January 14, 2013

Quick Weight Loss Exercises; Sculpting Sexy Legs: Ask The Trainer

Time for a new workout? Our trainers have tips!

We've got some very cool stuff in this next edition of "Ask the Personal Trainer."

For one, we have a new panelist, Adria Ali! And Dave put together a couple of great custom videos explaining exactly how to do the quick but challenging workouts he talks about. And as usual, Taylor delivers sound advice you can relate to.

You may notice some common themes among the responses, which is heartening, don't you think? I personally hate it when experts come to opposite conclusions and you have no idea what in hell you're supposed to do next. But the specifics from wise panelists Taylor, Dave and Adria are divergent enough to give you lots of choices.

Join us for some tips on Sexy Legs and Faster Weight Loss. And please feel free to ask a question of your own for future "Ask the Trainer" posts. (And if you already have and it hasn't been answered? Please remind me, as I'm not the most organized crab in the world!)

First question:

Do you have any personal trainer "secrets" to speed up weight loss using exercise? Or is it just common sense?

Adria Ali

[Adria is a personal trainer with 3 certifications and a Bachelors of Science in Kinesology. She's been training full time for over 12 years and running Fit Tip Daily.com for the last 5 years.

(And if you are in need Exercise Stuff, the blog Fit Tip Daily now has its own  Fit Tip Store!)]

RAMP IT UP - Add A Power Move After Every Set.

You can turn any boring routine into a calorie burning furnace by adding power moves after every set of ANY exercise. "What's a power move?" Power moves are defined by explosive actions. This could be a sprint, jumping in place, jumping on a box, burpees, Medicine ball tosses (against a wall or to a partner), medicine ball slams (thrown ball against the floor) Jumping squats, jumping lunges etc.

These moves will spike your heart rate and take advantage of "muscle confusion."

Taylor Ryan:

 [Taylor Ryan is a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant; check out her personal blog Lifting Revolution for tips, recipes, workouts and more!]

Secrets to lose weight faster with exercise?

I don’t so much have secrets, but I do have some tips that I will freely share to help your workouts be much more efficient.

First off, give up on the 60 minute cardio sessions. While walking or jogging on a treadmill for the length of an entire movie is a great form of cardio, there is a much better option. Intervals. Intervals combine low intensity exercise with short burst of extremely high intensity to help deliver a huge fat burning “pow” to your system.

In fact, over the course of 2 weeks... 2 hours of intervals burn the equivalent number of calories as 10 hours of steady state cardio. I don’t know about you, but 2 hours seems a lot more inviting.

And because intervals are intense, they only take 20-30 minutes. What should you do? Start off easy for a few minutes, then sprint as fast as you can for 20-30 seconds. Slow it down for 1-2 minutes and repeat until your time is up.

Next, double up. While cardio is important, it’s not the only form of exercise to drop pounds and reshape your body. Strength training is essential to helping tone muscles and increase your metabolism. Studies show that workouts that include both forms of exercise burn more calories during and after the workout and help you to shed pounds faster.

Start with a 30 minute full body strength session, including moves such as lunges, squats, push-ups, burpees, etc. And then finish with a 20-30 minute cardio session. If you don’t have time for both workouts, that’s okay. Alternate days between them. Just make sure to have a workout plan that involves both cardio and strength. Not only will you lose fat faster, but you’ll reshape your body faster.

And finally, if you can workout in the morning. This has been a long debated issue but we can’t deny research. Working out first thing in the morning will help you drop pounds by waking up your metabolism and tapping into your fat stores, but also because it starts the day off in a positive way. You will be more likely to make smarter food choices, have less cravings and more energy.

But if you can’t workout in the morning, no big deal. Workout when it works best for you, but try to stick to the same schedule.

Dave Smith:

[Dave Smith is a personal trainer who specializes in quick and effective body weight exercise routines that can be done anywhere, anytime - Check him out at MakeYourBodyWork.com]

Well I'm not sure if this classifies as a "secret" recipe for weight loss but it definitely does work. Here's a 4-step plan that I recommend to anyone looking to shed some unwanted pounds:

1. Aim for less exercise. I know this sounds strange coming from a personal trainer but it's true. Research shows that short, intense workouts offer the best results. Keeping workouts short also increases the likelihood of staying consistent with an exercise program. While a 90-minute trip to the gym is quite daunting, a 30-minute workout circuit is almost always doable (and therefore tends to get done!) I aim for a 20-35 minute workout and always give 100% during that short timeframe.

2. Choose "big bang" exercises. All exercises are certainly NOT created equal. Some, I refer to as "big bag" exercises, engage many muscles in one movement and therefore torch fat way faster than other choices. Watch this video to see how you can easily put together a circuit of these high-reward exercises.

