In the early ’00s, Britney Spears famously revealed on MTV’s Diary that she did between 500 and 1,000 sit-ups a day. I understood that to mean crunching your life away would equal washboard abs. We now know this is not quite the case. “It is a misconception that you can just spot tone,” says Vanessa Treasure, trainer and studio manager for F45 Training Yorkville, the Australian fitness export that combines high-intensity-interval (bouts of intense exercise followed by breaks) and functional (working muscles you use in daily life) training with circuit training to burn fat and build lean muscle. “We want your entire body to be strong, including your core, which protects you from injury and is good for absolutely everything you do — walking, running, going upstairs, etc.”
Here, Treasure demonstrates seven F45 moves you can do to supplement your regular workouts at home or on vacation. (“This is a sample of what you’d see in a class,” explains Treasure. “There is no F45 session that would have only these exercises.”) To complete one circuit, do each exercise for 40 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds before going on to the next exercise. Toned abs—and arms, and legs, and butt, etc. etc.—right this way.
Squat Rotation with Resistance Band
Squat rotation with the resistance band. Image by: Benjamin Reyes
How-to: “Start perpendicular to the resistance band. Hold the band with two hands, so your arms stay nice and long. You’ll squat down to the leg closest to the band’s anchor, and then reach up and fully rotate, pushing through your heels and using your abs as you stand all the way up. As you twist back to the ground, bend back down into that squat.”
Common mistakes: Bending too far forward with your chest. “You want to keep it upright so that you really activate your glutes,” says Treasure.
Alternative move: “If you don’t have a resistance band, you can also use any type of weight and do the exact same movement.”
Renegade row. Image by: Benjamin Reyes
How-to: “Alternating sides, pull one weight up toward your chest, keeping your elbows squeezed-in toward your body, and then lower back down. This exercise takes control; it’s what we call anti-rotational, because you’re trying to keep your hips totally stable as you move your arms. Pick a weight that challenges you, but not at the expense of moving your hips.” Treasure uses 28-pound weights, but recommends you begin with 10 pounds and increase from there.
Common mistakes: Arching your back. “You’re looking to have a neutral spine,” says Treasure. “Your back — from the tip of your head to your tailbone — should be nice and long. You will have that little bit of curvature that’s natural in your spine, but you don’t want your hips dipping low and your butt sticking out in the air. Try to think of connecting your belly button to your spine; pulling that in, as well as big strong exhales helps you to get that engagement.” Also: keep your shoulders away from your ears. “Think of pulling them down and back.”
Alternative move: A regular plank, without weights. “You will still feel that core engagement,” says Treasure.
Plyometric lunge. Image by: Benjamin Reyes
How-to: “These are plyometric lunges using the Rip 60 [a band similar to TRX]. The bands help support you and keep your body upright. Start in a lunge with your feet spread about hip distance apart. Drop your back knee down toward the floor, bending both knees at the same time, then explosively push up through the floor and switch your stance so the opposite leg is now forward.”
Common mistakes: “The most common thing that I see is people falling forward. That takes the load off of your buns, which is what we want to work. Plyometrics, the idea of jumping from one place to another, increases the load you’re working with. Your muscles are absorbing way more than your body weight when you land. This movement is a full-body cardio blast — we can spot target all we want, but you need to be sweating and this will get you there.”
Alternative move: Same move, no stability bands. “You can also modify it and change it to a step instead of a jump,” says Treasure. “We suggest that if you have any sort of knee issue.”
Straight leg deadlift
Straight leg deadlift. Image by: Benjamin Reyes
How-to: “This is a straight leg deadlift with a 20-pound sandbag. It’s all about the hip hinge. As I’m hinging, there’s a soft bend in my knees and my feet are hip-distance apart. Your spine stays super long; look forward and not at the floor, because that is when your spine rounds. Start by leaning forward until you feel that stretch in your hamstrings [i.e. the back of your leg]— everyone is going to be a little bit different depending on how tight your hamstrings are, and what your range of motion is. At that bottom point where you start to feel a little bit of a stretch, dig your feet into the floor and drive all the way up, squeezing your glutes at the top. Abs are always held in super tight. Big exhales as you stand helps you to engage your core, which protects your back in this type of move. And again, the shoulders should be wide and down your back so that you’re not crouching up into your ears.”
Common mistakes: “This is one of those moves where you have to — have to! — get the technique down before you try to load yourself up really heavy. Another key is to make sure the bag slides right down your legs, so you’re not using your arms to reach out forward. It puts too much of the load on your lower back, and that’s a big no no. Also, people always stand too wide. Contrary to popular belief, your skeletal hips are not super far apart. Take your hands and put them on your hipbones, and then draw a straight line down to the ground, bending over similar to the movement of your deadlift. That’s right where your feet should be planted.”
Alternative move: Same move, no weights. “Just doing the movement and really thinking about activating your body is fantastic,” says Treasure. “You can use bars if you don’t have a sandbag – that’s really the traditional deadlift.”
Box jump Image by: Benjamin Reyes
How-to: “For a box jump, you’ve got to have some oomph to get up there. Start in a squat position and swing your arms up — like a basketball player setting up for a jump shot — as you jump up, bending your knees to try and land on the top of the box. When you land, you want it to be quiet. You don’t want to hear a big loud crash bang, because that big loud crash bang is impact on your joints.”
Common mistakes: “Again with that plyometric theme: you’re landing with more than your own body weight because gravity is pulling you down. You have to protect your joints in this type of movement, so the landing is very soft. As I land the jump, I am almost coming into a squat position, and that lessens the impact. It is like a helmet for your knees.”
Alternative move: Use another sturdy structure, like a park bench, no more than 2-feet high to begin.
SIDE PLANK WITH LEG RAISE
Side plank with leg raise. Image by: Benjamin Reyes
How-to: “In a side plank, you want your elbow directly underneath your shoulder. This alignment will protect your shoulder joint and put you right where you want to be. Your hips and shoulders should be stacked, which means your top shoulder is directly overtop of your supporting shoulder, and your hips are directly on top of one another. Once you are in that position, lift that top leg and feel your glutes squeeze. To get that engagement, think about lifting with your heel slightly behind your body.”
Common mistakes: “The most common mistake is that people activate the hip flexer instead of their glutes. If you are doing it wrong, the leg will be slightly forward and toes pointing up. And same as before, you want to make sure your shoulders aren’t creeping up into your ears. You want to be lifting through your body, so you will feel your obliques and side abs engaged to keep you in one long plank.”
Alternative move: Hold the side plank without the leg raise.
Bosu Ball In and Out
Bosu ball in and out. Image by: Benjamin Reyes
How-to: “Start in a wide stance, with one foot pressing into the ball. You are really going to activate and push off that foot that is on the ball, and land on the other side. Really absorb that landing by bending your knee and sitting your butt back into a half-squat position. The amazing thing about this exercise is that you’ve got that element of instability. When you have instability, it forces your core to engage to keep you balanced.”
Common mistakes: “Take time to really control your body and momentarily pause on each side, before activating through the leg and coming back to the other side.”
Alternative move: Side lunges—but note that “they’re less explosive, so it is not as much cardio,” says Treasure.
This tutorial was filmed by Benjamin Reyes on location at F45 Training Yorkville in Toronto. Vanessa Treasure is wearing Lululemon Wunder Under Hi-Rise Tight ($98) and Fast and Free Bra ($74), both available at lululemon.com.