You'll feel silly doing these exercises… until you see and feel the results
Pilates Open-Leg Rocker
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"Grab your ankles, open your legs, and smile" might not be the kind of direction you'd expect from your group fitness instructor, but anyone who's tried Pilates has seen this move in action—and knows what a great workout it is.
Why you should do it: The open-leg rocker is not only great for strengthening your core, it also challenges your balance, flexibility, and coordination—three important aspects of fitness we often neglect.
How to do it: Sit with a straight back, tight core, and knees bent in front of chest. Lift feet so you're balancing on your sit bones. If this feels challenging, you can do the roll from here. To make it harder (and get the full embarrassing effect), extend both legs straight out in a "V," grabbing each ankle or calf. Once you're stable, roll onto your back, engaging your core the entire time, and then roll back up to balance on your rear without letting go of your legs.
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Unless you have a tiny human bursting from your loins or are training for your first Sumo match, this deep squat can feel a little too... exposed.
Why you should do it: This type of squat helps open your hips, aligns your spine, and stretches out your inner thighs. You can hold it in the down position for a relaxing stretch, or you can stand up and repeat the squat to sculpt your butt, hamstrings, and inner thighs.
How to do it: Place your feet wider than hip width, knees and toes pointing out to the sides. Tuck your pelvis under and squat down as deeply as you can. Place your elbows inside your legs and gently push out to increase the stretch.
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This may be the most awkward position on our list, but you'll likely be so focused on not face planting that you'll forget about your high-flying booty.
Why you should do it: This challenging twist on the classic pushup strengthens your chest, shoulders, back, core, and arms while also improving your balance and coordination.
How to do it: Start in a downward dog position with hands and feet on the floor and hips up so that your body makes an upside down "V." Lower your chest down and forward in between your hands, lightly brushing the floor. As you swoop up with your head and chest, bring hips down through your hands until you're in upward-facing dog. From here, you can either use your core muscles to lift your hips and push back into the original position, or you can reverse the "dive bomber" motion and swoop back through.
Kneeling Abs Curl
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Anything that involves getting on your knees on the gym floor has potential for embarrassment (and dirty workout pants), but as you can see, this one is especially bad.
Why you should do it: Unlike traditional on-your-back exercises (crunches), this novel abs exercise forces you to engages your hip flexors to compensate for poor form, keeping all the work in your core. Plus, the added weight means you can do fewer reps for faster results.
How to do it: Kneel in front of a cable machine, free motion machine, or a resistance band anchored to something high. Grab a handle in each hand, pull your core in tight, and then round forward until your head touches the floor (or until you can't go any further). Return to the starting position and repeat.
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This move is also known as one of the "wind relieving" yoga postures (Know what happens when you pump a baby's legs in and out from their stomach? Well, you can be just as happy, albeit happier if you're alone).
Why you should do it: This pose is good for more than just relieving bloat. You'll feel the stretch down your inner legs, butt, and back. Try rolling side to side for a nice spinal massage.
How to do it: Lie faceup on the floor and bring your knees up to your chest, feet up towards the ceiling. Spread your knees as far apart as you comfortably can. Grab the inside of each foot and pull down until you feel a stretch.
Kneeling Leg Lifts
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The secret to doing this move with perfect form? Imagine a dog at a fire hydrant.
Why you should do it: Few moves can isolate the outside of your glute muscle (also known as the "perky butt" muscles) as well as the kneeling leg lift can! You can make it harder by fully extending your leg, or try lifting your opposite arm at the same time to challenge your balance.
How to do it: Start on your hands and knees. Lift your right leg straight up from the hip, taking care to keep your heel in line with your knee. Pulse at the top 10 to 20 times, lifting and lowering your knee one or two inches. Lower leg to original position and repeat on the other side.
"Flasher" Shoulder Openers
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Remember the old playground trick where the boys would challenge the girls to touch their elbows together behind their backs in order to get them to stick their boobs out? This is basically the weight-room version of that, except now you're challenging yourself.
Why you should do it: This simple exercise strengthens your upper back, shoulders, and core while giving you a nice stretch through your chest. It's also a great move to encourage perfect posture.
How to do it: Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend your elbows, bringing the dumbbells together in front of you at waist height. Maintain a 90-degree bend in your elbows as you slowly open your hands as far out as you can (like you're a flasher in a trench coat). Keep your elbows in tight, roll your shoulders back, and stick your chest out. Return arms back to center.
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Animal-inspired workouts are one of the hottest fitness trends of 2013, and while this move may not be as impressive as, say, the side-traveling ape, it might attract just as much attention at the gym.
Why you should do it: This Pilates exercise requires you to use your abdominal muscles, not momentum, to initiate and control the rolling motion. Bonus: It can also help massage a sore lower back.
How to do it: Sit up tall on your sit bones and bending one knee, then the other, lift your feet and put your arms inside your legs. Wrap your hands under your ankles and grasp the outside. The knees are just outside the shoulders, not too far apart, and the feet are together.
Initiating the movement with your lower abs, roll back onto your shoulders (not your neck) and then back up to sitting without ever letting go of your feet or putting them down on the floor. At the top, clap your feet together three times.
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It's hilarious when dogs go nose-to-ground and stick their butts up in the air. But whether it's the lack of fur or the possession of an ego, it's inappropriate to laugh when a human does it.
Why you should do it anyway: If you've ever tried this yoga pose, you probably don't need convincing. It feels magnificent—nothing stretches your back, shoulders, and hamstrings like it! What's more, postures like downward dog (as well as more difficult arm balance) that place weight on the arms and shoulders are great for building upper-body strength and preserving bone density.
How to do it: From all fours, tuck your toes, lift your hips, and press back into down dog. Reach your heels toward the ground. Relax your shoulders toward the ground and relax your head and neck. Stay here for five long, deep breaths. If desired, lift the back of your right thigh straight up for down dog split.
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Lying on your back and thrusting your pelvis in the air is generally reserved for... things covered by other magazines. So you're not alone if you feel a little awkward doing glute bridges with an audience.
Why you should do it: Thanks in part to the position of our eyes, exercises that slim and tone the front of the body (hello, abs!) get a lot of attention. But for optimal health and fitness (and to look and feel amazing in your skinniest jeans) your posterior need just as much love. This exercise targets your hamstrings and glutes and also requires you to activate your abdominal and lower-back muscles in order to keep your body stable.
How to do it: Lie faceup on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms by your sides. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, squeezing your glutes and pressing slightly out with your knees the entire time. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds in the up position, then lower back down.