By training the muscles you don’t regularly see, your body becomes stronger and more defined and powerful. These transformations begin when you start working the rear shoulders, lats, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, but also when you mind some smaller muscles—many of which you may not have even heard of, like the multi dus and the erector spinae—that have big functions, such as supporting and extending your spine and allowing you to bend and rotate.
Together, this entire grouping of muscles and tendons, called the posterior chain, works to keep you upright and moving properly. And when you dedicate your reps to it, you’ll end up looking leaner and taller, says Michelle Lovitt, an exercise physiologist in Los Angeles who’s known for getting celebrities and athletes into top shape.
This routine is stacked with multijoint movements (complex exercises that work multiple muscles at once rather than isolating just one) that strengthen and sculpt every muscle in your posterior chain. “These moves work to create balance between the front and back of your body, and also bilaterally, challenging your dominant and nondominant limbs separately,” Lovitt explains. The result: You’ll eliminate weakness and eventually be able to move faster and more powerfully in every direction.
This isn’t a sweaty HIIT routine that calls for doing as many reps as possible against the clock. Rather, burning calories is a by-product of your slow, deliberate sculpting. Good posture is essential to ensure that the proper muscles take on the load. “You want a neutral spine for every rep,” Lovitt says. “Squeeze your shoulder blades into your spine and stick your butt back and up.”
How it works: Do these moves in order for the number of reps indicated, resting for 30 seconds to one minute between moves. Repeat the circuit two more times. Do this routine two to three days a week on alternate days. Aim to increase the amount of weight you use after two to three weeks.
Total Time: up to 15 minutes
1. Plié Bend-Extend
Stand with feet wide and toes turned out, holding a weight in each hand with elbows bent tight to sides and palms facing up. Lift heels to rise onto balls of feet. Squat to start.
Stand, lowering heels and extending arms out to sides (with a soft bend) at shoulder height. Return to start.
2. Squat Raise
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a weight in each hand with arms by sides. Raise straight arms out to sides at shoulder height with palms facing down to start.
Squat, drawing arms forward in front of chest at shoulder height. Return to start.
3. Deadlift Row
Stand on left leg, right leg hovering above floor behind you, holding a weight in each hand with arms extended down and weights resting on thighs to start. Hinge forward from hips to lower torso and weights toward floor until chest is parallel to floor, lifting extended right leg behind you. Bend elbows out to sides, pulling weights up toward chest until arms form 90-degree angles. Lower weights, and return to start.
4. Reverse Lunge-Twist
Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a weight in each hand with arms by sides to start. Step right leg back, bending both legs 90 degrees. Raise straight arms out to sides at shoulder height with palms facing down as you rotate torso over left thigh. Return to start. Switch sides; repeat.
5. Plank Bird Dog
Start on floor in plank on palms. Lift straight right leg off of floor. When balanced, lift left hand off floor and extend arm straight forward at shoulder height with palm facing down. Return to start. Switch sides; repeat.
6. All-Fours Leg Lift
Start on floor on all fours. Extend right leg straight behind you with toes resting on floor. Keeping hips square, lift right leg as high as you can [shown]. Pause, then lower leg. Complete reps on one side. Switch sides; repeat.
7. Reverse Plank-Up
Sit on floor with legs extended and together and palms pressing into floor behind hips with fingertips facing forward. Push hands and heels into floor to lift hips until body forms a straight line from shoulders to heels. Return to start.
8. Split-Squat Pull-Down
Stand with feet hip-width apart and right leg forward, holding a weight in left hand with arms by sides. Raise left hand overhead with palm facing forward. Squat, keeping arm overhead.
Stand, pulling weight down to chest. Complete reps on one side. Switch sides; repeat.