Top Pilates trainer Jennie Gall uses steps, benches, and railings to activate the large and small muscles that work together to speed slimming. Here, she recommends five moves guaranteed to turbocharge results.
Say goodbye to wave wiggles with this highly effective tricep toner, cheers Gall, owner of Relevé Pilates in Ripon, California. “Using a bench as opposed to sitting on the ground allows you to go deeper into the movement for maximum results.”
To Do: Sit on a bench or step. Place your hands on either side of you, grip the edge and walk your feet out a few steps. Lower yourself, bending your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the ground, then press back up to straight. Do 15 reps. Walk your feet farther a way for added toning power.
This ballet-inspired move engages the hard-to-reach inner-thigh muscles, explains Gall, as well as the gluteus medius, the muscles on the sides of the butt. The payoff: You’ll tone your thighs to nix chub rub, plus sculpt your tush to slim the hips.
To Do: Hold on to a railing with one hand and bring your heels together with your toes pointing out. Bend your knees and lower straight down, keeping your hips underneath you and letting your heels come up, then return to standing. Do 15 reps.
Maintaining stability in a staggered position calls on the transverse and rectus abdominis and the obliques, which eliminates a belly bulge and shapes an enviable silhouette. Plus, “having one foot on the bench is a great way to build single-leg strength”, adds Gall, noting that you’ll activate the quads, hamstrings and glutes of the back leg for speedy fat burning.
To Do: Stand a few feet from the bench, facing it. Place your right foot flat on the bench. Bend your left knee to sink down into a lunge until your front thigh is almost parallel to the ground, then press back up. Do 10 reps, then switch legs.
Squats are one of the best exercises you can do to firm and shape the backside. Plus, says Gall, putting one foot up on a bench forces the standing leg to work harder, engaging the hamstrings and glutes to quickly sculpt the lower half.
To Do: Stand with a bench about two feet away on your left side. Lift your left foot up and place it on the bench. Bend both knees as if sitting back into a chair, then return to standing. Do 10 reps, then turn around and squat with your right foot up. Hold the squat for 3 counts to slim the outer thighs.
“Doing push-ups on a bench creates an incline to emphasize the lower chest and triceps”, explains Gall. It also decreases how much of your body weight you are pressing, making the move feel easier while still firming the upper half.
To Do: Kneel a few feet in front of a bench or step. With straight arms, tilt forward to grab the edge, keeping your body straight from your shoulders to your knees. Bend your elbows to lower your chest to the bench, then press back up. Do 15 reps. Keep your abs pulled in to flatten the belly.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.