Flip Your Workout on its Head — Part 3


You read last week about how to do the Forearm Stand and the “L” Stand, and you’re already standing taller and stronger after trying them! Here are the final two moves of the blog series for better posture and upper back muscles. Want more? Check out my Slimnastics Workout book (Amazon).

Handstand (no photos, self explanatory):

For the handstand, face the wall and place our hands about a foot away from it, on the floor. Get into a tight down dog position by walking your feet close to your hands and letting your hips rise to the sky. Look between your knees at the wall on the other side of the room. Kick one leg up then the next onto the wall above you. Now that you are holding all of your weight in your arms, press firmly into the ground, engaging your back muscles, and slowly step one foot away from the wall, then the other, so that you are hovering in handstand, stabilizing your core to help support you! Gracefully float one foot down then the next and relax in child’s pose.

Wall Walk to Wheel:

This is another fun upper-​​back strengthener, heart-​​opener, and backbend. Walk up to a wall and step a foot or so away, turning so your back faces the wall. Slightly bend your back and reach the arms overhead to touch the wall. Return to standing and inch forward a few times until you feel that you could not do another backbend and touch the wall.

Wall Walk – Nikki Fitness

When you have found your position, bend your back and look overhead, reaching the hands towards the wall and this time pressing your palms into it. Keep the feet hip-​​width apart with knees slightly bent and core tight. Slowly begin to walk your hands down the wall as far as is comfortable or coming all the way to the floor into wheel pose with your hands on the floor and fingers facing your heels.

Trainer’s Tip: Push hard against the wall because gravity will be pulling you down and you need to support yourself until you can reach the floor.

Wall Walk to Wheel – Nikki Fitness

Once in wheel, proceed to Wheel Push-​​Ups or walk back up. To walk up, press the hands firmly back into the wall and walk yourself back up to standing. As a counter-​​stretch, take a forward bend and reach towards your shins or the floor. Hold for two long breaths.

Wheel Push-​​Ups:

The wheel push-​​​​up is my favorite upper back move because it requires no equipment, and I always feel the muscles getting sore and stronger afterward. Once in the wheel position with arms and legs straightening into the arch formation, start bending the elbows to just barely tap the head to the floor and then straighten the arms again. That is one push-​​​​up. Work up to doing fifteen at a time and always counter-​​​​stretch between sets.

Fitness – fit it in, upside-down!

Upside Down Moves for Strength and Posture

Turn Your Routine on It’s Head! — Part 2

Summer Olympics always inspire me to work harder, better, faster and stronger… and to switch up my routine. If you are looking for a new way to challenge yourself and those you train, why not add some gymnastics moves to your workout?

Last week I showed you the first of four moves that turn your routine on it’s head, from my “The Slimnastics Workout” book and DVD, to get you holding your own weight, strengthening your upper back and arms, and improving your posture. Below, I describe the second move, the L stand.

L Stand:

Sit on a mat facing the wall, with your legs extended in front of you. Your feet should touch the wall with them flexed, and place your hands next to your hips. This is how you measure your distance for the L Stand. Keep one hand on that mark where your hips were, and flip yourself over to face the mat. Place both hands where you measured, shoulders width apart and get into a tight down dog with your heels against the wall. Walk one foot then the other up the wall until your legs are parallel to the floor. (It helps to have a partner spot you so that they can tell you if your feet are too high or low. Look at the wall and push your hands strongly into the floor. Your body should look like an “L” in a 90% angle. You can also play with lifting one leg away from the wall at a time.

Fitness — fit it in, upside down!

Three Moves, One Complete Muscle Workout — Pt. 3


In the last week two weeks, I demonstrated the two out of three moves that, when combined together, create a perfectly-​​​​balanced, full-​​body muscle workout. The first move targets biceps, shoulders, inner thighs, glutes, calves, and quads. The second move hits your triceps, outer thighs and abs.

The final move is for your upper back, lower back chest and hamstrings. When you combine them and do 3 sets, you get a total-​​​​body muscle workout in just 15 minutes! Perform move 1-​​“Six Part Plie Squat” and 2– “Wings, Thighs and a Six Pack” as previously described.

