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By Stephanie Mansour

Panicking about trading in your bulky, winter sweaters for sleeveless tops and swimsuits? If you've been slacking on your fitness, one of the quickest ways to start toning up is by incorporating strength training routine.

It’s an important part of a well-rounded workout program that many of us disregard in favor of cardio-focused exercise. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends incorporating strength training exercises for all major muscle groups into a fitness routine at least two times a week. Not only can it improve bone density and help reduce your risk of osteoporosis, but strength training builds lean muscle mass, which helps burn fat while torching calories (thus fast-tracking progress towards your beach body).

Not only will you get physical benefits from strength training, you’ll also score some pretty big mental perks as well. Research shows that strength training is associated with reductions in anxiety symptoms, improvements in cognition and self-esteem, and reduction in depression symptoms and improvement in sleep quality for adults with diagnosed depression. My clients have attested to feeling an increase in energy and feeling more positively about themselves with the addition of strength training into their workouts.

Convinced it’s time to put those muscles to work? We have a full-body strength training workout that doesn’t require any equipment whatsoever. Whether you’re pressed for time, lacking space or on a tight budget, this workout only requires your body weight.

Research shows that whether you decide to do all of your strength training in one day, or split up the workouts by muscle group (i.e. leg day and arm day), your results will be similar. So decide what works best for your schedule. For our purposes, we’ve split up the workouts into different days in case you’re short on time and only have 15 minutes a day to commit. But if you know you’ll be busier tomorrow than today and want to knock out two workouts, feel free!

The Workout Structure

We’re separating the workouts into three categories: Upper body, lower body and core. The upper body exercises focus on the arms, chest and muscles of the upper back and shoulders. The lower body exercises focus on the legs and glutes. The core exercises focus on the muscles that run along the spine, the inner and outer thighs, hips and the abs.

As a certified personal trainer, I recommend doing all of the exercises from these categories twice a week, along with two cardio sessions a week of your choice. You can combine them or split them up however you’d like depending on your schedule. The only rule is to avoid doing the upper body or lower body back to back two days in a row. Since these muscles are larger than your core muscles, they need at least one day off to rest and repair.

I recommend completing 30 repetitions of each exercise throughout the workout. So on the upper body day, for example, you could complete 10 reps of each exercise, and then repeat the entire circuit three times.

Download your printable calendar here. Hang the calendar on your fridge, or keep it in your purse or car, for easy reference. Remember, this is just a sample of how you can structure your workouts! The only requirement is that you complete two workouts (with 30 reps of each exercise) from each category every week.

Day 1: Upper Body

Day 2: Lower Body

Day 3: Core

Day 4: Cardio

Day 5: Upper Body & Lower Body

Day 6: Cardio & Core

Day 7: Rest

Day 8: Cardio & Core

Day 9: Lower Body

Day 10: Upper Body

Day 11: Rest

Day 12: Cardio & Core

Day 13: Upper Body & Lower Body

Day 14: Rest

Day 15: Core

Day 16: Rest

Day 17: Upper Body, Lower Body, Core

Day 18: Cardio

Day 19: Core & Upper Body

Day 20: Lower Body – try an advanced move!

Day 21: Rest

Day 22: Upper Body – try an advanced move!

Day 23: Core & Lower Body

Day 24: Cardio

Day 25: Rest

Day 26: Upper Body & Lower Body

Day 27: Core & Cardio

Day 28: Rest

Day 29: Upper Body

Day 30: Lower Body

Upper Body Exercises

Tricep Dips

To work the backs of your arms, tricep dips are an excellent option. Start seated on the floor, and place your hands down so that your fingers are facing towards your body. Press down through the palms of your hands and come up onto your feet so that your knees are in the air directly over your ankles. Bend the elbows and lower your butt down to tap the ground, and then straighten the arms to come up. Repeat this 10 times.

Advanced modification: Instead of having the legs bent for tricep dips, straighten the legs out in front of you to perform this exercise.

Push Ups

Starting in a plank position with your abs pulled in and your shoulders over your wrists, bend the elbows out to the sides, lowering your chest to the ground, and then press back up to a plank position. Repeat 10 times.

Beginner modification: Perform this exercise on your knees.

Advanced modification: Perform this exercise with one leg in the air (be sure to alternate between both legs).

