Transform your body with these effective exercises designed to play to your female strengths.
Girls Rule the Workout
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Men may have us beat when it comes to pure strength, but women definitely have the advantage when it comes to flexibility, balance, and coordination! Plus, we're more likely to work out with a friend, which opens up even more exercise possibilities. Try out these moves designed to play to your female strengths.
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This plyometric move works your quads and gives your hamstrings a nice stretch.
How to do it: Standing with one foot on the ground and the other knee raised to waist height, jump off your supporting leg and kick it up in the air. Land on the leg that was bent. Repeat on the other leg. Form check: Keep your back straight—no hunching!—and keep your knee soft when you land.
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This squat is not only a great move for your quads, inner thighs, and butt, but it’s also a great stretch for your inner legs.
How to do it: Stand with feet just wider than hip width. Squat down as close to the floor as you can, knees pointing outward. Squeezing your glutes, return to standing. Form check: Push your butt as close to your heels as you can get it. Use your elbows to gently push your knees wider for a deeper stretch.
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Most of us are used to this calf-burning position from wearing our favorite heels, but this squat will tone your butt, quads, and calves—no Jimmy Choos required!
How to do it: With feet hip-width apart, squat down as if you are sitting in a chair. Lift your heels as high as you can and hold for 10 seconds. Release heels and then stand. That's one squat. Form check: Stick your booty back farther than you think you should—most women tend to curl their hips under in a squat, which can lead to lower-back and knee injuries. Your bum should not be over your heels.
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Cartwheels incorporate balance, hamstring flexibility, and core and shoulder strength.
How to do it: Stand with one foot slightly in front of the other. Bend down and place the hand on the same side as your front foot on the ground followed by your second hand. Kick your legs over the top. Don't worry if your knees are bent or your legs don't go straight over the top—you're doing these for exercise, not for the summer Olympics. Form check: Start by slowly going through the movement until you are confident in your hand placement before going full out (Unless you dig landing on your head. Then by all means just go for it).
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Handstands are great for improving your balance, core, and shoulder strength but not many of us can just bust one out (without busting some other things in the process).
How to do it: Use a wall or a good friend to help you stay up. Lunge forward about 3 feet in front of the wall or your friend. Lean forward over your front leg and place your hands on the ground while kicking off your bent leg. (Or you can kneel down in front of the wall and just walk your feet up it.) Form check: Keep your abs in tight and don't let your back arch.
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Try Dacner’s Pose to test your balance and flexibility.
How to do it: Standing on one leg, reach behind you with the opposite hand and grab the inside of your other foot, palm facing out. Pressing your back leg into your hand, allow it to raise up and propel your upper body forward. Form check: Keep your chin up and opposite arm out to help you balance.
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Agility, coordination, and a good sense of humor make you a natural when it comes to this fancy footwork.
How to do it: Start by running sideways while alternately crossing your right foot in front of and then behind your left. Switch directions and go the other way. The faster you go, the better the workout (and the sillier you look, but that's half the fun!) Form check: Try to keep your upper body still while you hot step.
Headstand or Tripod
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Not only does this exercise work your balance, core, and shoulders but it makes for a great party trick. (We recommend being sober, but it’s your call.)
How to do it: Place your head on the ground with both arms bent and hands in front of you to make a stable tripod. Contract your abs and lift your knees on top of your elbows. Stay here or try extending your legs straight up to a headstand for more of a challenge. Form check: Make sure you are holding your core tight before you lift your legs—if you just kick up right away, you run the risk of kicking yourself right over.
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Women naturally have a lower center of gravity than men, making it easier to keep our balance and stay low to the ground in power moves like this plyometric lunge.
How to do it: Perform a reverse lunge with your back leg slightly at an angle. Leap to the side and bring the opposite leg behind you, only tapping your toe to the ground. Immediately jump back the other direction and continue alternating until you feel the burn. Form check: Keep your knees bent and stay as low as possible to really work your quads.
