit with good posture. Sitting up straight will not only make you look taller and leaner, but it will also strengthen and tone your core. Plus, slouching isn’t pretty anyway…

Avoid eating foods that cause gas or bloating. If you know you’re going to be wearing a swimsuit or tank top that shows off your abs, avoid eating foods like salt, carbonated beverages, or too many raw vegetables.

Stretch your hip flexors. This is my favorite! It’s probably the easiest tip of all. Sometimes, lower belly flab looks worse than it really is because tight hip flexors make the lower abdomen protrude forward. This accentuates any fat in the lower belly, but it’s a really easy fix if you loosen your hip flexors! Check out this picture below:

tight hip flexors

For some good hip stretches, check out these 6 stretches for tight hips.

Hopefully these tips help you on your journey to losing your stubborn lower belly. No matter what, just remember, whether or not you lose your lower belly, you’re beautiful and healthy, and that’s all that matters!

Tickets to the Gun Show: Biceps & Triceps Workout

Summer is finally here! It’s time to show off your arms in tank tops, swimsuits, and strapless sundresses! Need to do a quick tone-up to make sure your arms are ready for some attention? No problem; here are 8 exercises to tone up those biceps and triceps to make sure you look fabulous this season. Everyone will want tickets to your gun show! Do each move as directed, and repeat this circuit two or three times to get great results! All you will need is a set of dumbbells (or a couple sets of different weight) and an optional chair and mat.

Triceps

Move #1: Dips

For this move, you can use a chair, or just do the move on the ground. I recommend using a chair to make sure you have proper form. Begin seated on the chair with your palms on the seat next to your legs. Your fingers should be pointing forward, curling under the seat. Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle. Lock your elbows and straighten your arms as you shift your weight onto your feet. Walk your feet out away from the chair to keep your knees at a right angle. Bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle, dropping your glutes below the seat of the chair. Then, use your triceps to pull yourself back up, straightening your arms. Do 20 dips. To make this more challenging, fully extend your legs, resting all your weight on your heels.

Move #2: Kick Backs

Hold one dumbbell in each hand. With feet hip width apart, bend at the waist as far as possible, but not past 90 degrees. Keep your elbows tucked in at your sides, and extend your arms completely straight. Then, return the arms to the bent position. Do 15 reps.

Move #3: Extensions

Hold either one light dumbbell in each hand, or hold one heavy dumbbell with both hands. In a standing position, extend your arms straight overhead. Carefully bend your elbows, lowering the dumbbell behind your head. Keep your elbows steady, and straighten your arms back overhead for one rep. Do 15 extensions.

Move #4: Push-ups

Get into a regular push-up position. Then, move your hands close together, making a triangle with your pointer fingers and thumbs. Bend your elbows and keep your core tight as you lower down and come back up. You might want to do these push-ups on your knees since they will be more difficult. Do 10 push-ups.

Biceps

Move #5: Traditional Curls

Hold a medium weight dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides. Your palms should be facing forward. Keep your elbows pulled in close to your rib cage. Slowly bend your elbows, bringing the dumbbells up to your shoulders, and lower them back down to starting position. Do 20 curls.

Move #6: Hammer Curls

This move is just like a traditional curl, except when holding the dumbbells at your sides, your thumbs should be facing forward with your palms facing your outer thighs. Do 20 curls.

Move #7: Wide Grip Curls

This move is almost like a traditional curl as well. Hold the dumbbells at your sides, but turn your palms facing outward from each side. Your arms will curl from the sides of your body, working the inner head of your bicep, so it might be more difficult. Do 20 curls.

Move #8: Servers

This move will look like you are serving a tray to someone. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows to 90 degree angles. Slowly push the dumbbells forward, straightening your arm to shoulder level (parallel to the floor). Then, release and return to the bent elbow position. Do 15 servers.

I hope you enjoy this workout! Don’t forget to flex for friends anytime you have a chance. Not only do you get a little bonus workout every time you flex, but you get to show off all your hard work! Flexing is one of my favorite hobbies, along with selling tickets to the gun show!

6 Stretches for Tight Hips

I’ll admit it: I don’t stretch as often as I should. At most, I stretch maybe twice a week. After a hard workout, I never feel like stretching. I noticed after weeks of running, doing  high intensity interval training, lifting weights, sitting in class, and being on my feet at work that my hips became so tight! I felt like an old lady getting up from my desk, and I could barely do some stretches without experiencing pain. Sound familiar?

