Either add these killer moves to any workout, or follow the five sample workout programs, to get your body in shape for the summer.
Summertime means a change of seasons, yes — but it also means a change of wardrobe. If you’ve been slacking on your exercise and nutrition over the winter, it’s time to take charge before you attempt to shimmy into those short shorts and barely-there tanks.
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and hold one end of a dumbbell with both hands in front of you. Keeping your shoulders back, bend your knees and drop your glutes straight down toward the floor until your thighs come parallel to the ground. Then drive through your heels to return to standing, squeezing your glutes at the top.
Tip: Make sure your knees track over your toes as you descend; don’t let them cave inward.
Get into a push-up position with your hands underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Brace your core to prevent your hips from sagging, and make sure your head is neutral. Keeping your arms close to your sides, bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor until your chest touches or nearly touches down. Extend forcefully back to the start, then open your body to the right and reach your right hand for the sky. Replace your hand, do another push-up and then repeat to the left side to complete one rep.
Tip:Having trouble with balance? Spread your feet a little wider apart for a more stable base.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and hold a single dumbbell at your shoulder, elbow down, palm facing inward. Extend your other arm to the side for balance, and shift your weight into your heels. Kick your hips back and bend your knees to squat down as low as you comfortably can. Then drive through your heels and explosively stand to the start, using that upward momentum to straighten your arm and press the dumbbell overhead. Return the weight to your shoulder and repeat. Complete all reps on one side before switching.
Tip:Keep your shoulders and hips square throughout to protect your back.
Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides and stand with your feet about hip-width apart, toes forward. Draw your shoulders back and keep your back straight as you push your glutes rearward, slowly lowering the dumbbells straight down toward the floor on either side of your legs. As you approach the bottom, bend your knees to touch the weights to the floor, then reverse the move to return to the start.
Tip: Because your weight is to your sides rather in front, your hips will drop lower than they would with a standard barbell deadlift, but don’t let them drop below your knees.
Dumbbell Lateral Lunge with Front Raise
Muscles worked: Quads, glutes, inner/outer thighs, front delts, traps, rhomboids
Hold a dumbbell in front of you with both hands and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Take a large step to the side with one foot, lunging deeply over that knee as you raise the dumbbell to shoulder height while keeping your other foot flat on the ground. Push off that foot to return to the start. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.
Tip:Don’t let the weight of the dumbbell pull you forward. Draw your shoulders back and stand up as tall as you can while executing the exercise.
Weighted Dead Bug with Leg Extension
Muscles worked: Pectorals, front delts, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, hip flexors
Lie faceup and hold a dumbbell with both hands over your chest, arms straight, and actively press the weight upward to engage your chest and shoulders. Lift your legs, knees bent, over your hips so they make a 90-degree angle and press your lower back into the floor. From here, extend one leg out, getting it as close to the ground as you can without arching your back. Return to the start and continue, alternating legs.
Tip:Do this move slowly and in control to maintain proper form.
Sit Hold With Dumbbell Chest Press
Muscles worked: Rectus abdominis, hip flexors, quads, pectorals, front delts, rhomboids, traps, transverse abdominis
Sit with your legs and feet together, knees bent, and hold a single dumbbell with both hands at your chest, elbows bent. Keep your back straight as you lean back and lift your feet off the floor, lifting your legs so they make a 90-degree angle. Hold here as you push the dumbbell out away from you in line with your shoulders, then bring it back to the start.
Tip: If this is too challenging, lightly touch your toes to the floor for balance. Work toward getting them off the ground as you improve.
Need some programming ideas? Here are five sample workouts to get you started.
Do one to three rounds of the below circuit. Perform all the moves back-to-back with no rest in between, and rest 60 to 90 seconds between rounds.
Do the moves in this circuit back-to-back with no rest in between. Complete three total rounds, resting 60 seconds between rounds.
More Core Tabata
Do each move at max effort for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds. Complete four rounds for a total of four minutes.
Complete all reps of one move before going to the next. Rest as needed, but move briskly while using good form. Your score is your total time to complete the workout.
Do two to three rounds each of Part 1 and Part 2. Perform each strength move for 30 seconds and go right into the next without resting. For Part 3, run hard and fast for the sprint, then do as many T push-ups as you can without resting before you reach failure. Your score is the number of T push-ups you complete before hitting the dirt.
This is the second installment of a two-part series. Read part one here. The transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
HealthyWomen:In our last conversation, we discussed the importance of doing regular kegel exercises and the use of a vaginal dilator or vibrator to maintain a healthy vagina (and reduce pain during sex). Does this apply to women of all sexual orientations?
Dr. Emily Jamea: Absolutely. No matter your sexual orientation, your pelvic floor muscles are working to hold up your pelvic organs, so they need to stay strong. From a purely physiological body health perspective, just as you try to keep all your muscles strong as you age, the pelvic floor muscles shouldn’t be neglected, no matter your orientation.
Dr. Emily Jamea: I don’t know that it’s so much of a reluctance as not knowing they should be seeking help or getting more information about this. A lot of women don’t even know to ask the question, and health care providers aren’t often volunteering the information until there’s a problem.
Seeking help to maintain healthy sexuality depends on your culture, your belief system around sexuality, and how much you value sexual health. I see a lot of women who may not be very happy in their relationships, and so now they can say, “I’m postmenopausal; I don’t want to have sex anymore” and use that excuse to avoid getting help [for their relationship]. When it comes to the complexity of female sexual desire, having a healthy relationship is a big piece of the pie. The changing hormones are a small piece of the pie.
I think it’s really frustrating for postmenopausal women because men have andropause and, as their testosterone levels decline, there is a more direct effect on their ability to get an erection, but they can pop a pill. We just have not come up with something comparable to that pill for women.
Healthy Women: What can middle-aged women do to maintain their sexual health?
Dr. Emily Jamea: Getting regular exercise is important and has shown to really boost sexual desire — nothing crazy or strenuous but just getting out for long walks a few times a week — for multiple reasons, but especially because of the neurochemicals that are released when we exercise. Anything you’re doing to maintain your body awareness and nurture your body can really help.
Managing your mental health is also important. Many women suffer from mood swings during menopause. Not feeling like yourself can dampen your desire for sex. Women shouldn’t be afraid to seek mental health counseling if need be.
Make sure your relationship stays strong. Keep the lines of communication open with your partner and spend quality time together. Find ways to enjoy the freedom that comes with being empty nesters.
Still, talk to your health care provider because there are hormone replacement options, such as topical estrogen creams that women can apply to bring estrogen directly to that vaginal tissue in more severe cases of vaginal atrophy. And [the creams are] not absorbed systemically, so that can be helpful for women. There are some options that can really help women when it comes to all of the changes that happen with menopause, especially in some of those more severe cases.
HealthyWomen: Are we ever too old for sex?
Dr. Emily Jamea: No! Quite the opposite. Historically, sex research has focused primarily on sexual dysfunction and then there’s been a good bit of research on sexual satisfaction. There’s this emerging area of research that I’m active in as well, on what really constitutes an optimal sexual experience. [We’re studying] what makes an extraordinary sexual experience different from an ordinary sexual experience.
I think that when we have the right tools, sex gets better as we age for multiple reasons. You’re comfortable in your own skin, you’re comfortable in your relationship, hopefully. You’ve got all these experiences together that can translate into a lot more meaningful sex; people tend to be less inhibited as they get older. We’re finding that people who are in long-term happy monogamous relationships are having better sex than people who are young and on the dating scene, so it’s really exciting.