Do move 3 — Superman Push-​​up

Start by laying flat on the ground on your stomach (what we trainers call supine position). Place your arms out away from your body extended at shoulder level, so your body forms a “T.” Keep your arms and legs straight and lift everything off the ground except your stomach, keeping your neck in line with the spine by looking at the floor and squeezing your shoulder blades together to engage your upper back muscles. Lower back to the ground and place the hands under the shoulders by bending the elbows.
Superman Pushup

Next, push the hands into the ground and keep your core tight as you push-​​up into a plank position. Lower back down and do the superman T. Repeat 20 times to complete your first set.

Go back and do move 1, move 2 and move 3 twice more for a total of three sets.

Pack these three moves into your gym bag or file them with your home fitness equipment. Any time you need to squeeze in a quick, 15 minute workout without thinking too hard, do my full-​​body Triple Threat routine!

Fitness – fit it in! Nikki

Three Moves, One Complete Muscle Workout — Pt. 2


Last week I demonstrated the first of three moves that, when combined together, create a perfectly-​​balanced full body workout. The first move targeted inner thighs, glutes, calves, quads, biceps and shoulders.

The next move (move #2) hits your triceps, outer thighs and abs.

Lay on the floor on your left elbow and forearm. balancing on your hip, and bend your bottom leg under you. Hold a 5–8 pound weight in your right hand and lift it above your shoulder with the elbow pointing to the sky. Lift your hips off the floor along with your top leg. and right hand. Lower the right leg to the floor and the weight behind your neck, all the while keeping your elbow pointing to the sky and keeping the hips off the ground. Do 15–20 reps for one set.

Three Moves One Workout

Next week I will demonstrate the final move for your glutes, upper back and lower back. When you combine them and do 3 sets, you get a total-​​body muscle workout in just 15 minutes!

Fitness – Fit it in! Nikki

Thanksgiving Fit Travel Booty Camp

You’ll be perched at the dinner table, and maybe slouching in a car, plane, train or bus to travel for your Thanksgiving meal next week. Your booty will need a break from all that sitting, and instead of packing weights or finding an open gym, there is an easy way to pack some boot camp toning for the backside while you’re on the road.

1) Glute rainbows: On all fours, straighten your right leg and lift it in a half circle (or rainbow) at hip level, and lower to left side to arch over your left heel. Tap the floor, lift back to hip level and tap toe back on the right side. Repeat the rainbow 15 times per leg before changing sides.

2)Floor kicks: Remain in all fours position and with your weight distributed on both hands and your left knee. Bend right knee in towards the belly and then straighten it to kick it back diagonally to the ceiling/​wall behind you.Return the bent knee towards the floor for one rep and repeat 15 times on the right leg. Do another set of 15 on the left.

3) Front thigh lifts. Lay on your side, supported on your right elbow and right hip. Bend the right knee to 90 degrees under you. Bend your left leg on top so that your flexed foot drops in front of the right knee (if you do this move in front of a mirror you should see the reflection of the sole of your left sneaker, not your shoelaces). Lift the leg so the knee is close to your chest and left shoulder, and lower the bent left leg 15 times.

4) Side lunge and twist. Start in a standing position and lunge to the right side, facing forward. Your right knee should bend at 90 degrees, while your hands support you on your right quad (above the knee) and your toe points diagonally to the right. Your left leg is straight, with the foot on the floor, toe pointing diagonally left. From here, push off the right leg to transfer to a standing position with your weight now on the straight left leg. Your hands should reach diagonally up and to the left, creating a twist for the abs. Your right straight leg will lift up for a glute raise of the floor. Transfer the weight back on the right to a side lunge for one rep. Repeat 15 times on the right and then switch legs.

Do two-​​minute cardio intervals between the moves to complete your 30 minute routine. Good cardio moves for travel include jacks, mountain climbers, simulated jump rope, squat thrusts, plie squats, and jumping lunges (or get the moves in real time on my DVDs).

After your workout and dinner you can be thankful that these Fit Travel Booty Camp moves will help make sure that the turkey, potatoes, gravy and pies don’t spend forever on your hips.

