Due to Covid-19 stay-at-home orders, many people are spending more time at home, whether they’re working remotely or currently unemployed. Unfortunately, more time at home can lead to sedentary behaviors, such as sitting for long periods of time on the couch or your at-home office chair. Sitting can take a toll on the body, affecting everything from the neck to your legs.
“When we sit for long periods of time some very important elements of our core can become compromised,” says Sue Hitzmann, manual therapist and exercise physiologist and creator of the MELT Method and Melt Performance. Once you do finally stand up, the components of your core muscle group—your trunk—and key elements of your hip joints don’t move as smoothly, and your body compensates by putting stress on areas not designed to handle the demand.
This pain can begin with little things like tension or aches in your neck and low back, or you’ll find yourself constantly shifting in your chair to find (in vain) a comfy position. Eventually, the symptoms are more noticeable and frequent. Your hips feel tight and your back will feel stiff. Your joints will snap, crackle, and pop when you move. But the symptoms aren’t just felt on the inside, they’re seen on the outside too, like a swayback posture for starters. (Find out the easy ways you can improve your posture.)
“The easiest and most obvious thing you can do during the workday is to get up more often,” says Hitzmann. If necessary set a timer to remind yourself to get up for a few minutes every hour. Then try these MELT Moves created by Hitzmann; you can do them three times a week for best results.
This move will help prevent your hamstrings and low back muscles from over-compensating: Place your feet hip width apart, knees bent with your hips on the top of the roller; keep your arms flat on the floor just out from your sides for balance. Push into your feet and try to ease the weight of your hips off the roller. Take care not to arch your back. Instead, think about your knees reaching over your toes. Hold this pose for five to ten seconds then slowly return your hips to the top of the roller. Repeat this slow controlled lift four times. Then repeat the pattern four more times without a pause.
Bent knee press
Lie on your back with the roller under your pelvis so that the majority of your glutes are on the opposite side of the roller from your trunk, and the top of your hips are on your side of the roller—not on the top. Keep your left foot planted firmly on the ground and push your left knee over your toes as you bring your right knee toward your chest; tuck your pelvis downward. This will lengthen the front side of the thigh and spine. Inhale and put a little pressure into the pose; grasp your right knee and gently pull toward your chest as you exhale and repeat the lengthening part by tucking your pelvis. Repeat on the other side.
The hover and lunge
This move reverses the traditional lunge to activate the lower part of your glutes and limit the amount of compensation your quadriceps and upper glutes are doing. (Worried about your glutes? Check out the butt exercises you can do at home.)
Stand over the roller, right foot in front, left foot behind. Lower your left leg just below the knee onto the roller with your hips level. Push into your right foot and slowly hover your left shin over the roller—about two to three inches above. Hold this pose for five to ten seconds and slowly return your left shin to the roller and repeat the lift-and-pause four times. Next, repeat the movement four more times without the pause. Repeat on the other side.
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This exercise works your core, as well as your chest, shoulders, lats, triceps, and quads, explains Michaels. Since burpees involve explosive plyometric movement, they’ll get your heart pumping too.
How to do burpees: Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart and send your hips back as you lower your body toward the ground in a low squat. Then, place your hands right outside of your feet and hop your feet back, allowing your chest to touch the floor. Push your hands against the floor to lift your body up into a plank and then jump your feet just outside of your hands. With your weight in your heels, jump explosively into the air with your arms overhead.
2) Mountain Climbers
Like burpees, Michaels is a fan of this moving plank exercise because it works your core, in addition to a slew of other body muscles.
How to do mountain climbers: Get into a high-plank position with your wrists directly under your shoulders. Keep your core tight, drawing your belly button in toward your spine. Drive your right knee toward your chest and then bring it back to plank. Then, drive your left knee toward your chest and bring it back. Continue to alternate sides.
3) Turkish Get-Up
The Turkish-getup is a 200-year-old total-body exercise that involves using a kettlebell, and it’s a favorite of celebrity trainer Ramona Braganza. While it is slightly complicated, she says that the total-body conditioning move is seriously effective for blasting belly fat.
How to do a Turkish get-up: Holding one kettlebell by the handle with both hands, lie on your side in a fetal position. Roll onto your back and press the kettlebell up toward the ceiling with both hands until the weight is stable on one loaded side. Release your free arm and free leg to a 45-degree angle with your palm facing down. Slide the heel of the loaded side closer to your butt to firmly grip the floor.
Pushing through the foot on the floor, punch the kettlebell up with the loaded arm and roll onto your free forearm. Don’t shrug your shoulder toward your ear with the supporting side. Be sure to keep your chest wide open. Straighten the elbow on the ground and lift yourself up to a seated position. Weave your front leg through to the back. To protect your knees, your shin on the back leg should be perpendicular to your shin on the front leg.
Perfectly align your arms: wrist over the elbow, shoulder over elbow over the wrist. Raise your torso to make your upper body erect. Swivel your back knee so that your back shin is parallel with your front shin. Get a grip on the floor with your back toes, then take a deep breath, and stand up.
