Eight Top Exercises to Get You Strong and Lean!

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Eight Top Exercises to Get You Strong and Lean!

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The total-body-toning routine from “Eight Is Enough” in our August issue is designed to launch your strength training program—a must if you want sculpted muscles, better health and a faster metabolism as you age. To maximize those effects, we put an advanced spin on each move with the help of Jessica Matthews, exercise physiologist and senior health and fitness expert for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Squeeze in 8 to 12 reps of each (then repeat the sequence) whenever you can spare a few minutes and watch your body slim down.


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Target Muscle Group: Biceps

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INTENSIFIED TOP TONER: Curls on a stability ball 




Sit on a stability ball, holding 5-pound weights in each hand. Start with your arms extended down by your sides, palms facing away from the body. Stabilize your core as you lift both dumbbells up toward your chest. Lower the dumbbells back down and repeat. Increase the weight if the last few reps feel easy.



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Target Muscle Group: Triceps

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INTENSIFIED TOP TONER: Decline triangle push-up 




You’re reversing the incline of the newbie variation for this exercise by placing your feet on a chair or steps and your hands on the ground. This creates a more challenging movement. Make sure your index finger and thumb form a triangle, then bend your elbows slightly out to the sides and lower your chest as close to the ground as possible without piking or dropping your hips.  



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Target Muscle Group: Chest

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INTENSIFIED TOP TONER: Dumbbell fly on a stability ball 




This puts the exercise on an unstable surface, which forces you to engage your core and work more muscles at once. Lie your back on the ball, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Start with your arms extended toward the ceiling with palms facing each other and hands directly above your chest. Open arms away from each other, so they’re straight out to the sides and in line with your chest and shoulders. Keeping a slight bend in your elbows, return to the starting position and repeat. 



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Target Muscle Group: Back

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INTENSIFIED TOP TONER: Renegade rows 




With a dumbbell in each hand, get into a high plank position with wrists below the shoulders. Keep your core engaged and wrists neutral as you lift the right hand and move it toward the right side of the ribcage, elbow pointing back, arm close to the body and hips and shoulders squared to the floor. Return the weight to the floor and repeat on the opposite side. Continue alternating.  



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Target Muscle Group: Core

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INTENSIFIED TOP TONER: Moving plank 




In a forearm plank (starting with elbows in line with shoulders), drop your hips from side to side while keeping your shoulders squared to the floor. Another progression: Push off your toes a bit to slowly rock your body forward and backward. Keep your hips and shoulders square to the floor.



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Target Muscle Group: Legs

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INTENSIFIED TOP TONER: Jump squats 




Add a jump to the traditional squat move to make it plyometric. Start in a standing position, then lower your hips toward the ground with your butt back and chest up. Next, explosively hop off the floor as high as you can. Land lightly on the midsoles of your feet, shifting weight back toward your heels and lowering back down to the squat position. Repeat the move from the explosive jump.



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Target Muscle Group: Butt

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INTENSIFIED TOP TONER: Donkey kicks with weights 




To up the burn of a research-supported exercise, place a weight on the back of your lower thigh while performing donkey kicks: Get on all fours, with your wrists in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips. Engage your core and maintain a neutral spine as you lift the left leg, keeping your knee bent. Press the foot up toward the ceiling, moving only at the hips. Repeat and then switch to the right leg. 


For another variation, ACE experts recommend the single-leg glute bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift one leg into the air as you raise your hips toward the ceiling. Slowly lower your butt back to the floor, keeping your leg raised. Finish the 8 to 12 reps, then switch to the other side.  



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Target Muscle Group: Entire body

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INTENSIFIED TOP TONER: Advanced burpee 




Start in a standing position, then lower yourself to the ground and place your hands on the floor. Jump the feet back into a plank position, perform a push-up and jump the feet back up to your hands. Then sit down, tuck the knees to your chest and roll on your back. Place your hands on the floor and roll up to standing position. Finish with a tuck jump. This is another ACE trainer favorite.