I decided I better do some serious hip stretching to keep my body healthy. If you’re in need of a good hip stretch, this is for you! The following 6 stretches will make you more relaxed, loosen your hips, and feel oh so good after a long run. So grab a mat, and stretch it out!

Stretch #1: Pigeon

Begin kneeling, and extend one leg behind you. Drop the other glute to the floor, keeping the leg bent. If you can, lean your torso over your bent knee, keeping your extended leg on the floor behind you. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.

Stretch #2: Hip Flexor Kneel

Begin on your knees. Bring one foot out in front of you to a 90 degree angle. Lean your torso slightly forward and down, keeping your back foot, shin, and knee on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch legs.

Stretch #3: Kneeling Straddle

This one is my favorite stretch ever! It’s difficult unless you’re some super flexible contortionist, so don’t overdo it. Begin on your knees. Widen them as far as you can without feeling pain. Then, slowly drop your glutes as far down to the ground as you can. It will be somewhat painful, so you might not be able to go down very far at first. Hold for 30 seconds if possible.

Stretch #4: Butterfly

Begin in a seated position. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, pulling them as close to your groin as possible. Try to get your knees close to the floor (or touching it) while keeping your feet close to your body. Hold for 30 seconds.

Stretch #5: Baby Pose

This stretch sometimes hurts, so be careful! Begin lying on your back. Bend your legs and bring them up to your torso. Keep them bent at a 90 degree angle (the bottoms of your feet will be parallel with the ceiling). Grab the sole of your right foot with your right hand, and grab the sole of your left foot with your left hand. Widen your knees, bringing them on each side of your torso. Gently pull down with your hands, moving the knees slightly toward the ground. Hold for 30 seconds.

Stretch #6: Kneeling Bridge

Not only is this stretch great for your hips, but also your lower abs. Begin kneeling, and slowly lean your torso back, tilting your face up to the ceiling. Let your arms hang naturally at your sides. Keep leaning back until you are able to reach your heels with your hands. Hold for 30 seconds.

How to Get a Beach-Worthy Booty

Summer is only a couple months away! You have probably picked out your swimsuit, and you are ready to show it off at the beach when you get the chance. But wait… is your booty ready to be shown off to all the other beach-goers?  Just to be sure you have a beach-worthy booty, try these 10 easy moves! All these moves can be done without equipment, but you might want a mat for comfort or weights to make these moves more challenging.

Move #1: Bridge

Begin lying on your back with your legs bent, heels about a foot away from your butt. Lift your torso up off the mat, and squeeze your glutes together. Release and bring your torso down, but do not rest! That is one rep. Repeat 30 times. To make it more difficult, place a heavy dumbbell on your waist to increase the resistance.

Move #2: Grasshopper

Begin lying on your stomach, resting your chin on your hands in front of you. Bend your knees up and touch your toes together, spreading your knees out wide. Lift your knees off the mat as high as you can, while keeping your neck relaxed. Repeat 15 times. To make it more difficult, try wearing ankle weights while you do this move.

Move #3: Hamstring Curls

Begin on your hands and knees. Lift your left leg off the mat to hip level, keeping your knee at a right angle. Extend your leg out straight, and then bend it back to the right angle. Do not let your knee drop lower than hip height. Repeat this move 20 times, and then repeat with your right leg. Again, wearing ankle weights will make this move more challenging.

Move #4: Fire Hydrants

On your hands and knees, lift your left leg out to the side to hip height, keeping the knee at a right angle. Squeeze your glutes as you lift, and then relax and drop it back to starting. Repeat 20 times, and then repeat with your right leg. Use ankle weights to make it harder.

Move #5: Extended Leg Pulse

On your hands and knees, extend your left leg straight out behind you at hip height. Squeeze your buns, and pulse upward about six inches. Keep pulsing for 30 seconds, and then repeat with your right leg. Wearing ankle weights makes this move very difficult.

Move #6: Knee Circles

On your hands and knees, lift your left leg to the side at a right angle. Make circles in the air with your knee as big as you can. Do 10 circles, and then switch directions. Repeat 10 circles in each direction with your right leg. To make this more challenging, hold a dumbbell in your knee, but be careful not to drop it on yourself.

Move #7: Single Leg Bridge

Get back into bridge position, but this time lift your right leg straight up in to the air. Do 20 reps, leaving your leg up. Then repeat with your left leg in the air for 20 reps.