Side Plank

From a plank position, turn your body to the left, reaching your left arm up into the air towards the ceiling. Stack your left foot on top of the right, and pull your right waistline up away from the ground to work the entire right side of your body. Come back to plank, and repeat 10 times. Perform the same exercise to the right.

Beginner modification: Perform side plank with the bottom knee propped up on the ground.

Advanced modification: Perform side plank and lift the top leg up off of the bottom leg.

Plank Ups

Starting in a plank position, lower down onto your right forearm and then your left forearm. Now you’re in a forearm plank. Then, press your right palm down and then your left palm down to press you back up into a plank. Repeat this 5 times with your right hand leading, and then 5 times with your left hand leading.

Beginner modification: Perform this exercise on your knees.

Bicep & Chest Squeeze

Start with your arms up in a goal post position with your elbows parallel to your shoulders. Turn them in towards each other; pressing the forearms and palms towards each other at the center of your chest. Squeeze your chest and biceps, and then release back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

Lower Body Exercises

Squat

Start standing with your feet open shoulder-width. Pull your naval in towards your spine, and bend your knees reaching your butt back as if you're sitting in a chair. (Look down to make sure your knees are not reaching past your ankles). Press down through your heels, and then stand back up to the starting position, squeezing the glutes at the top. Repeat this 10 times.

Beginner modification: Only squat halfway down before returning to the top.

Advanced modification: Squat and then jump to come up, landing softly with bent knees. Straighten the knees returning to the top position, lower down into the squat again, and jump back up. Repeat this 10 times.

Side Lunge

Standing with legs hip-width apart, step your right foot a few feet to the right and bend the right knee, sitting the right glute back as if you’re trying to sit it down into a chair. Keep the left leg straight. Press down through the right heel to return back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times to the right, and then switch to the left for 10 repetitions.

Beginner modification: Only bend the knee halfway.

Advanced modification: When you come back to center, lift the lunging leg up and out to the side to work the outer hip before moving on to the next rep.

Back Lunge & Lift

Start standing with your feet as wide as your hips. Then, step your left foot back and lower down into a lunge. Press down through the right heel as you lift the left leg straight up behind you to work the hamstring and glute. Then lower back down into the lunge. Repeat this 10 times and then switch sides.

Beginner modification: Take out the leg lift and perform a standard backwards lunge. If you need extra support, hold on to a railing or a table to help with balance.

Curtsy Lunge

Standing up, step your left foot backwards and to the right and bend both knees into a curtsy position as if you’re taking a bow. Then come back to center and repeat on the other side. Complete 10 reps on each side.

Beginner modification: Only curtsy halfway down, then come back to the starting position.

Calf Raises

Standing upright, come up onto your tip toes and then lower back down. Repeat 10 times.

Core Exercises

Superman

Lying on your stomach, pull your naval in towards your spine. Reach your arms in front of you, relax the shoulders, and squeeze the glutes. Then, lift your legs, arms, chest and head off the ground, and slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 times.

Beginner modification: Break the Superman up into two separate movements by first lifting the legs and then lowering them down. Next, lift the arms and chest and then lower them down.

Cobra

Lying on your stomach, place your hands on the floor next to your chest. Pull the abs in, and then press down through your hands to lift yourself up into a cobra position. Make sure to keep the shoulders down and not tilt the head up too far. Repeat this 10 times.

Advanced modification: From the Cobra position, lift the hands up off of the ground so that you’re only using your upper back to keep you lifted as opposed to using your hands, too.

Abs

Lying on your back, bend the knees in towards your chest. Then press the legs out reaching through the toes, and bring them back in to center. Repeat this 10 times.

Beginner modification: If you have neck issues or a weaker core, try keeping your head on the mat and press the legs higher up as you extend them out.

Advanced modification: Do the same exercise except extend the arms behind you as you extend the legs in front of you.

Side Lying Inner Thigh

Lying on your right side, bend the left knee and place the foot in front of your right leg. Lift the right leg up and pulse it up as high as you can for 10 repetitions. Repeat on the other side.

Side Lying Outer Hip

Lying on your right side, pull the naval in towards the spine and lift the left leg up a foot higher than the bottom leg. Hold it here and then pulse 10 times. Repeat on the other side.

TRY THESE FITNESS ROUTINES

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