Phelps suggests adding a medicine ball to your burpee to increase the intensity of the exercise and boost your metabolism—all while building a sleek set of six-pack abs.
How to do medicine ball burpees: Standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart, hold a medicine ball with both hands. Extend the ball up overhead, then slam the ball down on the ground as hard as you can, hinging over and sitting your butt back as you slam. As you hinge over, bend your knees. Place your hands on the ground outside of your feet and jump back into a high plank position. Keep your body in a straight line. Then, jump your feet back towards the outsides of your hands so that you are squatting. Pick up the ball and press it overhead, extending your body and standing tall.
The sprawl is basically a burpee on steroids—a full body exercise that works as many muscles as possible and burns calories while shaping and toning upper- and lower-body, especially your abs. “It takes the traditional burpee to the next level by having you touch your chest to the ground, then push-up to plank as you continue the move,” explains Braganza.
How to do a sprawl: Standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart, squat down, and place your hands on the ground. Jump your feet back to a plank and lower your body to touch the ground. Push yourself up to a plank and then jump your feet outside of your hands into a squat. Stand back up. That’s one rep. “If you want to burn even more calories, add a jump between each sprawl,” Braganza adds.
6) Side-to-Side Medicine Ball Slams
“Medicine ball slams are a dynamic, explosive, and highly metabolic exercise that does not simply target one muscle group,” explains Chris DiVecchio, trainer and founder of Premier Body & Mind. On the surface, the obliques, hamstrings, quads, biceps, and shoulders are the primary movers of this exercise. “But as time goes on and fatigue sets in, nearly every other muscle in the body, in one way or another, may become involved as a secondary mover which makes this a total gut blaster,” he adds. Doing side-to-side ball slams versus overhead slams incorporates more oblique ab work.
How to do lateral medicine ball slams: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with the medicine ball on one side. Pick up the ball and simply rotate your body as you slam the ball a few inches away from your pinky toe. Make sure to pivot your feet and bend the back knee as you come into a split squat position to catch the ball on one bounce. Alternate sides. Make sure you tighten your core as you bring the ball overhead and to the side.
7) Overhead Medicine Ball Slams
Overhead medicine ball slams strengthen your core as it works against gravity. This exercise also tests your endurance, getting your heart rate up each time you pick the ball up and bring it overhead. To get the most out of this exercise, be sure to use a heavy weighted ball.
How to do overhead medicine ball slams: Standing tall with your feet hip-width apart, hold a medicine ball with both hands. Reach both arms overhead, fully extending your body. Slam the ball forward and down toward the ground. Extend your arms toward the ground as you slam and don’t be afraid to bend your knees as you hinge over. Squat to pick the ball up and then stand back up.
8) Russian Twists
The Russian twist is a core exercise that improves oblique strength and definition, explains DiVecchio. The move, typically performed with a medicine ball or plate, involves rotating your torso from side to side while holding a sit-up position with your feet off the ground.
How to do Russian twists: Sit up tall on the floor with your knees bent and feet off the ground. Hold a medicine ball with your hands at chest height. Lean backward with a long, tall spine, holding your torso at a 45-degree angle and keeping your arms a few inches away from your chest. From here, turn your torso to the right, pause and squeeze your right oblique muscles, then turn your torso to the left and pause to squeeze your left oblique muscles. The movement should come from your ribs and not your arms.
9) BOSU Ball Planks
You know that your cardio sessions are crucial when it comes to burning the layer of fat sitting on top of your abdominal muscles. But it’s still important to work those abs even as you’re trying to shed fat, says New York City-based personal trainer Adam Sanford, founder of Adam Sanford Fitness. His favorite move to do that? Holding plank on a BOSU ball.
It’s more challenging than a normal plank where your hands are on the floor, because the BOSU tests your balance, says Sanford. “When your body tries to find control as your balance is challenged, your abs, obliques, and deep transverse abdominal muscles are activated,” he says. Strengthening these core muscles also helps increase your metabolism, ultimately helping you to burn more calories and fat.
How to do BOSU ball planks: Flip a BOSU ball on its rubber side and hold onto the edges of the flat surface with both hands, about shoulder-distance apart. Hold the plank for 30 to 45 seconds, increasing the time as you get stronger.
Running at an incline rather than on a flat surface has been shown to increase total calorie burn by as much as 50 percent, says Jill Penfold, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer. Whether you’re outside on a hill or at the gym on an inclined treadmill, start out walking for five to 10 minutes, suggests Penfold. “Your heart rate should elevate pretty quickly as you pick up your pace,” she says.
Try this treadmill workout: Walk or jog on an incline for five to 10 minutes. Maintain a jog for another five to 10 minutes, then pick your pace up again and start running. “This doesn’t have to be an all-out sprint,” says Penfold, but you should be working hard enough that you can’t carry a conversation. Spend five minutes running, then drop your pace back down to a jog. Continue alternating with five to 10 minutes of jogging and five to 10 minutes of running for 30 to 45 minutes.
