Top to Bottom

It’s been three-and-a-half months since our second daughter was born. And, if I do say so myself, she’s perfect from top to bottom! Now, almost four months post-partum, I’m not shooting for perfect – just decent – from top to bottom as I work hard to get back into shape.

From top to bottom, here are my favorite exercises:

1. Upright rows: This exercise tones the shoulders and hits the biceps, too. It can be done with a barbell or hand weights. I prefer to go lighter on the weight but sustain a longer work period. Or, in other words, instead of doing the traditional 12 reps three times, try choosing less weight but sustaining the exercise for three minutes. If you’re musically inclined, try lifting to the beat – going up for one count and down for three, up for two and down for two, and up for three counts and down for one.

2. Planks: Planks are my all-time favorite way to strengthen the core. There are so many variations and modifications that can be done, you’ll never bore your core with planks. Check out the following site and view the various links on the right-hand side. http://www.livestrong.com/article/502686-keys-to-plank-workouts/

3. Glute bridges: To tone the tops of the legs and the glutes, you can’t beat glute bridges. To increase the intensity, add hand weights or a barbell to your upper thighs. Or, go one-legged by lifting a leg in the air as you bridge. Switch legs. On each lift, be sure to give the glutes a good squeeze. For an extra-good burn, hold the exercise at the top (with hips fully lifted) and pulse.

4. Calf raises: Running and step aerobics are great exercises for the calves. If you don’t have the time, try calf raises throughout the day. To increase the intensity, stand on a step or bench and add hand weights. If you have difficulty balancing, hold a wall with one hand and hold your hand weight with the other hand. Be sure to stretch afterwards, or walking the next day might pose a problem (http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-241-287–8969-0,00.html).

Mastering just a few, effective exercises is a good way to start. Remember, it’s all about quality rather than quantity. When working from top to bottom, try doing the top/upper body (numbers 1 and 2) on one day and the bottom/lower body (numbers 3 and 4) the next day rather than doing all four in one day in order to give your muscles time to repair and strengthen. And, you don’t need a gym to do any of these exercises. Grab a few hand weights from Target, Wal-Mart, or Academy, and you’ll be ready to strengthen, from top to bottom.

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