Try any (or all) of these small tweaks to get better results faster!
Trade Planks for Kickboxing
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Standard abs exercises like planks are great for building core strength, but if that's the only thing you do to tighten and tone your waistline, you're missing out! Kickboxing is a very effective way to work your core and burn calories (to help shed body fat and show off your six-pack underneath).
Every punch, bob, weave, and kick engages your abs, while also helping you blast away belly-fat inducing stress! So instead of lying down to work your abs, keep your whole body moving with kickboxing. Try some of these kickboxing-inspired abs moves during your next workout.
Trade Weight Machines for TRX
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Strength training on machines is one way to develop muscle, but since most isolate one body part at a time while the remainder of your body "rests" on the machine, it's not the most efficient (translation: fewer calories burned). Try adding some TRX suspension training to your routine! Use this minimalist piece of equipment (nylon straps that attach to a door or other stable anchor) to maximize a bodyweight-only workout. You'll engage multiple muscles at once, develop core strength, balance, and flexibility, and burn tons of calories in the process.
Cut Cardio Time with Tabata
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More isn't always better, especially when it comes to your cardio workout. Tabata training is a perfect example. This super-quick workout (dubbed the "four-minute fat-burning miracle" is the perfect way to mix up a stale cardio routine.
Studies show that just four minutes of this very high intensity training is more effective than an hour-long treadmill session. And the best part is you don't have to be at the gym to do it! Try some of these fat-blasting Tabata routines to finish your workout (and see better results) in record time.
Hit the Road with a New Route
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Exercising outdoors is a useful way to keep your cardio interesting, but you may be stalling your progress and inviting boredom if you always follow the same path. Avoid getting lost and stay safe trying new routes on your bike or during your next run with Mapmyride.com. Search by your zip code and find bike (or running/walking) routes, maps, and log your mileage to help you progress.
Skip the Gym, Not Your Workout
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Instead of scrapping your workout because you couldn't get to the gym, try working out at home with an exercise DVD. Many are lead by top fitness professionals with years of teaching experience that could introduce you to some new exercises, training methods, or simply become a new source of motivation for your workouts.
Work Out with Eyes Wide Shut
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This may sound strange, but closing your eyes during some of your strength moves can help you zero in on your form, focus on contracting the targeted muscle, and may make your movements more controlled and precise. Even a simple balance exercise (such as standing on one leg) can be made more challenging simply by closing your eyes. (Warning: this may cause strange looks from fellow gym-goers).
Trade Leg Lefts for Side Lunges
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While isolated moves like leg lifts may help you feel the burn, they may not be doing much to reshape your body, and certainly shouldn't be all that you do for building lean muscle mass. Don't be afraid to pick up some weights or add other muscles to your movements to help increase the intensity, resistance, and effectiveness of your exercises (and trust us, it won't make you bulk up).
Instead of Boot Camp, Try Yoga
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If you're a die-hard fan of the slogan "go big or go home," it may be time to reconsider—at least when it comes to your workout motto. Always training at a high level of intensity (like that killer boot camp class) could be stalling your progress. Mix it up by alternating high intensity workout days with kinder, gentler workouts (like a relaxing yoga class) that help your body recover and restore. That way, you'll be fully recharged when it's time to push hard again!
Skip Spin Class and Hit the Road
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Don't get us wrong, we're huge fans of spinning too—it's an incredible workout. But switching from a stationary to a real road bike may be the perfect way to help spark new changes in your body.
Most (not all) indoor cyclists don't use enough resistance on the flywheel, which means they aren't burning as many calories or generating as much power as they could be, not to mention putting excess stress or strain on their joints. A road bike ride is a great reminder of just how hard it is to pedal that fast, meaning next time you saddle up indoors, you may just take your inside ride to the next level.
Kick Your Feet Up
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If you always have both feet on the ground during your workouts, try picking one (or both) up! Plyometrics and balance training are two effective ways to challenge your body in a new way during old exercises.
If you love doing squats to tone your lower half, try this skater squat variation instead to work on developing power and balance at the same time.
Upgrade Your Standard Pushup
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Stand on Shaky Ground
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If you always work out on a flat surface, it's time to mix things up! On the treadmill? Add an incline. Doing squats? Stand on a BOSU. Going for a jog? Run through sand or water. You can burn more calories, engage more muscles, and get a more effective training session simply by changing the surface of your workouts.
Get Some Fresh Air
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The best gym is nature! Taking your routine outdoors is a wonderful way to stay inspired and add additional challenges during your regular workout. Uneven terrain engages more muscles, the sun helps boost your mood, and the change of scenery may be all you need to get motivated to lace up your sneakers regularly. (And even if it's cold out, an outdoor workout still offers some major benefits).
Switch Up Your Schedule
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While the best time of day to work out is the time you'll actually do it, switching up your workout schedule could be an easy way to boost your energy level during your regular routine. For instance, if you have to fit your workout in at the crack of dawn in order to make it happen, try scheduling just one day a week where you can exercise in the evening or on your lunch break instead. You may find yourself with more energy, enthusiasm, and stamina to get more out of your usual workout.
Take the Talk Test
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If you're able to chat it up with a gal pal (or your trainer) during your sweat sessions, you may not be working hard enough. Use the talk test to be sure you are working hard enough to see results.
Seek Professional Help
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Even if you consider yourself an advanced exerciser, booking one or two sessions with a trainer to discuss your goals and approach can go a long way towards helping you take your workout to the next level. Most gyms offer a free session to all members and may offer discounts if you've been a member for awhile. Be sure to ask for any special deals or offers, and be specific with the trainer about what you hope to gain from the session(s) in order to maximize your investment.
Revisit Childhood Favorites
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If you haven't gone swimming, biking, or jumped on a trampoline since you were a kid, now is the time to bring them back into your life! All the fun activities that you used to "play" as a child are still awesome ways to stay in shape. Getting back into an activity that you used to do in high school (such as competitive swimming, running track, or ballet) can help you push yourself harder and stay more committed to your routine. (Bonus: Ask friends to come and "play" and help each other stay accountable).
Rock to the Right Beat
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Listening to exercise specific beats per minute (bpm) music during your workout can help you get more out of your moves. According to one study done by Dr. Costas Karageorghis, an associate professor of sport psychology at Brunel University in England, a song's tempo directly relates to the average person's heart rate during exercise, which means tapping into the power of your tunes can truly help you maximize your workout potential.
Here are some general bpm guidelines when it comes to picking the perfect workout playlist: For strength training (done at a circuit pace) stick with 120-130 bpm, for running try 150-175pm, and for cycling try 95-130 bpm (will vary with terrain).
Wear a Heart Rate Monitor
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Working out with a heart rate monitor can help you burn more calories during your workouts by giving you feedback on your intensity level. Once you've determined your specific training zones, you can better balance your workout days by alternating high and low intensity sessions and make sure you stay in the right heart rate range at the right time.
Sound the Alarm
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A simple stopwatch-style timer can be an inexpensive, but super effective, tool for boosting your workout's benefits. Use it for Tabata intervals, boxing rounds, or just to make sure you get your routine done in 20 minutes or less—no time for talking or daydreaming allowed!