If you’re like most women, you want to get the most out of your time at the gym. Yet too often we spend a lot of time doing single-joint exercises (think biceps curls, shoulder raises, and triceps extensions) that don’t require a lot of muscle involvement. If your time is limited, or you want to get more of a metabolic boost from your workout, consider doing more multi-joint exercises as part of your routine.
It’s simple physics. The more muscles you work, the more of a challenge your body is under—and the more calories you burn as well. Multi-joint exercises usually force you to use your core, too, so you’ll get an all-over workout with a fewer number of moves.
If you haven’t tried these moves before, start with light weights until you’ve mastered good form; then you can go heavier. Here are five great multi-joint moves:
Bent-over dead row. Holding a barbell with your thumbs near your thighs, knees slightly bent, abs tight; hinge forward from the hips slightly and let the barbell slide down your thighs to your knees. Keeping your shoulder blades retracted, pull the bar up toward your belly, with your elbows tracking to the back of the room; then let the barbell return to your knees and straighten up, engaging your glutes as you do so. That’s 1 rep. Aim for 8 to 12 in a set.
Lunge with opposite biceps curl. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, knuckles facing the sides of your thighs, feet under your hips. Step forward with your right foot far enough so that your knee makes a ninety degree angle as you lower it toward the ground; at the same time, curl your left arm up toward your shoulder. Push back with your right foot back to starting position; then step forward with your left foot as you perform a biceps curl with your right arm. Push back with your left leg to the original position; that’s 1 rep. Do 6 to 12 total.
Thruster (squat with an overhead press). Start with your feet just outside your hips, toes turned out a little to engage your glutes, holding dumbbells in your hands. Bring your hands up above your shoulders, knuckles facing your ears. Bend your knees and push your butt back and down (imagine you’re going to sit down on a chair behind you) until your knees are no lower than a 90 degree angle, keeping your knees behind your toes. Straighten your legs and then push the dumbbells up in a shoulder press; as you bring the weights back down to chin level, push back into another squat. That’s 1 rep. Do 8 to 12.
Pushup/row. Start in pushup position, hands under your shoulders, holding dumbbells in your hands. Keeping your abs engaged and your body in a straight line, lower your chest toward the floor before pushing yourself back up. Then, continuing to hold your body in a straight line, bend your right arm to bring the dumbbell in your right hand toward your right hip; return to original position and put the dumbbell back down. Repeat on the left side, drawing the dumbbell in your left hand toward your left hip before returning to pushup position. That’s 1 rep; start with 6 and work up to 12 in a set (they’re challenging!).