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The Real Secret to Skinny

The Real Secret to Skinny

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One thing we all want from our workout routine: To get results without spending hours in the gym each week. So in keeping with the theme of efficiency, we'll cut right to the chase. If you can do more than 8-12 reps with proper form of any one of the following exercises, then you need to either increase the amount of weight you're lifting or perform the exercise slower. That means instead of simply going through the motions, hold the hardest part of each move longer (go for 45 seconds in plank instead of 30 seconds).

Not convinced? Try it! Do 2-3 sets of the prescribed number of reps for each of the following exercises, making sure to complete the full range of motion. You'll get better results faster (yes, even though you're going slower!).

Photo: iStock


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Start in the plank position with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Take 4 seconds to lower your body down, and then quickly press back up (1 second). Repeat 8 times.

If you can't get back up, don't worry! Focus on slowly lowering your body down, and you'll be able to push up in no time. The negative or resistance portion of an exercise (in this case, the lowering down part of the pushup) is always the most important, hence taking the "negative" part of the exercise slower.

Back Fly

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Lie facedown on the floor and hold your arms out in a "T" position. With externally rotated arms (thumbs pointing up, shoulders down and back), lift both arms as high as you can without tensing the muscles in your upper back and the back of your neck (your upper trapezius muscles). Slowly lower your arms until they're just off the floor (Don't touch!). If you have 1-lb weights, hold them as you perform 8-10 reps. No weights? Do 12 reps, holding each one at the top for 2 seconds.


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Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on your hips or straight out in front of you (your choice). Your pelvis should be the first thing to move. Take a full 4 counts to lower down into a squat, hold your position at the lowest point for 3 additional counts, and then quickly return to standing (1 second). Repeat 8 times with no rest in between each rep.

Reverse Crunches

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Lie faceup on a bench and hold onto the edges with your hands near your head. Take 1 second to bring your knees in towards your nose, and then slowly lower your hips back down toward the bench. Don't let your feet touch the bench in between reps. Repeat 8-10 times.

Seated Cable Row

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Sit at a cable machine with your chest out, back straight, and your shoulders pressed down and back (as if you're squeezing something in the middle of your upper back). Grab the cable with both hands and pull back (1 second), maintaining the same feeling in your shoulders and back for the entire movement. Hold for 2 counts and then take 4 counts to fully straighten, allowing your shoulders come forward at the end. Repeat 8 times.

Ab Twist

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Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and hold the cable handle with both hands, one on top of the other. Without moving your hips, twist your upper body away from the cable stack (1 second). Return to the starting position in 4 counts. Keep your arms centered in front of your chest with a slight bend for the entire movement.


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Step up onto a bench or step (1 second), and then take 4 seconds to lower your body back down. Make sure your hips stay even on the descent and that you're not collapsing into the working hip.

Shoulder Rotation

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Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a 3-lb dumbbell in each hand. Bring your arms up into the shape of an upside-down goal post. Rotate the 90-degree angle into an upright goal post (1 second), and then take 4 seconds to rotate back into the original upside-down position.

Supine Splits

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Lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air. Open your legs as far as you can (1 second), and then take 8 counts to bring them back together. If your legs won't straighten all the way, don't worry. You can keep a slight bend in the knee and you'll still feel the burn!

Neck Exercises

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No, they won't make your neck big! Neck exercises are often a missing link in most workout routines. You should hit all four directions: front (chin to the chest as shown here), back (lowered head then lifting the eyes up), and both sides with the ear reaching down toward the shoulder. Lie with your head hanging just off a stretch table or bench. Bring your head up (1 second) and slowly lower back to the starting position. Work your way up to 10 reps in each position.

Calf Raises

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Standing in first position (for all you ballerinas out there)—heels together, toes slightly turned out. Take 1 second to shift your weight to the balls of your feet and raise up to your highest relevé (on your toes). Slowly return yours heels to the floor in 4 counts. Hold your hands on your hips for the entire movement or for a little extra shoulder burn, hold your arms out in a "T" position.

About the Author

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Elizabeth Hendrix Burwell is a celebrity trainer and professional dancer trained in classical and contemporary dance. An expert in Pilates for more than a decade, Burwell seamlessly integrates that exercise discipline with resistance training to improve posture, develop flexibility, and build strength. Burwell is a co-owner (along with husband Clay) of High Performance NYC, an advanced personal training facility located in lower Manhattan.