This simple workout’you’ll need only a three- to eight-pound pair of dumbbells and an exercise mat’is designed to strengthen and shape your arms, chest, abs, back, thighs, glutes, hips and legs. Use it as a backup when your schedule doesn’t allow for something longer. Bonus: If you do these toning moves without taking a break between each one, you’ll get your heart rate up, too, which helps make your heart and lungs stronger.
Throughout the week, rev up your overall fitness by combining this resistance-focused routine with faster-paced cardio workouts. (Try 10-minute cardio workouts).
Before: Warm up 2 minutes. For the first minute, keep arms moving while you walk briskly around the room or march in place. For the second, do basic squats: Stand with legs hip-width apart and bend knees, pretending to sit down into a chair. Keep knees aligned over ankles. Return to standing and repeat.
During: Gauge intensity. Use a stopwatch, the timer on your phone or a clock with a second hand to keep track of the time. Your working muscles should feel ready for a change by the end of each 30-second segment.
Customize moves to your needs. Some of the exercises have easier or more challenging options.
After: Cool down and stretch. For the last two minutes, walk slowly around the room and stretch the major muscles you’ve just worked.
The Workout: 10 minutes total
1. Warm-up: 2 minutes
2. Balancing Sequence: 2 minutes
Balancing horizontal rows (30 seconds)
Works: Back and glutes
Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold dumbbells. Balance on left leg while lifting right leg directly behind you, squeezing glutes. Hinge forward from waist with straight arms reaching down toward the floor and palms facing back. ‘Row’ arms up and out to about 90 degrees, elbows pointing up. Return to start and repeat, balancing on right leg.
Push-ups (30 seconds)
Works: Arms, shoulders, chest and abs
Put down dumbbells. Get on mat in a push-up position with hands aligned under shoulders, but placed a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Either balance on your knees, keeping abs tight, or, for more of ‘a challenge, balance on your toes, with legs straight and knees off mat. Repeat as often as possible in 30 seconds, but in a controlled motion.
Now do this sequence again.
3. Lunge Sequence: 2 minutes
Cross-back curtsy lunges (30 seconds)
Works: Shoulders, legs and hips
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells and with palms facing back. Cross your right leg behind and over to your left side (like a curtsy) as you raise straight arms in front to chest height. Return to starting position and repeat with left leg crossing behind.
Squats with bicep curls (30 seconds)
Works: Thighs, glutes and biceps
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Take two seconds to sit down into ‘a squat while bending arms upward to shoulders (bicep curl); then another two seconds to stand up while lowering and straightening arms. Repeat.
Now do this sequence again.
4. Side Plank Sequence: 2 minutes (no dumbbells)
Side plank with hip drop (30 seconds)
Works: Abs and back
Lie on your right side, then balance on right forearm and side of right foot, hips off floor, legs straight. Rest left arm along body. Slowly lower right hip toward floor. Raise hip; repeat. Easier option: Omit hip drop.
Crunches (30 seconds)
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on floor and fingers touching lightly behind head. Use abs to lift head and shoulders; hold for three seconds, then lower to starting postion. Repeat. Now do this sequence again, switching to left side for side plank.
5. Cool-down: 2 minutes
This article was originally titled "Resolve to: Get stronger" in the January/February 2012 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!