You say: "Strength training? I don't want to look like an Olympic shot-putter."
Excuse-buster: The strength exercises flow into stretches to keep your body limber and lean. And you'll build most of your strength in your core to create a toned stomach and elegant posture—more ballerina than bulky ball-thrower.
No time? No energy? No equipment? Dr. Oz says this is what you've been waiting for! New York City celebrity trainer Joel Harper designed the following routine to create long, lean muscles, with the goal of giving you a strong, well-balanced, and flexible body. Do it three times a week, moving from one exercise right to the next to keep your heart rate up. Remember to keep your stomach tight and your face relaxed, and to breathe normally (if you catch yourself holding your breath, count your repetitions aloud to normalize your breathing). Whenever you stretch, imagine breathing into the body part you're targeting as if inflating a balloon. You want to think of directing the oxygen into that area, giving you an open, tension-free feeling. We also recommend that you make walking 30 minutes a day a part of your life.
(Opens and balances hips)
Stand with your feet together and your hands on your waist. Relax your shoulders and circle your hips clockwise five times and counterclockwise five times, making the biggest circles you can.
(Stretches hips and hamstrings)
From a standing position, bend forward at your waist, touching hands to the floor. Alternate bending one knee and keeping the other leg straight (but still keeping both feet flat), and let your relaxed head dangle down. Pretend your head weighs 500 pounds and is elongating your spine, releasing all your tension. Stretch each side for 15 seconds.
(Strengthens upper, middle, and lower back)
With your feet together and knees slightly bent, lean forward, bending at the waist until your back is flat and as parallel to the floor as possible. (If you've got a bad back, stay up higher.) Keeping your arms straight and your elbows unlocked, bring your arms out to the side, parallel to the ground; pause, then lower them, bringing your hands together. Do 40 times.
(Stretches back and obliques)
Standing with your feet together, reach your hands up above your head. Hold your left wrist with your right hand, pulling your wrist as you lean to the right. Elongate by getting the greatest possible distance between your left pinky and your left heel. Hold for 15 seconds and switch sides.
Standing with your feet together, place your hands on your hips. Stand tall and lift your heels off the ground to stretch your calves.
Toy Soldier Leg Lift
(Strengthens quadriceps and lower abs)
Keeping your feet in first position and your hands on your waist, lift your right leg as high as you can directly in front of you, keeping it straight. Hold at the highest point for two beats and then lower. Do 25 times and switch sides.
(Strengthens obliques and quadriceps)
With your feet in first position, bring your hands above your head with your palms facing each other. Lower your right arm and lift your right leg, bending both; touch your elbow to your knee. Do 25 times and switch sides.
Sitting on floor with your hands behind you—palms down, fingers pointing backward, and elbows slightly bent—bring your feet up two feet from your tailbone. Keep the sole of your right foot flat on the ground, cross your left leg on top of your right leg, and sit up straight. Focus on pressing your lower back toward your left calf. If you want to go deeper, slightly press your left knee away from you. Hold for 15 seconds and switch sides.
(Stretches groin and strengthens abs)
Lying on your back, bring your legs into a butterfly position—knees out with the soles of your feet touching. Relax your legs. Bring your hands, fingers laced, behind your head, leaving your thumbs on your neck as sensors to keep your neck relaxed. Using your abs only, lift your upper body up two inches and back down 25 times. Then hold your upper body up and lift your legs two inches from the ground, tapping the sides of your feet back on the ground 25 times. For an advanced variation, raise and lower upper body and legs simultaneously.
Kiss Knee Stretch
Lying on your back, pull your right knee toward your right shoulder using your hands, fingers laced, around the shin. Press your tailbone and lower back toward the ground. Hold for 15 seconds and switch sides.
Get into a push-up position either with your toes flexed or knees on the floor. Lower yourself until your chest nearly touches the ground; then push back up. As you straighten your elbows, feel your spine press toward the ceiling (to help engage your back muscles as well). Do as many push-ups as you can (this is called exercising to failure, and it's what helps build strength in your muscles). If these are too hard, just hold your chest off the ground without moving.
(Stretches chest and arms)
Sit up straight with your shins and feet tucked under your thighs, and lace your fingers behind your butt, while keeping your arms straight. Lift your hands up, knuckles facing back, while opening your chest wide. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to open up your chest more. You can also interweave your fingers behind your head and pull your hands away from your head. Keep face forward and chin up.
Steady on the Plank
(Strengthens abs and shoulders)
Get into a push-up position, with your elbows and toes on the floor. Keep your stomach pulled in and buttocks tight and your eyes looking at the floor (ignore the fact that you have to vacuum). Hold the position for as long as you can. If you can last more than a minute, make it more difficult by lowering your chin 20 times out in front of your laced hands or by trying to balance on one foot.
Up, Dog, Up
(Stretches abdominals and obliques)
From a push-up position, with your hands below your shoulders, lift your chest and torso up into the air so your upper body is nearly perpendicular to the floor as you come onto the tops of your feet. Arch backward to stretch your abdominals, but keep your butt relaxed. Hold 10 seconds. Then look over your right shoulder for 10, your left shoulder for 10, and back to center.
(Strengthens lower back)
Lie flat on your stomach, reaching your arms overhead with your palms down. Extend your extremities straight out, away from your torso, and lift your arms and legs simultaneously for enough repetitions to cause some muscle fatigue. Look down, and don't overextend your neck. This is about how long you can stretch your body, not how high. Squeeze your butt as you lift. Try to make it to a minute.
(Strengthens butt and hamstrings)
Stand with your feet together and your left hand on your waist. Lift your right foot behind you and reach your right hand out in front of you. Try to pendulum forward and touch your right hand to the ground while your right leg lifts up behind you. Concentrate on really squeezing your butt. If this is too hard, come down only partially. Do 20 times and then switch legs.
With your arms stretched to your sides, palms up, and your feet turned out, hip-width apart, squat so your hamstrings are parallel to the ground (or close to it) while your knees remain in line with your heels. Now straighten your legs and rise back up, squeezing your butt and curling your tailbone under you. Do 25 times. To make it more difficult, hold in the down position and pulse 25 times.
While standing on one leg, bend the knee of the opposite leg and grab the foot behind your back with both hands (or use one arm to hold something to stay balanced). Pull the foot toward your butt while lifting your chest forward and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep your knees together and abs pulled in to support your lower back. Hold 20 seconds and switch legs.
For more tips from Joel Harper, go to www.joelharperfitness.com.