Big Ball, Little Belly: Stability Ball Abdominal Workout, Part 2

If you’re looking for a way to challenge your abs more than crunches and planks on the floor, the key is instability! A stability ball will put you off balance to add an extra level of toning to each move. I have many abdominal ball workout moves, and these pictured below place you on the floor, next to and on top of the ball. Next week I will list other ways to work your abs (along with arms and legs) with a stability ball.

Elbow plank (works abdominals, chest and arms)

Start in a kneeling position with the ball in front of you. Roll up onto the ball on your stomach and place your forearms and elbows on the ball and clasp your hands together beneath your chest. Straighten your legs to balance on your toes and slowly push into the ball with forearms to raise the belly off the ball. Hold the plank for 30 seconds at a time for 3 sets, and work up to 60 seconds per set.

Hip Crunch (works obliques)
Kneel on the right side of the ball and straighten your right leg out to the right side of your body, with your foot on the floor. With your left hand hug the ball in close to your hip and then push your weight into the ball so the left hip is anchoring the ball down. Start with your left hand still on the ball and put your right hand behind your head. Lower your left side ribs onto the top of the ball and engage your right side obliques to bring you back upright. Once comfortable with the move you can put the left hand behind the head as well because your hip is anchoring the ball. Do 15 repeat on the other side for one set. Do 3 sets.

Jackknife (Works abs, quads and hip flexors)
Lay face-​​up on the floor with the ball between your feet and arms extended overhead. Lift the legs off the floor as you raise the arms and shoulders by “crunching” and engaging the abs. Transfer the ball into the hands and lower the legs and arms back to the floor slowly. Crunch and transfer the ball back to the feet, keeping the arms and legs straight, to complete one rep. Do 10 reps for 3 sets.

Big Ball, Little Belly pt 1

Stability Ball Workout for Abdominals

If you’re looking for a way to challenge your abs more than crunches and planks on the floor, the key is instability! A stability ball will put you off balance to add an extra level of toning to each move. I have many abdominal ball workout moves, and these pictured below place you on top of the ball. Next week I will list other ways to work your abs with a stability ball or a power ball (power balls have 7–8 pounds of sand inside).

Here are some of my favorites:

Ball Plank/​Pike

If just starting out, chose the plank, if you’re looking for a challenge, add the pike to the plank. Start kneeling with your stomach on the ball push forward to roll onto your feet and hands and continue walking your hands out so that the ball rolls from your stomach to your shins/​shoelaces and you are facing the ground. Hold here for 30 seconds for the plank. Make it harder by contracting the abs and pulling your feet and the ball in closer to your hands while raising your hips up to the sky. Repeat 15 times.

Oblique Twist

Start sitting on the ball and walk your feet away so that your slide down to a bridge position, with your head and shoulders comfortably resting on the ball. Your head should be in line with your hips while you contract your glutes and quads to hold you up. Place the hands in prayer position extended directly above your neck. To perform the move, roll up onto your left shoulder and bring your gaze and your hands directly to the left as pictured. (Be sure to roll onto the shoulder and not just move your hands! our head will come off of the ball.) Return to center and repeat on the other side for one rep. Perform 15 repetitions.

Oblique Crunch

Start in a seated position on the ball with your hands behind your head and lay down, then return to sitting by engaging the abs. That is a normal crunch. Start there if you are a beginner. If comfortable with the regular crunch, then lay back and engage your abs while sitting up and twisting your shoulders, head and torso to the right. Lay back down and twist to the left for one rep. Perform 20 reps. (Make it even more difficult by crunching up half way, pausing there, then twisting to the right without coming completely up to a sitting position, so your abs engage throughout the entire move.)

Check back in next week for more moves and have a ball working those abs!

Ten Plank Variations for Perfect Toning

Planks are one of the cheapest, easiest and quickest ways to tone your body anywhere you go. They work your abs all over, and if you get creative you can also add glutes, and thighs, triceps, shoulders, upper back and pecs to the list! Here are some of my favorite plank variations (From my Fit Travel Workout) for your next sweat session.