Move #8: Fire Hydrant Kick Outs

On your hands and knees, do a regular fire hydrant move with your left leg, but this time extend your leg out straight. Then, bend your knee back to a regular fire hydrant and release. Repeat 10 kick outs on your left leg, and then repeat on the right.

Move #9: Extended Leg Heel Clicks

Lie down on your stomach with your chin rested on your hands and your legs extended out straight behind you. Lift your legs off the ground (just a few inches), and keep your neck relaxed. Bring your legs out about two feet and then squeeze them back together, clicking your heels. Do not let your legs rest on the ground at all during this move. Repeat 20 times. For an extra challenge, wear ankle weights during this move.

Move #10: Side Leg Raise Extensions

Begin lying on your right side with your hips and legs bent in front of you at 90 degree angles. Keeping your torso and hips facing forward, lift your left leg up, extend it into the air, lower it toward the ground, and then bend it back to a right angle. Do not let your left leg rest on your right leg during this move. Repeat 10 times, and then flip over and repeat with your right leg. Try wearing ankle weights for extra resistance.

Apartment-Friendly Cardio

Living in an apartment can mean not having the freedom to jump and run around, especially if you don’t live on the first floor. Many at-home cardio routines involve jumping and high-impact moves that can annoy your neighbors living beneath you. Here are 10 cardio exercises that are low-impact and quiet, so you can work out anytime, anywhere without disturbing your neighbors. Do each move for 50 seconds; rest for 10 seconds between each move, and then repeat the circuit 3 times for a 30 minute workout.

Move #1: Hover-Jacks

In a plank position (palms under shoulders and legs extended), jack the feet out then in and repeat over and over until you have reached 50 seconds. Focus on holding your abs in and landing your toes quietly.

Move #2: Speed Skater

Begin standing with most of your weight resting on your left leg with just your right toes touching the floor. Jump up and over to your right, landing on your right leg with the left toes touching the floor. Jump back and forth, landing softly. To make it more challenging, do not let the toes of your opposite foot touch the floor; keep your leg bent and in the air.

Move #3: Punches

Stand with your legs wider than hip-width, legs slightly bent. Punch forward with your left arm and right arm, alternating as fast as you can. Be careful not to hurt your elbows, but punch with some power!

Move #4: Squats

Begin with legs hip-width apart, just like a normal squat. Go up and down in squat position, moving more quickly than you would if you were using weights. If you want to challenge yourself, hold a heavy dumbbell with both hands at chest level while doing these squats.

Move #5: Runner’s Lunges

Begin in a standing position with legs hip-width apart. Lunge the left leg back and touch your left hand to the ground. Using your right leg, jump up and bring the left knee to the chest and lift your left hand to the ceiling. Without returning to starting position, bring the left leg back again, and keep repeating for 25 seconds. For the remaining 25 seconds, bring the right leg back instead.

Move #6: Mountain Climbers

Begin in plank position. Bring the left knee into the chest, and then extend it back out to starting position. Repeat, bringing the right leg to the chest. Alternate back and forth as fast as you can.

Move #7: Hip Kicks

Begin standing with legs under the hips. Bring your left leg up, and kick it out using all your muscles. Bring the leg back down, and repeat with the right leg. Alternate back and forth, being powerful and forceful the entire 50 seconds.

Move #8: Lunges

Get into a lunge position with the left leg out front at a 90 degree angle and the right leg behind you at a 90 degree angle. Staying in this lunge position, lift up and down, keeping the weight on your left leg for 25 seconds. For the remaining 25 seconds, put the right leg out front and the left leg in back.

Move #9: Basketball Jumps

Standing with feet together, squat down and jump up, lifting your hands and arms overhead like you are shooting a basketball. Land softly and quietly to keep this move from being too noisy. It is also better for your knees to land gently. Keep shooting that basketball or the entire 50 seconds.

Move #10: Plank Leg Swings

Begin in plank position. Swing your left leg out to the side and back together. Then swing your right leg out and bring it back in. Go fast enough to make it like a little jump in between each swing. Keep repeating until time is up.

10 Exercises to Make You Sore Tomorrow

So your workout has gotten boring, and your body has gotten used to it? You do not feel a burn anymore, and you are just going through the motions of your typical workout routine? If you are ready for a challenging workout, look no further! Here are 10 moves that will make your muscles sore, get your heart pumping, and get you sweating. For an extreme workout that will have you struggling to get out of bed tomorrow, repeat this circuit three times total.

