The alarm goes off every weekday morning, and you hop in the shower, grab a cup of coffee and go to work. You swing by the store for a bottle of wine on the way home and have just enough time to wipe the lipstick off of the milk carton before your dinner guests arrive. Then it's dine, clean, say good-bye, spend a few minutes chatting with the hubby and off to bed. That leaves very little time for a workout, but you only need a few minutes a day to firm up your stomach and thighs.
Side bends tighten the sides of your torso to give you an hourglass shape. To perform a side bend, stand up straight, with your hands on your hips. Smoothly reach with one hand down the side of your leg to your knee, keeping the other hand on your hip and your torso facing forward. Then smoothly straighten up, consciously engaging the oblique muscle on the opposite side of your body to do the work. Do six reps on each side. For an added challenge, hold a dumbbell in one hand, or if you don't have one, use a gallon of milk -- sans lipstick.
JTPhoto/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
Squat exercises engage your thighs, glutes and core for an effective combination move with multiple benefits. From a standing position, hold your arms out straight in front of your face and your feet about shoulder-width apart. Steadily and smoothly, squat as low as you can while maintaining good form and keeping your knees behind your toes, then return to a standing position. Concentrate on keeping the movement fluid, with your arms out in front for balance, your back straight and your head up level; try looking at a fixed point on the wall in front of you, about a foot above your own height. Do as many reps as you can with good form, up to 15.
A wall bridge engages your back, abs, obliques, glutes and thighs for another mutlibenefit move. First, push the stack of magazines or pile of laundry out of the way to make a clear spot on the floor, and lie down at a right angle to the wall. Put your legs up and rest the soles of your feet on the wall. Then lift your pelvis up off the ground and outward away from the wall, tighten the muscles and hold, before lowering yourself back down. As with squats, do as many as you can with good form, up to 15 reps.
This move focuses on your entire core. Lie flat on your back with your arms spread wide and both feet up in the air; the heels and soles of your feet should be pointing toward the ceiling. Smoothly lower both legs down to one side, maintaining a 90-degree bend at the hips. Lower them in a sweeping movement as far as you can comfortably reach, and use your abdominal muscles to return to the starting position. Pause for a second, and repeat on the other side. Try for 10 reps.
In order to allow your muscles time to recover between workouts, combine similar moves to perform on alternating days so you're not working the exact same muscle groups two days in a row. Squats and wall bridges, for example, work very similar muscle groups, so alternate these with side bends and windshield wipers. Try to do each combination two to three times per week. Remember to warm up in order to lubricate your joints and prep your muscles for the workload, and stretch afterward. Listen to your body during the moves -- if a move feels like too much for you, modify it to make it easier, by not going deep into the squat, for example. It's better to take your time and maintain good form than to get injured and have to stop working out all together.
Ari Reid has a bachelor's degree in biology (behavior) and a master's in wildlife ecology. When Reid is not training to run marathons, she is operating a non-profit animal rescue organization. Reid has been writing web content for science, health and fitness blogs since 2008.