A widening waistline and expanding rear end are common characteristics of getting older. But they don't have to be!
A healthy diet combined with high-intensity cardio and targeted strength-training exercise can turn back the clock, giving you the shapely stomach, thighs and butt you desire. Not only will you look years younger, but you'll also reap the benefits of improved health.
Shed Fat With High-Intensity Cardio
Shed excess fat around your belly and hips by burning calories with cardio — but not just any cardio will do. To really get results, do high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
According to a 2011 study published in Journal of Obesity, HIIT is more effective for burning abdominal fat than other types of cardio exercise. Plus, it's easy to do; just alternate short periods of intense activity with periods of recovery.
Take, for example, this sample sprinting workout that you can do outdoors or on a treadmill:
- Warm up by walking or jogging at an easy pace for 5 minutes.
- Go at an all-out pace for 1 minute, working as hard as you can.
- Walk or jog for 1 minute to recover.
- Sprint for 1 minute.
- Recover for 1 minute.
- Repeat this until you have completed 10 sets, or 20 minutes of work.
- Cool down by walking for 5 minutes.
The Best Ab Exercises
When it comes to getting tight, toned abs, some exercises are better than others. Using electromyography equipment, researchers of a 2001 ACE Fitness-sponsored study measured muscle activity in participants' abdominal muscles as they completed 13 of the most common ab exercises.
The most-effective exercise, according to their findings, is the bicycle crunch, and it outperformed the least-effective exercise, the ab rocker, by more than 200 percent. The second-best performer was the captain's chair exercise.
Did you know, unlike the other muscles in your body, it's safe to train your abs daily if you want, as it's harder to completely fatigue them? Three to five days a week is a good goal for ab training, says exercise scientist Len Kravitz, PhD.
How to Do Bicycle Crunches
Lie on your back on an exercise mat with your legs extended out and your hands resting lightly on your head behind your ears. Press your lower back into the floor to prevent strain and engage your abs.
Bend both knees so your calves are parallel to the floor. Exhale as you bring your right knee toward your left elbow, lifting your shoulder blades off the ground and rotating your torso to the right.
As you do this, extend your left leg almost straight. Inhale as you come back to center with both knees bent. Exhale and twist to the left this time, extending your right leg and bringing your left knee toward your right elbow.
How to Do the Captain's Chair Exercise
Grasp the handholds of the captain's chair and press your lower back into the rear pad. Hold your body up by pressing your forearms into the pads and let your legs dangle.
Initiate the movement by contracting your abdominal muscles and bending at the waist and knees, lifting your knees up and in toward your chest in a slow, controlled motion. With the same control, lower your legs back to the starting point.
How many reps should I do? There's no hard and fast answer for that. You should do as many as you can without straining your ab muscles. When you're just starting out, you may only be able to do five. As your abs get stronger, you may be able to do 50 or more.
Exercises for the Lower Back and Butt
Another study by ACE Fitness in 2006 measured muscle activity in eight common glute exercises and found quadruped hip extensions and step-ups to be the top performers. Quadruped hip extensions are also effective for toning the low back, which forms part of your waistline.
How to Do Quadruped Hip Extensions
Start on hands and knees with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Contract your abs by pulling your belly button in toward your spine and slightly tucking your pelvis.
Lift your right leg and bend your right knee to 90 degrees. Flex your foot, and lift the leg up until the the thigh is parallel with the floor, then release. Repeat for a total of 12 reps, then switch sides.
How to Do Step-Ups
Arrange an exercise bench or a tall step or box in front of you. Using your own body weight or holding a dumbbell in each hand, place your right foot up on the step.
Press through the foot to straighten your right leg, lifting your body up onto the step with your left foot next to your right foot. With control, step your left foot back down to the ground and repeat for a total of 12 reps, then switch sides.