Move #1: Duck Squats

Standing with legs hip-width apart, squat down to the floor. Only come halfway up, keeping legs parallel to the ground. Do not come all the way up to a standing position! Repeat 15 times.

Move #2: Advanced Plank into Advanced Side Plank

Begin in a regular plank position with hands under the shoulders and legs extended. Reach the right hand out and extend the left leg simultaneously; hold for three seconds. Keeping the right hand lifted, place the left foot down, and turn into a side plank. Extend the right leg straight up in the air, and hold for three seconds. Repeat five times and do the same extending your left hand.

Move #3: Chest Fly in Bridge

For this move, you will need two dumbbells of a challenging weight. Begin lying on your back, with legs bent and heels under the knees. Hold one dumbbell in each hand. Lift your butt off the ground, and raise into a bridge position. Then, lift both weights directly over the chest, keeping elbows slightly bent. Remain in bridge position the entire time while bringing the weights out, parallel to the ground, and back above the chest. Repeat 20 times. To make this move even more difficult, try lifting the right leg into the air for ten reps, and then lift the left leg into the air for the last 10.

Move #4: Split Lunge Jumps

Begin in a regular lunge position, with both legs bent at 90 degree angles. Jump up, and switch the legs in the air. Land in a lunge position again, but with the opposite leg in front. As quickly as possible, jump and lunge for 20 repetitions.

Move #5: V Sit-Ups

For this move, you will need one dumbbell of medium weight. Begin lying on your back with legs extended. Extend your arms overhead, holding the ends of the dumbbell with each hand. Simultaneously, bring your legs and arms up, folding into a V, then return to starting position. Repeat 15 times.

Move #6: Wall Sits

Find a wall with some space in front of it. Position yourself with your legs at 90 degree angles and your back flat against the wall (like you are sitting in a chair). Hold for one minute to five minutes, depending on your ability.

Move #7: Windmill Abs

Begin in a sitting position, and slowly lower your torso down, resting your forearms on the floor behind you. It will look like you are sitting on the beach. Leave your legs extended outward, and lift them about an inch off the floor. Then, keep your legs together, and move them in a big circle going clockwise. Do 20 circles, then switch and go counterclockwise for 20 circles.

Move #8: Grasshopper

Begin lying on your stomach with your head and neck relaxed. Bend your legs behind you and bring the knees out as wide as you can, keeping the feet together. Tighten your gluteals, and lift your knees off the ground. Then, lower your knees back down to the floor for one rep. Repeat 20 times.

Move #9: Triceps Kickback in Plank

You will need one medium weight for this move. Begin in a plank position. Pick up the dumbbell with your right hand, stabilizing your weight with your left arm. Pull your right elbow up to your rib cage  Do not let the elbow flare away from the body. Extend the weight backward, and then pull it back in for one rep. Do 20 kickbacks, and then repeat 20 more on the left side.

Move #10: Single-Legged Squats

These can be done with or without weights. Begin in a standing position with legs hip width apart. Extend the arms out straight in front of you for balance. Keeping the left leg extended out in front of you, squat down on your right leg, and return to standing. Do 15 on each leg.

Small Space Shape Up: Legs

Here are 10 moves that are sure to tone up your legs! They take up little space, so you can do them anywhere: in your dorm room, in the office, or even in your closet. To make these moves more difficult, add resistance using weights or resistance bands if you have them. If you do not have any exercise equipment, try using cans of soup, heavy text books, or cases of pop. (But be careful!) Do this circuit twice, and you will have shapely thighs, hamstrings, calves, ankles, and a perky booty!

Move #1: Regular Squat

Stand with legs shoulder-width apart and knees directly over the heels. Bend and squat down to a sitting position, careful to keep the knees over the heels throughout the move. Keep the back and shoulders upright to protect your lower back. If using weights, place them on the shoulders, holding them for the entire move. Do 20 reps.

Move #2: Lunges

Begin standing with legs hip-width apart. Bring the left leg forward, and bend down to a 90 degree angle, keeping your knee behind your toes. Both legs should be bent at 90 degree angles. Repeat with the right leg. If using weights, hold them to your sides in each hand, or hold them on your shoulders. Do 10 each leg.

Move #3: Duck Squats (These will kill your quads!)

Start with feet about hip-width apart. Squat all the way down to the floor (or as low as you can). Come up halfway, but do not return to a standing position! Legs should remain at a 90 degree angle at the top of the move. Squat back down to the floor for the next rep. Weights are not needed to feel a deep burn, but if you want a challenge, go for it! Do 10 times.

