Gym Equipment You Should Be Using
Foam Roller Chest Press
Foam rollers are not only great for easing sore muscles, but they’re also an excellent tool for taking your workout to the next level. Try doing a standard chest press laying lengthwise on the roller for an added balance challenge. Variation: You can use this same technique with overhead triceps presses, pec flys, and any other strength move you typically do on your back.
Foam Roller Glute-Hamstring Bridge
Find a clean spot on your gym floor to lie on your back (if your gym is anything like mine, this might be tricky). Place both feet on the foam roller with knees slightly bent. Lift your butt as high off the ground as you can and without letting your butt drop, pull the roller in towards your butt and then push it back out again. You should feel this down the backs of your legs, your butt, and even your calves. Variation: Try straightening one leg and lifting it off the roller like Krista in this picture. Don't forget to switch sides though—no one wants an uneven butt!
Foam Roller Bird Dog
Start in push-up position with both hands firmly on the foam roller. Once you have your balance, lift one leg and hold for 5 seconds. Follow by lifting and holding the other leg, then one arm and then the second arm. You'll feel this throughout your core like a plank but also in your butt and shoulders. Variation: To really challenge your core strength and balance, lift your opposite leg and arm at the same time, like Allison is doing here.
Foam Roller Push-Up
Start in a standard push-up position with hands shoulder-width apart on the roller. Slowly lower yourself down and press back up. This move works your shoulders, arms, chest, and core like a regular push-up, but the balance makes it much harder. Variation: Do a one-legged push-up like Allison, alternating which leg is up between sets. Just be careful not to let that roller get away from you. Ouch!
Medicine Ball Plank
You've seen medicine balls (Why the "medicine?” I have no idea) everywhere from TV to your local gym, but you can use them for so many more medicine ball exercises than most people know. A regular plank done holding onto the ball adds extra work for your abs and shoulders. If your ball doesn't have handles, just place both hands on top. Variation: Hold a plank position with both feet on the ball to shift your center of balance.
Medicine Ball Push-Up
Place both hands on the ball (either on the handles or the top in a diamond shape) and do a pushup. The instability will make you work harder to stay balanced, and the placement of your hands will target your outer shoulders and forearms when flanged outward (shown here) or will hit your triceps if you keep your elbows tucked in close to your ribs. Variation: Try doing a plyo push-up by lifting the ball off the ground when you push back up to the top. The ball will cushion your landing, but be careful not to fall off of it.
Medicine Ball Sit-Up and Catch
The cool thing about using a ball for this sit-up as opposed to, say, a dumbbell is that you can throw it and catch it like a ball. With a partner standing a couple of feet away from your toes, throw the ball to him or her when you sit up. Have them immediately throw it back to you and catch it as you start to go back down. Variation: If you don't have a partner, you can bounce the ball off a wall. Just be sure to get your toes right up against the wall and use a lighter ball so you can control it.
Medicine Ball Catch
This move is just like playing catch on the playground. That is, if your playground ball weighed 30 pounds and foursquare was a blood sport. This move not only works your arms when you throw it and your core when you catch it, but it also helps hone your reflexes (you do not want to miss this ball flying at you!). Variation: If you don't have a partner, lift the ball over your head and slam it down on the ground in front of you as hard as you can. Catch it before it bounces. This is also great cardio workout.
Sliding Lateral Lunge
Plastic sliding disks increase the difficulty of any exercise by eliminating the resistance between your foot and the floor. Try this lateral lunge to work your inner thighs and butt. Start in a standing position with both feet together and place a sliding disk, Val-Slide, gym towel, or even a paper plate under one foot. Lower down into a squat as you slide your foot directly out to the side as far as is comfortable for you (no need to go into the splits involuntarily!). Pause and then stand back up, pulling your leg back in. You'll be amazed at how hard that second part is! Variation: For a real quad burner, try lunging forward and then sliding your foot straight through to a reverse lunge without stopping in the middle.
Start in a plank position with hands close together on sliders. As you lower down, slide both hands out to each side, ending in a wide push-up (as pictured). As you push back up, slide your hands back in. Variation: This is very challenging so if you can't get the regular push-up, try doing it from your knees first. Or you can start with just one hand on a slider and switching sides between sets.
This one move works your shoulders, arms, quads, back, and abs! Start in plank position with both feet on either one or two sliders (two sliders, one under each foot like Allison, is more difficult). Raise your hips and stick your butt up into the air as you pull both feet in towards your hands. Then, walk your hands forward until you are back in plank position. Variation: Put the sliders under your hands instead of your feet for a new challenge.
Sliding Mountain Climber
It’s easy to cheat when you do mountain climbers by taking a little mini-rest between jumping your feet. But by placing each foot on a sliding disk, you'll be forced to keep yourself honest—there’s no stopping your legs with this one. Variation: Put the plates under your hands and "mountain climb" with your arms.