Capoeira Lunge Kick
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Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art/dance that specializes in making really difficult moves look easy.
How to do it: Start in a deep lunge with your opposite arm guarding your face (left). Without standing up, shift to a squat with your head down and neck protected (center). Again without standing up, turn the lunge to the other side and then rise up on your front leg and kick your back leg straight out (right). Repeat going the other direction without pausing in between positions. Form check: Try to go back and forth in one fluid motion.
Sweeping Crescent Kick
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This move is the perfect mix of strength, balance, and flexibility with the added bonus of pretending you get to kick someone's lights out (you know you can think of someone you'd like to kick!).
How to do it: Start in a deep lunge, hands in "guard" in front of you. In one sweeping motion, stand up on your front leg and kick your back leg in an arc in front of you. Form check: Don't worry about kicking super high at first, power and balance are more important!
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There's a reason Yoginis have such amazing shoulders (this move is the secret!).
How to do it: Start in a plank position (left). Slowly lower down to a hover with elbows in tight at your sides and hands under your shoulders (center). Push through your hands into Up Dog with back arched as far as comfortable (right). Return to plank position (or go through Down Dog if you want to add a hamstring stretch). Repeat in a flowing cycle. Form check: In the Up Dog position your butt should be contracted so your thighs are off the ground and your toes tucked under.
Tabletop Leg Lift
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Stretch your chest and shoulders while toning your legs and glutes with this one move.
How to do it: Sit on the ground with your feet in front of you and hands behind you. Raise your hips and push up into a "table top.” Lift one leg and pulse 10 times. Switch legs. Form check: Don't let your bum drop when your leg goes up. Keep your core tight and stay as straight as possible.
Curtsy Lunge with Knee Lift
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Drop into a lunge with your back leg angled out behind you, as if curtsying for the Queen (left). Then stand up on your front leg, bringing your back knee up and touching it to your elbow (right) as if getting ready to roundhouse the Queen. Form check: You should feel the knee lift in your oblique muscles on that side. It looks easy, but trust us, it gets burn-y fast!
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Good balance and a good butt—you're the total package!
How to do it: Stand with both feet together. Keeping your chest up, lift one leg behind you as high as possible. Reach up with opposite arm. Drop your toe to ground, just touching it lightly before lifting it again. Form check: Keep both hips squared to the ground. You'll want to open your hips to the side. Don't do it. No one likes an ugly ballerina.
Buddy Wall Sit
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The traditional wall sit is notorious for causing trembling quads, but doing this move back-to-back with a good girlfriend (honestly, could you see a man doing this?) challenges your balance too.
How to do it: Stand back-to-back with your friend. Bring your shoulders together first (trust me, bumping booties first never ends well), count to three, and then slide down together into a squat. Hold until one of you cries mercy! Form check: Keep your backs straight and shoulders touching. And no hands on your thighs!
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Just because you're not in the Cirque Du Soleil or on the cheerleading squad doesn't mean that leg flexibility isn't important. Limber legs mean fewer injuries (in most cases). Form check: Make sure to do all of your static stretches (like the splits) after your workout, as research shows that stretching before working out makes you more injury prone and up to 30-percent weaker—yikes!
Partner Leg Throws
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You haven’t done ab work until you've tried this killer move that works your core in every direction!
How to do it: Lay on your back with your friend standing by your head. Hold on to your friend's calves and raise both legs straight up in the air. Have your friend push your legs straight down or to the right or to the left. Keep your abs braced the entire time so there’s not a lot of movement in your lower back. After each push bring your legs back up as quickly as possible. Form check: Surprise is a key element in this move, so don't let your friend do a pattern or tell you which way she's going to push.
Side Plank with Leg Lift
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Tighten up your obliques and work on your balance by making your body into a big X.
How to do it: Lay on your side and then lift up on your bottom forearm and foot so that your body forms a straight line. Stay here or extend top leg for an extra challenge. Drop bottom leg down to your knee for less resistance. Form check: Keep your body straight—no piking at the waist or rolling forward or backwards.