Move #4: Curtsy Squats

From a standing position, bring your left leg behind you into a 90 degree angle. Bring the left foot behind the right knee, so both feet are in a straight line. Return to start, and repeat on the other side, bringing the right knee behind the left foot. Again, hold the weights at the sides or on the shoulders. Repeat 10 times on each leg.

Move #5: Calf Raises

Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lift up onto the toes, and hold for a couple seconds. Then return to the starting position. Weights will help make this exercise more difficult. Repeat 30 times.

Move #6: Side Lunges

Begin in a standing position. Step out wide with the left leg and squat down, keeping the back upright and the knee over the heel. Return to standing. Then, repeat with the right leg. If using weights, hold them on your shoulders. Do 10 each leg.

Move #7: Number Four Squats

While standing, place the left ankle on the right knee, in the shape of a ‘4.’ Then squat down (with left ankle still on the right knee). Return to standing position. Do 10 with the left leg lifted, and then repeat 10 reps with the right leg lifted. Since this is a single-legged squat, weights are not needed for this move to be challenging, but if you want even more of a burn, hold one weight with both hands in front of your chest.

Move #8: Plié Squats

Stand in a wide stance with the toes pointed outward. Squat down, keeping the toes pointed out to focus on the inner thigh. If using weights, hold them on your shoulders. For an extra challenge, do this move with your heels lifted off the ground. Repeat this move 20 times.

Move #9: Dead Lifts

This exercise is best when done with weights, but it is still a good move if you do not have any. Hold a weight in each hand with arms extended in front of your torso. With legs slightly wider than hip-width apart, reach down, bringing your weights (or hands) toward the floor. Keep your back straight, abs tight, and knees slightly bent to protect your back. Then, stand up to starting position. Repeat 15 times.

Move #10: Y-Squat

Just like the first move of this series, get into a squat position. Instead of holding weights, bring both arms above the head, and extend them into a Y shape. This will also work your core. Keeping the arms overhead, lower into a squat, and return to starting position. Repeat 20 times.

Small Space Shape Up: Abs

Now that the warm weather is finally here, it has never been a better time to start a new fitness plan! If you’re ready to put on a bikini this summer, you’ll need to work those abs. There’s no need to pay for a gym membership when there are so many effective moves to do at home. Having limited space is no excuse. Here are 10 exercises that take almost no space. So clear out a closet, push your desk chair to the side, or sit on your bed, and get ready to work your abs to get that six pack!

Move #1: Plank

With the body elongated, core tight, and legs extended, lift up onto the toes, with either the forearms (for beginners) or the palms (advanced) under the shoulders. Hold for one minute.

Move #2: Advanced Plank

Get into regular plank position. Then, lift your left hand and your right leg, extending into the air. Hold for three seconds, and release. Repeat with the right hand and the left leg. Do 10 each side.

Move #3: Leg Raises

Lying on your back, lift both legs straight into the air above the hips. Slowly lower the legs to the ground (or as far as possible), then lift them back to starting position. Repeat 15 times.

Move #4: Russian Twists

Start sitting with legs bent in front of you. Lift your heels off the floor, keeping the torso upright. Hold hands together and tap the floor to the right, then to the left, twisting as far as you can. Repeat 20 times, keeping the feet off the ground.

Move #5: Side Plank

Begin lying on your right side. Lift onto your right palm and right foot, and extend the left arm into the air. Hold for one minute; repeat on the left side.

Move #6: Single Leg Jack Knives

Start lying on your back with legs straight out. Slowly lift your left leg up while reaching the right arm to the toes. Repeat with the right leg and left arm. Do 10 each side.

Move #7: Toe Touches

Lying on your back, lift your legs into the air at a 90 degree angle. Crunch up, and touch your fingers to your toes, then release. Repeat 20 times.

Move #8: Spider-Mans

Begin in a plank position on the palms. Bring your left knee to your left elbow; then return to starting position. Repeat the move, bringing the right knee to the right elbow. Do 10 each side.

Move #9: V-Sit Ups

Start lying flat on your back with legs fully extended. Simultaneously, bring the torso and legs off the ground, holding at a 45 degree angle. Then, return to starting position. Repeat 10 times.

Move #10: Bicycle Crunch

Lie on the back with hands behind the head. Crunch up, bringing the left shoulder to the right knee. Keep the shoulders and upper back off the ground. Keep the left leg extended, but lifted off the floor. Repeat, bringing the right shoulder to the left knee. Do 10 each side.