Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Buff up Your Back-to-School Body

The Real College Guide: Health & Fitness

From the Editors of The Real College Guide

photo credit: ©iStockphoto.com/huaxiadragon

If you’ve spent your summer break lying by the pool -- instead of swimming laps in it -- chances are you’ve lost some of your all-star collegiate athlete muscle. Want to buff up your back-to-school bod? Meghan Hamacher, exercise instructor at the student recreation center at University of North Carolina Wilmington, stresses that you need both cardiovascular and strength training to really maximize body toning and fat burn.

“If you increase your muscle, you will increase your metabolism and maximize your fat-burning potential,” says Hamacher. So while cardio exercises are great for shedding fat, a muscular person burns more calories during rest than does a flabby person. “Ideally, you should work out at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, to lose weight and tone quickly.” For cardio, Hamacher says good choices are biking, swimming, running, skating or even walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes. Below are her instructions for strength-training exercises, along with a recommended fitness routine.

Exercises to Get Buff Now
If you’re a beginner or pretty much have been idle all summer, start by doing half the recommended repetitions the first week before gradually easing your way up to the suggested amount of reps. For maximum toning, the courageous can try working up to doing each day’s circuit twice.

V-ups: Lie on your back on the floor, arms at your sides, then lift your legs and chest at the same time to form a V shape with your body, extending arms in front of you for balance. Hold for a count of one before lowering yourself back to the floor. To make it harder, only lower your legs and chest about halfway (so your feet and shoulders never touch the floor). This will really challenge your legs and abs! Try four sets of 15 reps.

Alternating Superman: Lie on your stomach with your legs straight and together, and your arms bent at your ears, your head face down but slightly lifted. Raise your left arm and right leg into the air, then your right arm and left leg. Then raise both arms and both legs simultaneously to complete one rep. Try 30 reps, and you’ll feel the muscles in your arms, legs, back and stomach gaining superpower strength by the second.

Baby Arm Circles: Hold your arms out straight to the side. Do 50 small arm circles (about the circumference of a coaster) forward, then 50 backward. Continue to hold your arms out to the sides for two minutes. Next, try 50 forward with slightly larger arm circles (the size of a small plate) and 50 backward. This time, hold your arms out with your elbows bent upward at a 90-degree angle for two minutes.

Cobra Push-ups: Get into a push-up position with straight arms, but with your pelvis and legs touching the floor. Now, slowly bend your elbows to lower your upper body. Do eight push-ups on a two-count, taking two seconds to go down and two seconds to come up. Then do six push-ups on a four-count, four on a six-count, and two on an eight-count. This completes one set. Try two sets, and let those triceps and biceps glisten.

Frog Jumps: With your legs shoulder-width apart, squat down and touch your hands to the floor. Stand back up and jump as high as you can. Do three sets of 20. These will work your thigh and calf muscles as well as keep your heart pumping for some extra cardio benefits.

Candlestick Jumps: Stand with your legs together and arms extended in front of you. Squat down and sit on the floor -- without your hands ever touching the floor. Roll backward, onto your shoulders, placing your arms on the floor for support while raising your straight legs into the air and pointing your toes to the ceiling. Next, roll back into a squat position and explode into a jump as fast as you can. Do 25 of these for a blast of cardio and leg-conditioning.

Plie Squats: Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and feet facing outward. (This is the plie position.) Squat down so your knees make a 90-degree angle, and do 20 small hops, staying in the squat position. Immediately following the 20 hops, do 20 pulses (go up on your toes, but don’t let your feet leave the ground). Finally, in between squats, do 20 jumps at least twice as high as your original hops.

The Weekly Plan
Stick to this exercise plan (cardio of your choice every day, plus the moves outlined below) -- along with healthful eating -- and you’ll kick your butt into shape in no time:

Day 1: Plie Squats, v-ups

Day 2: V-ups, Frog Jumps

Day 3: Alternating Superman, Candlestick Jumps, Baby Arm Circles

Day 4: Cobra Push-ups

Day 5: Do it all: V-Ups, Alternating Superman, Baby Arm Circles, Cobra Push-ups, Frog Jumps, Candlestick Jumps, Plie Squats