For Julianne Hough, having a strong core and lower body is key. The actor, singer, and Dancing With the Stars alum loves exercises that target these muscle groups, so she makes sure to incorporate them regularly into her workouts.
“I'm a big believer that everything stems from your core,” Hough tells SELF.
A strong lower body (including leg muscles like your hamstrings and quads, and your glute muscles) is also important too, since those muscles are the foundation for so many movements in everyday life—and in dance. Strong legs, Hough says, allow her to dance with speed and power.
When it comes to building this strength, Hough relies on a lot of bodyweight exercises. She recently shared three of her favorites with SELF: plank to downward dog toe tap, kneeling obliques crunch, and fire hydrant.
The first exercise is a variation on the plank—one of the most classic, effective core moves—that combines core strengthening, mobility, and a little bit of cardio, too, thanks to its dynamic movement. As with any plank variation, you'll also be working on your shoulder stability, which is something many people tend to neglect in their workouts, but is important for injury prevention and safer lifting, as SELF reported previously.
The second exercise, which involves hip external rotation, engages your glutes and core. Thanks to this movement pattern—different from how you move in more traditional butt exercises like the squat or glute bridge—you'll be working your smaller glute muscles, too, as SELF reported previously.
The third especially targets your obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen) as well as your glutes in a crunch-style move. Because it's a single-leg move, you'll also be working on building more balanced strength.
The best part, though? You can do all of these moves with just your bodyweight.
Hough typically does these exercises within a KINRGY Carve workout, a specific form of KINRGY (Hough's dance-inspired fitness method) that focuses on strengthening through bodyweight yoga and Pilates moves, and also incorporates doses of cardio, too. She recently partnered with FitOn, the free fitness app, to release workout videos that you can do at home.
Want to try these three exercises for yourself? We'll tell you how in just a sec. First though, a reminder that form—not intensity—is what's important. “It's not about how hard it is,” says Hough, “it's about how well you're doing the move.”
Incorporate these moves into your strength and cardio routine like Hough, or try them out on their own for some targeted lower-body and core work. (Want some workout inspiration? Underneath each move, you'll also find a full routine that incorporates that exercise.)
How to Test Your Muscular Endurance
The pushup calls for more than just arm strength; it requires strength in the chest, back, core, glutes, and quads, as well as stability in the wrists and shoulders. All of these parts must work together to maintain what is recognized as ideal pushup form — a straight line from head to heels — throughout the exercise.
How to Test: Assume a plank position. Bend your elbows to lower yourself with control until your arms bend to 90 degrees or deeper. Press through your hands to rise back up.
Perform as many pushups as you can without sacrificing form. If you can’t do one great-form pushup with your hands on the floor, elevate your hands on a bench, table, countertop, or wall. Avoid berating yourself for elevating your hands and focus instead on the task at hand: getting stronger.
How to Assess: Record the number of reps and the pushup variation you performed. Over time, you will see improvements in both of these. Let’s say the first time you test you are able to do 10 great-form pushups with your hands elevated on a weight bench. Eventually, you might be able to perform more reps with your hands elevated, or you might find that you can maintain the same great form and rep count with your hands on a lower box or on the floor. These are both signs of improved strength.
How to Improve: Perform three sets of a challenging 10 repetitions, three times each week. On nonpushup days, hold a plank position for 30 seconds.
For more pushup tips, variations, and progressions, visit “BREAK IT DOWN: The Pushup“.
This was excerpted from “Fitness Testing 2.0” which was published in the June 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.
Have you tried this NEW workout plan that everyone is talking about?
“What Got Me Through Chemo Was Being in Shape”
Many of us think of working out as a way to relieve stress, challenge ourselves, or reach aesthetic goals. For Wes Logue, it means so much more. That's because Wes had to undergo extensive radiation and chemo treatments not once, but twice.
Wes credits his dedication to fitness for helping him endure the physical and psychological challenges of cancer treatment. In an already challenging year, he was able to use his dedication to fitness and his positive mindset to come back from a 28-day chemo treatment in just 12 weeks.
Here is his story.—H.E.
I had been working out since my early 20s, mostly for the normal reasons: staying in shape and enjoying the improvements I felt like training gave my physical well-being.
Then, I went through my first cancer treatment six years ago. It was an extremely intense treatment. But it helped immensely that leading up to that treatment, I was in some of the best shape I'd been in my life.
That first experience had an impact on me. I saw right away how important it had been to keep myself physically fit, to eat well, and to take care of myself. I've gone into every day since then with the mindset that I never know what's around the corner.
We've seen that with this last year (2020) especially—you really have no idea what's coming. And this was a hard year for me, too. I went through another 28 days of chemo and radiation this year, a combined cancer treatment. During my treatment, I wasn't particularly inspired to share what I was going through because I didn't want to add to all the bad things that were going on. I just wanted to get through it so I could start working out again and recover quickly.
Of course, there's always that fatigue and the total impact of these treatments on your body when you come out of them, and one of the main side effects of chemo and radiation is that it's tough on your heart. That definitely led me to prioritize my heart and cardiovascular health once I was ready to train again.
I started back into training after my treatment with Jim Stoppani's 6-Week Shortcut to Shred. I actually did it twice in a row, for 12 total weeks. I could lift weights—not as much as before treatment—but at first, I found I couldn't do any of the “cardioaccelleration” between sets at all. It was a little disappointing, but the upside mentally was that it gave me a goal. Regardless of if I did 15 reps or 5, or if I had to sit down and rest after every exercise, I had to start somewhere.
Rather than be disappointed, I focused on my goals and the relief I felt at just being able to work out again. Sure enough, after 12 weeks, I was up to 30-45 seconds of cardioaccelleration between exercises.