Note: When I mention a regular plank position, I mean balancing on your elbows (forearms) or hands (the top of a push-​​up) and toes, facing the floor, with hips in line with the shoulders and knees and hands or elbows directly under shoulders. Look in front of our hands to keep neck in line with spine. You’ll look like a perfect straight plank — parallel to the floor, lifting the belly button towards the spine. In a side plank you will balance on one arm and face the side of the room instead of the floor.

1. Forearm plank hold:
Balance on your forearms and toes, hold this for 30 seconds and work up to 3 minutes!

2. Push-​​up plank (pictured):
Do a push-​​up, then turn to the right, balancing the weight on your left hand, opening right hand to the sky and staggering or stacking the right foot on top of the inside of the left as you balance on the outside of the left foot. Come back to a full plank, do a push-​​up, and then repeat on the other side.

3. Plank knee cross:
Hold a regular plank and then balance on your left foot and bring your right knee under you towards your left elbow. Keep your hips low to the ground. Return to full plank and repeat on other side. Make it harder by taping the opposite hand to the foot or by “can caning” the leg — after you bring the knee toward the opposite elbow, straighten the knee and kick the leg out toward the left. Bend it again and return to start.

4. Outer thigh side plank (pictured):
Plank on your right hand or forearm and lift your left straight leg off the right leg and toward the sky. Lower leg and repeat 10 times. Move into a plank on the other side and repeat. Make it harder by bending your lower leg and holding a weight in your top hand. Straighten the arm to the sky as you lift the top leg. As you lower the leg lower the hand and weight behind your neck, keeping the elbow pointing to the sky the whole time to work the triceps in a half french press!

5. Glute plank:
Balance on our hands or forearms and lift your left straight leg off the floor, move it over the right foot and then return to start. Repeat on that side 10 times and then switch to the right leg lift and cross. Make it harder by bending the left leg at 90 degrees, with the sole of your foot facing the sky. Lift and lower in pulsing motion for 10 reps. Repeat on the other side.

6. Hip Taps:
Get into a side plank on your left forearm. Lift hips off the floor and then lower them to tap the left hip to the floor and lift again. This works your obliques in an extreme way if you do 20 or more! Repeat on the other side

7. Thread the needle (pictured):
Get into a side forearm or full side plank on your right arm. Lift left arm to the sky and stagger the feet so the top (left) leg is in front. Sweep your left (top) arm toward the mat and “thread” it under your right armpit, reaching for the back of the mat, while rotating your hips to face the ground and balancing on your toes. Rotate your body back to a side plank and repeat 15 times then do the same on the other side.

8. Plank crunch:
Hit the obliques again by getting into a full plank on your left hand and stagger your feet with the bottom (left) foot in front this time. Bend your right elbow and put your hand behind your head. By balancing on your right (top) foot, bring your left knee across to your right elbow to “crunch” then return to start. Repeat 15 times and then switch sides.

9. Spiderman plank:
Get into a full plank on your forearms or hands. Balance on your right toes as you bend your left knee out to the left and towards your left elbow. Return to start and repeat 20 times, then do the other side.

10. Upper Back Plank Rows (pictured):
Get into a full plank position with medium weights under your hands. Lift the right elbow to the sky and return to the ground. Repeat on the other side. Do 20 reps switching arms each time. Wrists hurt? Instead of balancing on weights, you can also work the upper back by doing down dog planks or dolphin planks. Start in a plank on your forearms or hands and then push hips to the sky and push hands into the mat like you are trying to rip it in half between your feet and hands, Your biceps should be next to your ears. Return to start and repeat 20 times.

BONUS Reverse Plank stretch:
Get some relief from your hard work and sit on the floor with your hands on the floor next to your hips, fingers pointing towards feet. Your knees should be bent and feet flat on the floor. Push into your hands and lift your hips off the floor, letting your neck be an extension of your spine and looking at the ceiling. This stretched the chest and shoulders while toning the core, glutes and quads.

So next time crunches make you crazy, fight the plateau with this plank series!

