Weights schmeits. You don't need equipment to tone up with these moves (and better yet, no one even needs to see you sweat!). You can re-energize your workday (or a trip to the supermarket!) with the simple, hassle-free exercises below.
For Your Arms
1. Grocery Bicep Curls
If only you could get to the gym as often as you find yourself at the supermarket! Happily, it's possible to shop your way to fitness. Reebok master trainer Petra Kolber suggests this simple strategy to strengthen biceps: As you load your groceries into the car (or as you unload, or after you've schlepped the bags into your kitchen), do 10 to 15 biceps curls with one half-full bag in each hand.
2. Chair Push-Ups
David Kirsch, owner of the Madison Square Club in New York City and author of Sound Mind, Sound Body (Rodale), says you can tone your upper arms (known unaffectionately as bat wings) without leaving your desk: Grab the armrests of your chair, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, and push yourself up, straightening your arms to do minilifts (your butt raises off the seat). Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps two or three times a day, and you'll soon notice a difference.
3. Dictionary Lifts
To strengthen your shoulders (and give them that nice "cap" that goes so well with sleeveless tops), try this while sitting at your desk: Grasp a heavy dictionary or laptop in front of you with straight arms (don't lock your elbows); then lift it from the desk to shoulder height, hold for a few seconds, and lower. "Do this for 12 to 15 reps per set, and do two or three sets, three to four times a week," suggests Tracy York, Los Angeles-based trainer and costar of the video Breakthru Pilates Plus. "If you sit up straight, so your back is unsupported by the chair, you'll also engage your abdominal muscles."
4. Instant Stabilizer
Next time you're waiting in line at the bank or grocery store, try this tai chi move to improve your balance, suggests wellness expert Scott Cole. The horse stance: Stand erect with feet parallel and shoulder-distance apart, then breathe in, exhale, slightly bend your knees, and settle down into your body. Focus your attention on a point two inches below your navel, and relax into your breathing for a few minutes. Do this on a daily basis, says Cole, and you will not only feel more balanced during other activities but also stave off joint problems and arthritis that may come with aging.
5. Bend and Snap
Your spine gets very unhappy slumping forward all day. Years of bad posture can lead to an aching back, an unflattering silhouette, and in time, nastier problems like compressed disks. To reverse the curve, Conrad Earnest, PhD, director of the Center for Human Performance at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, suggests standing up, placing your hands on your buttocks as if putting them in your back pockets (thumbs facing out), and then arching back just two inches or so (stretching any farther hyperextends your back; not a good thing). Hold five seconds, release, and repeat two more times. Try this every few hours, says Earnest: You'll feel better, and your back will be stronger and healthier for the long term.
6. Tummy Tuck
Who better than a professional belly dancer to tell us how to get those abs ready for midriff baring? Rania, creator of the video Cardio Shimmy, says you can do the "belly squeeze" at your desk, in the car, or in front of the TV. Take a deep breath and relax all your abdominal muscles, then exhale and pull them in as hard as you can, holding for several seconds. "Try to feel every muscle squeezing," says Rania. "This is something bodybuilders do to give their abs more definition. It really works the muscles." Aim for three sets of eight squeezes a day and you'll soon see results—and notice, no one said "sit-ups."
7. Glute Squeeze
If fanny spread has begun to seem like an occupational hazard, try this glute squeeze, suggested by Nancy Kennedy of Kennedy & Strom Fitness in Los Angeles: Sit straight in your chair, abdominal muscles tight, and squeeze your buttocks together for three to five counts, release for two, then repeat 15 to 20 times for a set. Try to work in three or four sets a day, and you'll definitely feel a "tighter, higher tushie" in a month or so, says Kennedy.
8. Mini Leg Lifts
The next time you're just standing around, grab on to something solid (sink, desk, table) and tone your butt, suggests Lydia Bach, founder of the Lotte Berk Method and creator of its video series. Stand straight with one leg slightly in back of you, two to three inches off the ground, foot flexed. Hold for 15 to 20 breaths, then do 20 to 30 tiny lifts, pausing at the top of each lift for a couple of seconds. Repeat on the other side. If you don't feel sore the next day, double the number of reps. "This works both the standing and lifting sides," says Bach. Repeated over time, it's a good investment, resulting in "high, round assets."
9. Leg Resistors
Here's a bargain—three body parts worked out for the price of one exercise, and you can reap the rewards without ever leaving your chair (or airplane seat), according to William J. Kraemer, PhD, professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut. To tone your inner thighs (body part number one), sit with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and put your hands on the insides of your knees, palms pushing out. Then slowly try to bring your knees together, providing resistance with your arm muscles (body part number two). Do two sets of ten repetitions (each rep should last three to five seconds), then go for number three, the outer thighs: Start in the same position, but place your hands on the outsides of your knees and try to push your thighs outward against the resistance of your arm muscles. Do two sets of ten reps as before. Repeat at least three times a week (preferably daily) to help develop and tone your thigh and arm muscles.
10. Natural Stairmaster
Walk on your tiptoes when you take the stairs. According to Los Angeles-based trainer Ellen Barrett, featured in the Crunch: Fat Burning Pilates workout video, you'll tone your calves ("They'll look lifted," says Barrett) and coach your body to maintain good posture. "You can't be on your toes and slump forward at the same time," says Barrett.