6 Fast Fitness and Workout Tips

Tone up in no time, from your ticker to your tush, with these easy tweaks.

Sculpt sexier limbs in one blow.

Breathing out as you lift those dumbbells may make you firmer, according to new research from the University of Montana in Missoula. Exercisers in the study who exhaled on the effort rather than inhaling or breathing normally lifted significantly more weight during triceps extensions, hamstring curls, and chest flyes. Contracting your ab muscles as you exhale can shore up your core to help you hoist extra weight in a standing position, according to study coauthor Sheng Li, PhD.

Get more go with a cup of joe.

You’ve heard that coffee can kick-start your workout, but how much does it take to net the effect? According to recent studies from the Australian Institute of Sport, even small amounts of caffeine — 1.4 milligrams per pound of body weight, or about two cups of coffee a day for the average 140-pound woman — can help boost speed during cardio, like cycling and swimming. For the best pick-me-up, take your daily dose shortly before you hit the gym or when you start to flag.

Switch up your workouts for max results.

Attention, runners and fans of other high-impact cardio classes: Build in 30 minutes of full-body strength training followed by 20 to 30 minutes of walking or low-impact cardio twice a week to ease up on your muscles and joints, recommends FITNESS advisory board member Marty Jaramillo, sports physical therapist and founder of ICE Sports Therapy in New York City. (Female soccer players who added stretching, strength training, and other exercises to their training had fewer injuries than those who did not, a study in the British Medical Journal found.) “Make your effort the exact opposite of the previous day’s,” Jaramillo says. “If you go hard on your run, go easy on the strength training and vice versa.”

Tighten your abs with balancing tricks.

Exercising on wobbly surfaces forces you to engage your core more, flattening your belly. Do your biceps curls standing on one leg on a Bosu ball or this pike move with a stability ball: Start on the floor in full push-up position with shins on top of ball. Contract your absand lift your hips to slowly roll the ball forward, keeping your legs straight (end with ankles on ball), to form an inverted V; roll back to start. Do two sets of 20 reps.

Squeeze more sculpting out of each rep.

Rather than do three fast sets of one strength-training move, do one set of 10 controlled reps in 60 seconds, says Wayne Westcott, PhD, fitness research director for the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts. “Not only do you save the time you would have used to rest between sets,” he says, “but because you’re no longer relying on momentum, you’re also guaranteed to work the targeted muscles more and maintain good form.”

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