Hard Core: Low Abs Workout

One of the biggest workout requests I get in class and over email and twitter is moves to tone the lower abs. Here are three of my favorites, all done in the same basic position — laying face up on the floor — for quick transitions between moves, and then you can take a nap right on the floor when you are done!

1) Long Leg Lift

Lay on your back with hands palm down on the floor by your hips for support. Extend both legs to the ceiling with knees mostly straight. Lower legs towards the floor while contracting the lower abs (your lower back should not lift off the floor, if it does, keep legs higher.) For an advanced move, take legs a few inches off the floor and raise back to the sky for one rep. For modified move, only lower legs half way and bring them back up. Do 20 repetitions.

2) Hip Hop

Keep lying face up and place hands behind your head. Keep the legs straight and extend them to the ceiling. Flex your feet and use your low abs to lift your hips off the floor to the sky. Return hips to the floor for one rep.

For more intensity, add an upper body crunch so that you lift your shoulders off the ground at the same time you lift your hips. (Be sure to keep looking at the sky and do not drop your chin toward your chest, keep the chin lifted and neck in alignment with the spine.) Do 20 repetitions.

*For extra abdominal toning, after your last rep, hold the hips up at the very top of the move, feet reaching for the sky, and do 10 extra crunches with the upper body, holding the lower body steady with hips off the floor.

3) Criss-​​Cross

Continue to lay on your back and place hands back on the floor, palms down, next to your hips. Keep legs straight and over hips with feet extending to the ceiling. For level 1 drop legs a quarter way to the floor; for level 2 start half way to the floor; for level 3 start with legs just a few inches from the floor as shown. Once you found your level, separate legs out about 3 feet into a “V.” Bring them back together, crossing your right foot over your left. Separate feet again, and then bring them back together with the left leg on top. Repeat for 20 repetitions.

If you are not ready for a snooze, repeat all the moves again for 3 sets. Either way, you’re sure to wake up sore tomorrow and with flatter, fitter low abs!

Fitness, Fit it in.

Train to Improve Your Push-Up Power

I received a great question from a Military.com member about building up strength to do full, strong push-ups.

So many women have trouble building up the strength, or just say they hate doing them and give up. It’s very important for women to have stong upper body strength. Just follow these steps:

1) Start standing arm’s length away from a wall and count as many as you can do against it. If you can do more than 20, move on to the next step. If not, practice every other day until you can do 20 against the wall, trying to do one or two more each day. (You need to give yourself a day to recover in between.) Finish by stretching your chest muscles: link your fingers behind you and lift your arms upwards for 15 seconds.

2) Find a table, couch, weight bench, bed or counter. This should be around knee- to waste-level high. Stand back far enough so that you can lean your body diagonally onto the bench, holding yourself up with your arms. Do the pushups at this level, working slowly up to 20 at a time, practicing every other day. Bring your chest down to the bench or whatever you are practicing on, and be sure to focus on keepng a straight line from your ankles to your hips to your shoulders. Hands should be farther than shoulder width apart. Keep the body aligned and don’t hinge at the hips. It’s better to only do one perfect move rather than 10 with poor form. Watch yourself sideways in a mirror or have a friend watch you and tell you if your hips tilt up to the sky or you let the belly sink to the floor instead.

3) Move to a step (either like one from an exercise class or a step at home on a staircase.) Start on your knees with feet together. Again focus on your form being a straight line from your knees to hips to shoulders while bringing your chest and chin to the step and work your way up to 20.

4) Now you are ready to do them on your feet, still on a step. Ankles, hips and shoulders in line, chest and chin to the step.

5) Congrats! You are ready to try the full pushup. Once you work up to 20, you can start trying to do more.

Quick Push-up Tip: You should always work your upper back muscles — the opposing muscle group — to avoid a muscle imbalance. An imbalance will cause the shoulders to round forward, tight pectoral muscles, overstretched trapezius and rhomboids, and other back conditions, even pain. You can strengthen your back by doing weighted dead rows, weighted reverse flys, or by laying on the floor, arms out to the side away from body at shoulder level — forming a T — and lifting the chest and arms off the floor. You squeeze the shoulder blades towards each other and release down for 20 reps.

Good luck with your workouts this week!

Nikki