Sliding Ab Crunch
With both feet on sliders in the plank position, bring your knees in to your chest as shown. Keep your butt low and extend your legs back out to plank. Variation: To really work your abs, keep your legs straight and lift your butt into the air for a sliding pike.
Power Wheel Roll-Out
It may look like a seatless unicycle, but try riding it and you'll be nose to the ground in seconds. Instead, kneel on the floor with both hands on the pedals. Roll the wheel forward as far as you can, squeezing your glutes and bracing your abs the entire time. Roll the wheel back in. Trust us, it’s harder than it looks! Variation: Do this move facing a wall and roll out the wheel just until hits. The wall will stabilize the wheel so you can bring it back in without falling on your face. shape.com
Add some hilarity (and strange stares) to your workout with this killer move for your abs and arms. Just like you'd do a wheelbarrow in elementary school, have a friend hold onto your feet. When you're stable, move your hands to the power wheel and roll away! Variation: I got nothing. One handed? Bring in a baby seal?
Power Wheel Hamstring Curl
Lay on your back and place both feet on the wheel (it helps if you use the velcro straps). Lift your hips up and then pull your feet in towards you. Push your feet back out again. Repeat until your hamstrings scream for mercy (it won't take long).
Bosu Wobbly Plank
“Bosu”—that blue, bouncy half-a-ball thing—is actually an acronym for "both sides up," so take advantage and flip it over. Start in plank position with both hands on the bottom. Keeping your arms straight, lean to one side and then the other. Variation: Add in some forward-and-back movements too.
As if burpees aren't hard enough, the Bosu takes it to a whole new level of ouch. Start with the Bosu on the ground in front of you, rounded side down. Squat down, put your hands on the Bosu, and jump your legs back into (wobbly) plank. Jump your legs back in and grab the Bosu with both hands, pressing it above your head. Return it to the floor and continue. You'll feel this move in your legs (the squat and thrust), your core and arms (the plank), and your shoulders (the press). Variation: Add a push-up on the bottom side of the bosu before you do the thrust. shape.com
Traditional push-ups work your entire upper body, but if you really want to isolate your shoulders, try this "V" variety. Start with your feet on the Bosu and your hands on the floor. Walk your hands towards your feet, lifting your hips until your shoulders are almost directly under your hips. Do a push-up.
Regular supermans getting boring? Up the difficulty by doing this back toner on top of the Bosu. Variation: Swim your arms and legs to intensify the burn.
Unstable Tree Pose
These squishy, nubby disks come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, but they all upgrade your workout by providing an unstable surface. The theory is that the smaller muscles in your legs will have to work harder to stabilize your body, thus making the move more effective. (That's the principle behind all those "shaper shoes" too.) Start by standing on one leg to get the feel for it, and then move into tree pose. Variation: You can do almost any balancing yoga pose on the blob, but don't get too crazy. You don't want to roll an ankle.
Unstable Front Squat
Adding this squishy disk to your squats forces your core (and many other muscles) to work much harder to keep your balance. Variation: Your squat options are endless! Try back squats, overhead squats, hindu squats, butt-to-heels... whatever you like! And when you're finished with squats, try lunges.
Pilates Ring V-Up
Work your abs and your inner thighs—it’s a trouble spot two-fer! Place a Pilates ring between your knees (a squishy ball will do also). Perform a v-up, keeping your back and legs as straight as possible. At the top of the move, hold the V and squeeze the ring or ball 10 times before lowering back down. Variation: If the v-up is too difficult, lay on your back and lift your legs in the air. Do a little crunch up and then pulse your legs.
Pilates Ring Chest Press
Hold the Pilates ring straight out in front of you at shoulder height. Keeping your arms slightly bent, pulse your hands together. Variation: Chant "I must, I must, I must increase my bust..." Okay, so this move won't increase your cup size, but it will work your pecs. Every little bit helps, right?
Running in a Circle
Just try it—this move is a lot harder than it looks! Place an object on the floor—we used a cone, but water bottles, a yoga block or even a shoe will work. Facing forward the entire time, run in tight circles around the object as quickly as possible. You'll need to cross your feet as you go. Variation: Run the other direction of course!
Ball Squat Shuffle
Remember how your dad told you on prom night to place an Aspirin between your knees and make sure it never dropped? Well, this is the grown-up version—no pregnancy scares required. Place a small ball between your knees and squat low, making sure not to let the ball drop. Variation: Once in the squat position, shuffle from side to side. Do "hokey pokey" arms like Megan here if you're really motivated.
Single Arm Medicine Ball Push-Up
With one hand on a ball and the other on the floor, a simple push-up turns into a move that really works the arm and chest on the bottom and also challenges your balance. Variation: Put a ball under each hand!