Balance Beam Walk
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You don't need a real balance beam to work it like a gymnast. To challenge your balance and strengthen your core muscles, find a curb or plank and try to walk the entire length (.10 point deduction for every wobble!). Tip: Once you've mastered walking forward, try going backwards!
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Get a toned booty like a ballerina with this classic dance move. Lightly grasp a bar in front of you at about waist height. Keeping your left leg straight, lift your right leg up directly behind you until you feel a squeeze in your butt. Pulse your lifted leg up to the sky 10 times before lowering. Tip: The bar is just there for balance (falling on wood chips can get sliver-y!) so don't use it if you don't need it.
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Push-ups are great for working your chest, shoulders, arms, and even core (hold it in tight so your hips don't sag). If you're not ready to do them on the ground, try an elevated push-up with your hands on a bench. These were perfect for our pregnant model! Tip: Need more of a challenge? Put both of your feet on the bench and your hands on the ground to turn these into a decline push-up!
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Stand on a step with your heels hanging off the edge. Raise your body by pushing the balls of your feet into the step and then lower, extending your heels down. Immediately press back up as far as you comfortably can. Try doing 10 slow and then 20 quick pulses to really get those calves burning. Tip: You can add weight to these by holding a small child (preferably one you're already acquainted with) or a backpack full of books to your chest.
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Mix a few sprints in between these bodyweight exercises to get a full-body circuit workout that will challenge you aerobically as well muscularly. Try sprinting up the stairs and down the slide (or fireman pole!), play tag with the kids, or even just run laps around the outside of the park.
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Playgrounds are the perfect place to work on your chin-ups (underhand grip, like me) or pull-ups (overhand grip), because they have so many different heights of bars. If you can already do one with proper form, use the monkey bars to do as many chin-ups as you can. If you're still working on lifting your whole body weight, try our modified chin-up (see next slide). Tip: Use the different types of bars to try different grips—narrow, wide, palms facing inward, etc.
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If you're not ready for the real deal yet (and let's be honest, how many of us can really do a pull-up?), start by hanging under a bar that is about chest height. Using as much of your arms strength as you can (only assisted by your legs), pull yourself up. Tip: Try changing your grip every few reps. The playground usually has great options for palms-in, like our girl, that you might not find in your gym.
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Slide sit-ups offer all the ab-burning action of doing decline sit-ups at the gym, but they're way more fun when you finish (just slide down!). Sitting backward at the top of the slide, hook your feet around the top edge. Slowly lower yourself down and raise back up, keeping your arms crossed in front of you (easier) or loosely behind your head (harder). Try for 2 sets of 10 reps. Tip: Be a good turn-taker and let the pre-schoolers work in with you.
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Whether you're sliding down or climbing up, the fireman pole is a real challenge for the muscles in your legs and arms. Tip: Afraid of heights? Start at the bottom and just climb up a couple of feet before jumping down. Repeat until your arms give out—or you get pole-burned.
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If you're looking for a serious challenge for your core, hang upside down from a bar by your knees. Using just your abs, pull yourself up to a crunch position. You can either hold at the top for an isometric (static) exercise or continue to lower down and up. Tip: Some bars get slippery so try hanging by your knees to test it out (and make sure you won't end up in a face plant).
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Nothing works your upper back (and shoulders and arms) better than the reverse push-up. Hanging underneath a bar, pull your shoulder blades down and back and use your arms to pull your chest towards the bar. Tip: The more upright you are, the easier this move is.
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I think ballerinas just don't like the word "squat" but this type works your quads, inner thighs, and butt. Tip: Keep your butt tucked under so your back is in a straight line.
Plyo Step Up
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While we all walk up stairs every day, adding a little jump to the top of your step forces your leg muscles to work harder. Tip: Adding the fist pump at the top may make you feel like an out-of-place cheerleader, but it helps keep your chest up so you can get that extra height in your jump.
Hanging Knee Raise
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Hanging underneath a bar, bring your knees up towards your chest in a tuck position. Slowly lower back down, only allowing your toes to touch the ground before bringing your knees up again. Try for one set of 10 reps. Tip: This may appear to be just a core move, but adding the hang from the bar really trains your shoulders too.