“Having a Plan Got Me Back to My Baseline”
Having a complete plan can really help you if you're just starting out, but also benefits you if you're recovering from illness or injury. What I really like about following a program like Shortcut to Shred is that you get a lot from it. Not just the workouts, you also get all the nutrition tips and there are so many ways you can incorporate them.
When you're coming off of any type of treatment, or any type of injury or illness, your diet changes. The nutrition plan wasn't designed for someone just coming out of radiation treatment, but nonetheless it's helped me get back to a baseline of where I need to be. Whether you focus on calories to maintain your weight or to gain weight, having a plan that includes both nutrition and supplementation helps get you there.
When you're following a plan, it's also easier to see that most setbacks are in your mind. If I'm working out and in between sets I'm supposed to do a minute of step-ups and I can really only do 20 seconds, it's easy to get frustrated or down or not feel like I'm accomplishing what I'm supposed to accomplish.But I have to stay positive and stay focused on the plan. The plan is bigger than any individual workout.
“Don't Just Work Out for Today or Tomorrow”
The mind plays such a broad, important role in overcoming challenges. What I find beneficial about exercising—whether I just go out and walk for an hour or work really hard lifting weights—is that when I'm being active, it helps clear my mind. Having that mental clarity really helps get me to a better place.
After what I've gone through with my cancer treatments, I have a very strong belief that we all need to make an effort to stay in shape, because you never know what life is going to throw your way. You don't have to be a bodybuilder. You don't have to be some kind of super-fit expert. But you do need to eat well and to take care of yourself. Not just to benefit your daily life, but also to prepare for whatever is waiting around the corner.
That's what I really want to tell people: Don't just work out for today or tomorrow. Think about what could be coming or what might happen. I always think of what I'm doing now and what I've done in the past as preparation for what may happen in the future. You never know what's going to happen, so just be prepared.
Wes' Top 5 Tips for Overcoming Any Challenge
1. Take Care of Yourself Now So You're Prepared for What Comes Next
Taking care of yourself today does make a difference when you encounter those health surprises that are lurking around the corner. Whether it's illness or injury, taking good care of your body and your physical and mental well-being has a real impact on your ability to recover from unexpected events in the future.
2. Fall Back on Favorites
I've used the BodyFit app for years. I really enjoy it and get a lot out of it. Shortcut to Shred is always my fallback program when I need to tone up or work on my cardio. It's been a good thing for me to go to at different times, something familiar that I know but that I can also use to find new ways to challenge myself.
3. Strengthen Your Weaknesses
I like to lift weights, but I'm not a fan of cardio. Focusing on improving my cardiovascular fitness is always challenging for me, but working on my weakest areas is where I know I'll see the best results. It's where I'll make myself better physically and do the most for my health.
You don't have to love cardio, but you do have to recognize the benefits of it.
4. Work at Your Level
No matter what level you are at when you decide to start one of these programs, be honest about where you're starting from and give yourself a realistic goal that fits your current fitness level. It can be 2 reps, 5 reps, 15 reps—whatever is right for you. It's all about getting started, then building from there. Start where you are now and work toward where you want to be. This approach will benefit you on every level.
5. Bad Days Will Happen, But They Don't Have to Stop You
What's going on in your life and what's going on in the world will have an impact on how much you can do in a given day.
If you have to sit down and rest that day, do it. If you have to leave and put your program off until the next day, do it. Listen to what your body needs in the moment, but don't let a bad day put you in a bad place forever. Everybody has a bad day now and then, you just can't let it take you down.
Wes used Jim Stoppani's 6-Week Shortcut to Shred during his recovery. To find a workout plan for your own transformation, check out BodyFit. If you want to share your success story with us to be considered for publication, send an email to email@example.com.
5 Reasons to Get a Workout Buddy: Motivation & Accountability
When it comes to working out, the first weeks are usually great. You are excited to get to the gym, and you love the feeling of exercising. Once the “honeymoon” stage of your new workout routine is over, it gets more challenging to get to the gym: your bed is just too comfy in the morning, or you have extra work at the office that prevents you from going in the evening.
Reasons to Find Someone to Exercise With
It’s easy to cancel your gym session with yourself. That’s why it’s important to find a workout buddy. Here are five reasons why everyone needs to go find a workout buddy.
Accountability: When someone is counting on you to meet them at the gym, it’s a lot harder to skip. Having the accountability of a buddy always keeps you going. On days when it’s hard to get out of bed early in the morning, you don’t want to skip because you know your partner is waiting on you. Fun: If you aren’t someone who loves exercise, maybe a workout buddy is just what you need to keep you coming into the gym. Having someone with you who can make you laugh will make exercise more enjoyable. Going through an intense workout alone is never as fun as having someone right next to you working hard and making you laugh. Variety: When you have to come up with your own exercises all the time, they can start to get a little repetitive. If you and your buddy take turns picking the workout, it will change things up. You both might enjoy different types of exercise, so the variety will keep each workout from getting boring. Motivation: When you exercise alone, there is no one beside you cheering you on between sets. It’s encouraging to have someone with you saying “You can do it” in the middle of your set; sometimes that’s just what you need to hear to finish out strong. Competition: If you are someone who thrives on a little healthy competition, you definitely need a workout buddy. You will always be competing with your workout buddy. If they move up in weight, you don’t want them to drop the weight back down for you, so you push yourself to go up. If you are running, you push yourself to go longer so that you don’t make your buddy stop. How to Find a Fitness Friend
Having someone to work out with makes a big difference in the quality and frequency of your exercise. Ask a friend to join you, check out these apps, sign up for group fitness training, or try these other ways of finding a gym partner.
This blog was written by Kaci Lierman, Health Fitness Instructor. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.