14 Time-Saving Exercises

Want to spend less time in the gym? Do multitasking moves that work many muscles at the same time. Here are 14 of the best

October 25, 2012
sprawl exercise picture
1/14 Courtesy of Ramona Braganza
1. Sprawl

This martial arts move is like a burpee but your chest and stomach touch the ground. "Going deeper gives the move a greater range of motion and forces you to lift more of your body weight in the pushup portion," says Ramona Braganza, celebrity trainer and creator of the 321 Training Method. It targets all major muscles--including the legs, glutes, chest, back, arms, and abs--and will get your heart rate up. (For more challenging new moves, try these Best New Exercises You Haven't Tried.)

1. Begin standing.
2. Squat down so hands touch the ground.
3. Jump feet back and land softly on your chest and stomach with your feet wide and your head looking at the floor.
4. Push yourself up into a plank pose.
5. Jump feet into squat.
6. Stand up. Repeat 10 times.

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Lateral Lunge with Shoulder Press exercise picture
2/14 Courtesy of Ramona Braganza
2. Lateral Lunge with Shoulder Press

By combining these two exercises, you target your adductors and abductors--those often-ignored inner and outer thigh muscles--as well as glutes, hips, shoulders, back, and core, says Braganza. "It also elevates your heart rate to burn calories." 

1. Begin standing with feet together. Hold dumbbells in hands with arms bent 90 degrees.
2. Take a giant step to your right with right foot landing in a lunge on a slight diagonal.
3. Push off right foot, bringing your feet back together and simultaneously press dumbbell and right arm to ceiling. Repeat 10 times on each side.

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Weighted Single-Leg Sit-up exercise picture
3/14 Courtesy of Ramona Braganza
3. Weighted Single-Leg Sit-up

Try this abs exercise to target the rectus abdominis--your "six pack" muscles--says Braganza. "The resistance creates more definition." 

1. Lie on your back with right knee bent and hands extended over your head holding a light dumbbell (3 to 8 lbs) in both hands.
2. On an exhale lift right leg and torso simultaneously to touch the weight to right ankle forming a V.
3. Hold, then slowly lower both torso and leg back to ground. Repeat 10 times on left leg and 10 times on left leg.

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lunge twist exercise picture
4/14 Courtesy of Suzanne Bowen
4. Lunge Twist

When Suzanne Bowen--the creator of BarreAmped, BarreAmped Fire, and BarreAmped Boot Camp--is traveling or has little time to exercise, she turns to her favorite move: the lunge twist. "It targets the legs, back, and waist," says the Nashville, TN-based trainer.

1. Standing with your hands behind head and your elbows wide, step forward with your right leg and slowly lower your body until your front knee is bent at least 90 degrees.
2. Pause then push off your right leg, simultaneously twisting to bring your left knee forward and toward your right elbow.
3. Try to hold briefly, and then return to starting position. Repeat up to 20 times. Change sides.

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plank exercise picture
5/14 Beth Bischoff
5. Plank

Bowen says she also adores any type of plank and recently did some on a paddleboard in serious wind. Fortunately, you don't need a body of water to feel the total-body burn. Here are a few challenging variations that can be done virtually anywhere. 

Side T Plank

Wide-Stance Plank with Opposite Arm and Leg Lift

Single-Leg Elevated-Feet Plank

Swiss Ball Plank

Pylometric Side Plank

ballet swan arms picture
6/14 Courtesy of Mary Helen Bowers
6. Classic Swan Arms

This challenging upper body exercise was inspired by Swan Lake, says Mary Helen Bowers, founder of the Ballet Beautiful method, which she used to train Natalie Portman for Black Swan. "It's an incredible way to tone the arms and back and improve posture without any weights or equipment," says Bowers.

1. Stand with your neck and shoulders as relaxed as possible, your feet in either first position (heels together, toes pointed out) or sixth position (feet parallel), and your knees slightly bent. Remember to keep yourself lifted, but not stiff. Your hands should remain graceful and relaxed; let them simply follow the movement of your arms.
2. Pull in through your stomach and open your chest.
3. Keep your neck long and stretch your arms out to the side.
4. Drop and bend your elbows down without collapsing your chest--keep your chest open and lifted.
5. Lower your arms, then lift your elbows and raise your arms from the elbow, lifting your hands to your shoulders. You can begin slowly and add more speed as you become more comfortable with the movement.
6. Lower your arms again and lift, staying lifted and open through your center and chest. Imagine that you are moving through water. Do fours set of eight reps.

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tendu pulse ballet ballerina picture
7/14 Courtesy of Mary Helen Bowers
7. Tendu Pulse in Arabesque

This exercise is a ballerina's version of a lunge. "It's terrific for toning and strengthening the legs and butt, but won't bulk the thighs," says Bowers. "It's also a great way to improve balance and tighten the waist."