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Using a willing child, a pet, or a backpack full of books, work your shoulders by pressing them/it over your head. Tip: If you're using a kid, make sure and make funny faces and squeal while you lift them in the air.
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Keeping both feet together, jump sideways up and down the stairs. It's a cardio workout and builds strength in your quads and calves! Tip: Make sure to face the other direction after each set so each leg gets a chance to be the "uphill" leg.
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This move takes mountain climbers to the next level. Position yourself at the top of a slide and you'll not only work your shoulders and legs, but you'll also get some cardio by working hard not to end up at the bottom! Tip: Start slowing by jumping one leg in front and then the other. Once you're comfortable with the motion use the slickness of the slide to move faster.
Bulgarian Split Squat
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What these have to do with Bulgaria I'll never know, but one thing I do know: These are one of the most effective butt-toning moves you can do. Place your back foot on a step or bench (the higher the harder). Keeping your chest up and your knee behind your foot, lower down until your back knee almost touches the ground. Stand back up. Try for 10 reps on each leg. Tip: Turn this into a deadlift to work your hamstrings at the same time. Here's how: Bring your chest to the top of your thigh and touch both hands to the ground at the bottom part of the lunge before standing back up.
Uneven Squat with Optional Leg Lift
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By putting one foot up higher than the other during these squats, you force the leg on the ground to work a little harder while also challenging your balance. Squat down as low as you can, keeping your weight in your heels and pushing your hips back as if you were going to sit in a chair. Tip: To work your outer thigh at the same time, push up out of the squat, standing up straight on your uphill leg and raising your bottom leg off the ground and directly out to the side.
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Any mom knows how much harder squats get when you add a wriggly child! Doing any type of squat you like—sumo, chair, wide, plie—hold a weight to your chest and squat down to parallel. Tip: I thought holding my daughter on my back was a good idea&38212;turns out that not only is it harder to hold the kid that way, but it wrecked my squat form. I don't recommend it. But hey, now you have a picture of what not to do!
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Keeping both feet together, hop up the stairs as quickly as you can. Tip: Try hopping two or even three stairs at a time.
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Placing both feet on a swing behind you and palms under your shoulders, bring your knees to your chest, making sure to keep your butt down. Push your legs back out into a straight line. Try for 10 reps in a row. Tip: Move the swing farther up your legs to make it easier. For example, putting just your toes on the swing is the hardest variation, putting your ankles on it is easier and calves is the easiest.
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Start out in the same position as the swing crunch but this time, keep your legs straight as you pull your feet in and push your butt straight up in the air. Tip: Try to stay straight over your shoulders without rounding your back.
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Standing with the swing in front of you, place both hands on the seat of the swing and push forward until you're in a plank position. Hold for 30 seconds or until your abs shake so much you can't take it anymore. Tip: This one's a lot harder than it looks! Be careful to be balanced so you don't end up face first in the wood chips. Like I did.
Front Leg Raise
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Lightly hold a bar for balance as you slowly raise one leg in front of you as high as you can, keeping your back straight and chest up. Try doing 10 raises and then pulsing 20 times at the top to really feel a burn in your quads. Tip: Ballerina arms are optional but why not? They're pretty and add some extra work for your arms.
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With hands on a step or bench behind you, lower your body down until your elbows are at a right angle. Press back up, making sure to not let your elbows splay out to the sides at any point. Tip: You can make this move harder by keeping your legs straight or easier by bending your knees.
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Walking lunges are a great way to work your butt, quads, and hamstrings, but adding a little bit of weight amps up the burn factor even more. Tip: Be careful to only add as much weight as you can carry while still keeping proper lunge form with your chest up, back straight, and front knee safely over your ankle.
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If you've ever found yourself hovering over a dirty seat in a port-a-potty (men have it so easy!), then you know what a great quad workout this is! Get in on the thigh-burning action by doing the gotta-pee squat while you're waiting in line.