11) Rowing Machine
Just because you may not have access to open water, it doesn’t mean you can’t weave this fat-blasting cardio workout into your gym routine. Not only does using a rowing machine get your heart rate way up, which helps you blast calories and burn fat, but it also works muscles in your legs, core, arms, shoulders, and back, says Penfold.
Try this 4-minute rowing circuit: Begin with 20 seconds of rowing followed by 10 seconds of rest. Look at how many meters you traveled in that time. (Don’t get off the rowing machine or even let go of the handle when you rest, says Penfold.) Repeat this eight times, trying to beat your distance each time. When you’re finished with this four-minute circuit, row a fast 500 meters and note how long it takes you. “That’s the number you’ll want to match or beat during your next rowing session,” says Penfold.
If you’ve been lifting moderately heavy weights but are still looking to drop belly fat, it’s time to pick up the intensity by using heavier weights and cutting down on rest time between reps, says Tyler Spraul, CSCS, a certified strength, and conditioning specialist and the head trainer at Exercise.com. “Lifting heavy is where you see more an afterburn effect. Your body continues to burn calories even after you leave the gym,” Spraul says. Just be sure that your technique doesn’t suffer as you increase your weight, which can lead to injury. If you’re new to strength training, this 15-minute total-body workout is a great place to start.
Yes, you read that right. Simply walking can go a long way toward helping you shed belly fat, says Sahmura Gonzalez, a personal trainer based in New York City.
“It seems so simple, but 45 to 60 minutes of brisk walking every day can do wonders for your metabolism,” says Gonzalez. “Plus, it ensures that you don’t over-train, which can lead to an over-production of cortisol—a stress hormone that’s been shown to contribute to belly fat.”
If your walking workout helps you unwind after a stressful day or work through emotions that might otherwise stress you out, there’s a chance it’ll help you lower cortisol levels, which in turn can keep belly fat in check, says Gonzalez. And brisk walking is an effective way to drop pounds—including the belly fat that’s hiding your abdominal muscles. “One hour of rapid walking a day can lead to one pound of fat loss a week,” says Gonzalez.
Getting your Om on won’t burn as many calories as a hilly run or lifting weights, but it can help build muscle and improve your endurance, which is all crucial for boosting your metabolism. Some of the highest calorie-blasting yoga poses include plank, chair, Chaturanga, and wheel. New to yoga and aren’t sure where to start? Learn more about the different types of yoga to help you find the best practice that fits your workout goals.
Nicole L. Campbell: Core exercises strengthen your core muscles, including the muscles in your abdomen and back. You can do many core exercises with a fitness ball. Let’s try the abdominal crunch.
Sit on the fitness ball with your feet resting on the floor, about hip-width apart. Keep your back straight, and cross your arms on your chest.
To begin the exercise, tighten your abdominal muscles. Lean back until you feel your abdominal muscles contract, and hold for three deep breaths. Then return to the starting position.
If you’re just starting out, repeat the exercise five times. Remember to breathe freely and deeply throughout the exercise, and keep your abdominal muscles nice and tight. As you get stronger, gradually increase to 10 to 15 repetitions.
Start in a plank position. Bring index fingers and thumbs to meet, forming a triangle under chest. Bend elbows and lower torso as close to ground as possible. Push through palms to straighten arms. Modify this move by dropping to knees. Do 10 reps.
Start in a forearm plank. Keeping abs tight and spine long, pick up right arm and right palm on ground. Repeat on left side, ending up in a high-plank position. Now reverse the movement, replacing right palm with right elbow and left palm with left elbow. That’s 1 rep. Be sure to keep hips still and facing the ground throughout the routine. Do 10 reps, alternating starting arms with each rep.
Squats are a fantastic way to tone your legs, glutes, and core muscles all at once. They help with balance and flexibility to prevent age-related falls.
How to do it: Stand with your feet flat on the floor. Push your butt back and bend your knees down into a squat, no farther than 90 degrees. As you lower, raise both arms forward. At your lowest point, your glutes should be back as if you were going to sit down in a chair and your weight should be on your heels. If you are in the proper position, you should be able to raise your toes off the floor and you should be able to see your toes. Return to starting position as you lower your arms to your sides.
If you were worried a floor workout would be too easy, this move will set you straight—and fast. This move starts in a hollow hold position: “Imagine doing a crunch but staying at the top,’ Scharff says. From your back, press a set of dumbbells into the air over your mid-chest. Peel your shoulders off the mat while keeping your lower back glued to the ground. Think about pressing the weights toward the ceiling as you scissor your legs, never letting them touch the ground.
This doesn’t have to be a fast movement, just big, controlled kicks. You can also do this move with one heavier weight as opposed to two dumbbells. Either way, go for 50 reps or 45 seconds!