While juggling their tight work schedules, family time and errands, women want to maximize their workout sessions. Hardly anyone would find training one leg or core muscle at a time practical. Compound exercises, which involve training more than one muscle group at the same time, will firm up all of your lower body and your midsection. This method saves you time, gets you stronger and burns more calories than isolating muscles, says the IDEA Fitness Journal.
Squats work your leg and core muscles. Your legs and hips generate force while your core -- which is made up of your deep abdominal, spine and hip muscles -- maintains your body alignment, balance and proper breathing. Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart and hold a 15-pound dumbbell in each hand near your shoulders. Keep your elbows close to your ribs. Inhale and squat as low as you can while keeping your torso upright. Exhale and stand up without hunching your back. The exhalation helps to keep your spine in alignment. Do three sets of eight to 12 reps.
Deadlifting also works your entire lower body and your core, especially the core region in your hips, says physical therapist Gray Cook of Functional Movement Systems. While your buttocks generate most of the strength in deadlifting, your legs and the deep muscles in your hips and abs quietly stabilize your spine and pelvis to maintain balance and alignment. With a 35-pound kettlebell on the ground in front of you, stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart. Bend forward at your hips and keep your knees slightly bent. Grab the kettlebell's handle with both hands. Exhale and thrust your hips forward to bring your torso upright and the kettlebell off the ground. Do not use your shoulders and arms to lift. The momentum and force from your hips should be doing most of the lifting. Inhale and lower the weight to the ground without hunching your back. Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Lunge and Twist
Lunging and twisting your torso work your legs, hips and your abs. This exercise can be challenging, since you have to coordinate lower-body and upper-body movements. Stand with your feet together and hold a broomstick or a similar object on the back of your shoulders. Lunge forward with your right foot and turn your torso to your right at the same time. Then step back to the standing position. Do three sets of eight to 12 reps per leg.
Power jumping develops high stability in your core and power in your legs. You can use a stack of aerobic steps to do this exercise. Use a stack of steps that is between 2 and 3 feet high. Stand in front of the steps and jump on top of it, landing with both feet gently about hip-width apart. Jump off the steps in front of you about 2 feet away and land gently in the same fashion. You may feel your core brace itself reflexively to protect your spine from jarring. Turn around and repeat the exercise for three sets of six to 10 jumps.
- Functional Movement Systems: Maintain the Squat -- Train the Deadlift
- IDEA Fitness Journal: Creative Total-Body Exercises
- Athletic Development; Vern Gambetta
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.