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5 complex exercises that will give you a full-body workout

'Work smarter, not harder' applies to your fitness routine, too. Case in point: This 10-minute workout that hits every major muscle group.
Image: music-workout-sneakers-phone-stock
Keep sneakers, headphones and workout clothes stashed in places you frequent, like the car or the office, so you're always prepared to squeeze in a workout.Africa Studio / Shutterstock / Africa Studio

Has your gym routine gotten a little stale or perhaps dropped off the calendar altogether? It can be difficult to get back in the groove of a consistent fitness routine in the fall. Somehow, hour-long sessions at the gym just aren’t as appealing as the impromptu jogs on the beach and Sunday yoga in the park of summer days past.

The good news? We don’t have to dive right into gym mode (especially since the weather is still nice enough for outdoor workouts!). Thanks to Stephanie Mansour, personal trainer and CEO of Step It Up with Steph, we can start to slowly incorporate strength training back into our fitness routine (anywhere, anytime) with just a few minutes each day.

The first step? Be prepared to get a workout in whenever and wherever you find yourself with some spare time. Mansour urges people to stash gym bags where they find themselves most often — which may mean investing in two pairs of sneakers and a few new workout outfits.

“If you go to an office every day, have [a gym bag] in your desk, if you’re in the car a lot, have one in your car…[anywhere] where you spend a lot of time for when you need to grab it on the go,” she says. In each bag include: workout pants/shorts, a tank or tee, sports bra for women, a dedicated pair of gym shoes and headphones. (“Research shows you work out harder, faster and longer if you listen to music, so always have an extra pair of headphones,” she adds).

With your gear on hand, you can squeeze in this 10-minute workout whenever some time frees up in your schedule. Think 10 minutes isn’t enough? Science says otherwise. One study showed that bursts of intense exercise within a 10-minute routine could improve insulin sensitivity (lowering your blood sugar) and cardiometabolic health as well as a 50-minute workout. Plus, “these [moves] are two-fers or three-fers: two or three for the price of one,” says Mansour. “Since they work multiple muscles groups at the same time they are called complex exercises; you’re getting your biggest bang for your workout buck.”

Whether you’re pressed for time, just getting back into a fitness routine or simply looking for some new moves, these exercises work double duty and hit every major muscle group in 10 minutes flat.

Wide-leg squat with arm extension

Equipment: two 3- or 5- lb dumbbells (for beginners)

How-to: Start with your feet open wider than your hips, and turn your toes out to the sides. Pull your abs in, and then bend your knees. Track your knees over your second toes as you lower down into the wide leg open toe squat. Then, stand back up by pressing down through your heels to come up. While lowering down into the squat, hold the dumbbells by your sides and then raise them up out to the sides just as high as your shoulders. As you stand up from the squat, lower the weights back down to your sides. Repeat 10 times, for 3 sets total.

Basic squat with bicep curl and overhead press

Equipment: dumbbells

How-to: Start with your feet a little bit wider than your hips. To go into the squat, reach your booty back as if you’re sitting in a chair. Bend your knees so that your knees do not track forward past your ankles. Press your heels into the ground to stand back up and engage your hamstrings and glutes. Then, curl your arms up with the weights into a bicep curl, hugging the elbows in towards your sides. Once you curl the arms up, turn the weights and press the weights and arms up overhead. Make sure you can see the weights above you in this overhead press. Then come back down to center and repeat for 10 times. Do 3 sets total.

Side lunge with bent-over row

Equipment: dumbbells

How-to: Step your right foot out to the side, and bend the knee. Keep the left leg straight as you reach your right glute towards the back as if you’re trying to sit onto a chair with your right butt cheek. In this position, hold the dumbbells and pull them up into a bent over row. Hug your elbows in towards your sides, squeeze the shoulder blades together, and relax the shoulders so that they don’t hunch up towards your neck. Release the arms down, and then press off the right heel to come back to center. Repeat to the left side. Alternate sides for a total of 10 per side. Then do 3 sets.

Pilates half roll down with a twist

Equipment: yoga mat, optional dumbbells

How-to: Sitting on your mat with your feet on the floor as wide as your hips, hold a weight with both hands in front of you. Pull your naval in towards your spine, and then slowly roll halfway down onto the mat so your lower back is touching the mat. From here, twist to the right and then to the left, then slowly come back up to center. Repeat this 10 times for a total of 3 sets.

Runner's lunge with a twist

Equipment: yoga mat

How-to: Step your right foot forward in between your hands, and your left foot back. Keep the left heel off the ground so that you’re in a low lunge position. Pull your naval in towards your spine, keep your left hand on the ground, and slowly twist to the right reaching the right arm up towards the sky. Hold for a few slow, deep breaths, and then relax and repeat on the other side.


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