1. Begin standing on the left leg with the toe slightly turned out and extend the right leg back into what's known as arabesque, keeping both knees straight. Plié or bend your front knee as you extend your right leg straight behind you, sliding the toe along the floor. (Search: How to do a plié) The weight is over your front foot. Be careful to keep your front knee over the toe in pile, and do not over rotate. 
2. Lift your arms to a circle in front of your navel, pulling your stomach in tight. Keep the chest open and lift the elbows.
3. Bend your knee a bit more and extend further down into a deeper plié. Keep your chest very open and lifted even as you bend the knee. Do not collapse as you plié.
4. Pulse here in plié. You will feel your standing leg working and your butt and stomach engaging. Do four sets of eight reps.

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deadlift overhead press picture
8/14 Beth Bischoff
8. Deadlift into Overhead Press

This is a complex, multi-joint movement that requires larger muscle fiber recruitment from the core as well as the upper and lower body, says Michelle Lovitt, a Hollywood-based personal trainer who has worked with stars like Courteney Cox and Lauren Graham.

1. Holding a bar or dumbbells in each hand, stand with feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent.
2. Bending forward from your hips (think about sticking your butt back and keeping your chest up and your back flat), lower down so that your back is parallel or near parallel (depending on flexibility) to the floor.
3. Stand back up balancing mainly through your heels.
4. Bring the dumbbells or bar to your shoulders (creating a 90-degree angle with your arms) and press overhead. Return straight into a deadlift. Do two sets of 10-12 reps.

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single leg deadlift exercise picture
9/14 Beth Bischoff
9. Lunge into Single-Leg Deadlift

For another multi-joint movement that works multiple large muscle groups in less time, try this lunge into a single-leg deadlift, says Lovitt. It mimics two movements you probably do daily. 

1. Begin with feet shoulder width apart, shoulders back, abs and low back tight. Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand, step forward with your left leg dropping your right knee almost to the ground. Keep your left knee over your ankle and the weight on the inside of the left leg.
2. Transfer all your weight to your left leg and straighten it as you lift your right leg from the ground. Tip from your hips, and lower the weight as far as your flexibility allows. Keep your back flat and your abs contracted.
3. Squeeze your glutes to return to the starting position. Do two sets of 10-12 repetitions, alternating sides.

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female boxing trainer gym studio picture
10/14 Thinkstock
10. Boxing

Hop off the elliptical and into the ring. Boxing is a fun way to work your heart and upper body at the same time, says Steve Ettinger, a New York City-based personal trainer. "It also targets the abs because of the rotation involved when you're punching." Many gyms have a heavy bag or "dummy" manikin that you can pound, but Ettinger recommends attending an intro-to-boxing class or working with a trainer first to learn proper form.

Here are four moves to get you started.

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11/14 Beth Bischoff
11. Kettlebell Swing

This explosive move challenges the upper and lower body and, when done continuously, will get your heart pumping, too, says Ettinger.

1. Grab a kettlebell with an overhand grip using one or two hands and hold it in front of your waist at arm's length. Bend at your hips and knees and lower your torso until it forms a 45-degree angle to the floor, swinging the kettlebell between your legs.
2. Keeping your arm straight, thrust your hips forward, straighten your knees, and swing the kettlebell up to chest level as you rise to standing position. 
3. Squat as you swing the kettlebell back between your legs again. Repeat, swinging the weight back and forth. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

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soccer picture
12/14 Thinkstock
12. Soccer

Sports are a great way to get fit without feeling like you're exercising, and few will reshape your body as quickly as soccer. There isn't much stopping involved so you get a lot of built-in interval training--alternating between sprinting and jogging--which is one of the most efficient ways to blast fat, says Ettinger. Find a team or league near you at active.com.

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13/14 Beth Bischoff
13. Mountain Climbers on a Stability Ball

Because they combine cardio and core work, mountain climbers are a popular form of punishment doled out by trainers during circuit routines. Increase the intensity of the exercise by doing them on a Stability ball or BOSU (bubble side down). The instability created by the ball puts extra stress on your core, says Ettinger. "You'll definitely feel your abs working as you bring your knees in and out."

1. Place a stability ball against a wall. Assume a pushup position with your arms straight and your hands resting on the ball. Lift your right foot off the floor and slowly raise your knee as close to your chest as you can.
2. Lower your right foot back towards teh floor, returning to starting position. Repeat with your left leg. Alternate back and forth for at least 30 seconds.

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body weight squat picture
14/14 Beth Bischoff
14. Squat

The squat is one of the best ways to strengthen your butt and legs and you probably do it multiple times a day without even realizing it, says Sara Haley, Reebok Global Master Trainer. For the biggest boost, make sure you're using correct form.

1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, back straight and knees slightly bent.
2. Shift your weight to your heels and lowly lower your body as if you were sitting in a chair, rolling your shoulders back and keeping your chest lifted (think of squeezing your shoulder blades together).
3. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause, then return to the starting position. Do at least 20 repetitions.