6 Smarter Ways to Train for Common Body Goals
Score the results you seek faster by switching up your workout routine
From core-centric classes to running to yoga, the variety of workouts and programs you can try are a great way to make sure boredom doesn't crimp your commitment to fitness. And while every type of exercise plan presents its own unique benefits, some may be better suited to help you meet your personal body goals than others. Be sure you're on the track to your desired results-and get there faster-with these expert-recommended workouts.
If You Want Thinner Thighs
Instead of: Sprinting
Try: Distance running
Sprinters tend to have bigger thighs, which gives them power to cover short distances in a flash, while the average endurance runner has thinner thighs, says Tom Holland, C.S.C.S., author of Beat the Gym. "Distance running ‘eats' into the muscle a little bit when you run for 90 minutes or longer," Holland says. [Tweet this fact!] At this point your body has used up its carbs and fat and starts to burn protein, which it gets from muscle, as a source of fuel. "It's more about endurance than muscle growth and may work better for a woman concerned about bigger thighs," he explains. Aim for long runs of at least 1 1/2 hours, and don't forget to cross train too.
If You Want to Boost a Flat Butt
Instead of: Swimming
Try: Strength training
Swimming requires core and total-body strength, but the buoyancy of the water does not make for shapely glutes, Holland says. Strengthening on land with weights will help round out your backside and produce curves. Holland recommends adding 2 to 3 sets of squats, lunges, step-ups, and the leg press machine to your total-body routine at least twice a week. (Don't neglect your upper-body and core, or else you may wind up with an unbalanced body.) Boosting your booty involves using fairly heavy iron, so pick a weight you can lift 10 times, with the last two reps being a struggle.
If You Want to Tone Your Tummy
Instead of: Steady-state cardio
Belly fat is more about your diet than anything else. And while interval training can help burn calories and flatten your stomach, going the same pace every mile won't help. Enter Pilates. "Pilates puts you in positions that force you to learn to engage your midsection. As you advance to harder exercises, you will burn the unwanted belly fat," says Jesse Irizarry, a N.S.C.A.-certified strength and conditioning coach at Performance Efficiency in New York City. Add it all up, and that means as the fat melts off, you'll reveal nicely defined abs, even if you don't have a chiseled six-pack. [Tweet this tip!]
If You Want to Shrink Your Butt
Instead of: Heavy weight training
Try: Hot yoga
Working out with weights helps shape and firm your glutes, but if you'd rather reduce your caboose, sweating it out in hot yoga may be a better choice, Irizarry says. Temperatures range from 90 to 105 degrees (Bikram is even hotter), with humidity up to 40 percent. "Rather than building up specific areas, which can happen in strength training, the stretching and stabilization poses in these classes challenge the body with the overall goal of achieving new ranges of motion," Irizarry explains. You won't build your glutes, but you will strengthen your core.
If You're Straight and Want More Curves
Instead of: Yoga
Adding more shape to your body requires using enough weight to trigger muscle growth, and unless you're doing extreme power yoga (think lots of handstands and arm balances), bodyweight poses like warrior and chair will improve balance and core strength but not create curves. On the other hand, CrossFit utilizes a lot of overhead and trunk weight-bearing lifts (among many other things). "Anytime the head, spine, and pelvis are loaded repeatedly, the body has to adapt in this midline area and become more muscular and stronger," Irizarry says, and stronger glutes and hips translates into more curves.
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If You Gain Muscle Quickly and Would Rather Not
Instead of: Weight lifting
Just as lifting relatively heavy weights will develop muscle, using your body weight and doing isometric movements (pushing against an unmovable object) will do the opposite, Holland says. "Barre uses very light weights and small ‘pulsing' movements, which do not promote muscle growth since you're not breaking down muscle fibers," Holland says. "You may feel a ‘burn,' which relates to muscle fatigue, but you don't use enough weight to really build." Instead, you'll gain strength and overall tone.