3. Make it social. Research shows that social support gained through vocalizing health and fitness goals increases the likelihood of those goals being achieved. Try to make a few goals public with friends, family, or anyone else who will listen, and then get it done. And posting specific goals on social media outlets enlists hundreds, if not thousands, of instant accountability partners!

4. Emphasize diet over exercise. I once watched an interesting demonstration in which 2 guys were pitted against each other. One ran on a treadmill as fast as he could for 2 minutes while his counterpart ate as much pizza as he could in 2 minutes. The result? The exerciser burned under 30 calories while the pizza packed on over 800 calories!

There really is no exercise secret that can overcome a poor diet. Calculate your metabolic rate and then build a diet that keeps you close to this daily number. Only then will the results from your hard work in the gym really start to pay off!

OK trainers, next question!

Let's say you want to sculpt your legs, and your goal is less about "functional fitness" and more about looking hot. What exercise routine could help you get legs that look defined and muscular without looking really big and wide?


There are lots of exercise to sculpt legs! First off, to sculpt anything, you have to burn off fat that covers the muscle. You can have the best muscle tone ever but if it’s hiding underneath a layer of fat, no one will ever know.

So follow the rules above for burning fat.

For toning the legs, work them every other day (never work the same muscles back to back days).

Because legs are made of large muscles, I prefer to incorporate both high and low reps to really hit them at all angles.

If you’re not eating a high calorie diet that would support muscle growth, they won’t get big. Just lean and toned.

Here are a few of my favorite exercises:

Lunge walks, with dumbbells. Complete 15-20 reps.
Split squats. Complete 8-10 reps/leg. These are the ultimate hamstring and butt toning exercise. One leg is on the ground, the other is placed on a bench or chair behind you. Make sure that as you bend your grounded leg, your knee is able to stay over your ankle. The first few sets, you might have to adjust your positioning. Lower down until the thigh is parallel to the ground and push back up to start position.

Squat jumps. Plyometric exercises (jumping) is amazing for toning the legs and giving a cardio workout at the same time. Simply squat down, keeping feet flat on the ground, and explode up, jumping as high as possible. Land softly and repeat for a total of 10-12 reps.

Calf raises. Since we are not going for functional, but for looks... add these in to your workout. You’ll get a great symmetry of your legs by working the thighs, butt and now the calves. Start with your toes on a step, heels off and push through the balls of your feet to rise up as high as possible. Lower back down and repeat for 25 reps total.

Add these moves into your workout and you will see awesome results. Follow the rep suggestion, do each move back to back and repeat this circuit for a total of 3 rounds.


One prerequisite for achieving a "hot body" is a well-rounded workout routine. Watch how people in the gym are exercising and you'll notice a pattern: Almost everyone focuses on the muscles they most easily see in the mirror. People want sculpted abs, shapely thighs, and sexy arms, but they often forget about the muscles on their back side (and those muscles factor into a "hot body" every bit as much as the ones on the front!)

For anyone looking to create nice-looking legs I would challenge them to think about performing exercises that target their posterior muscles (i.e. hamstrings, calves, and glutes) instead of doing the basic diet of squats and lunges that place more emphasis on the quadriceps. An awesome choice for an advanced exerciser would be the Romanian Deadlift. For anyone looking for some choices that don't require weights, check out this video that demonstrates two leg-sculpting exercises that that emphasize those often-overlooked posterior leg muscles.


First and foremost, muscle can't grow without calories. So, if you keep your calories controlled while working out, you will begin to see the felt melt away to reveal the muscle underneath. I personally had to learn this the hard way.

If you want to add an extra spike to your leg routine do CARDIO BLASTS after each set.

A cardio blast is anything that gets your heart rate back up. The combination of the cardio blast and the weight training mixed together guarantees that your heart rate mimics that of a full on cardio routine with the added bonus of resistance.

The cardio blast could be jumping rope, jogging in place, running on the treadmill, or jogging around a track. Anything that gets your heart rate back up.

Thanks Trainers!  Does anyone have any thoughts about weight loss secrets or sculpting muscular legs?   Or got a question for a trainer?

Photo: Ladies exercising swiped from The Gloss, who found it at  Life Magazine.


  1. Most interesting. I've nothing to add, but wanted to say I was tickled to find out my BMR.

    1. Funny, I tend to distrust one-size fits all formulas, but in my case it looks pretty accurate. I just need to stay in bed all day for a week to test it!

      Or, well, perhaps not.

  2. I love the power move and the older I get the more I'm coming to embrace the less-is-more concept of exercise!!!
    Good stuff!!

    1. Well your "less" is incredibly awesome Kim, love the videos on your blog for showing us how you stay so fit!

  3. Im with kim.
    for me now less is more AND my booty needs MORE variety to not achieve its goal of meeting the back of my knees :-)

    1. Miz, with you on variety!

      But the only way your butt is every gonna be in contact with the back of your knees is if you master some majorly weird yoga pose! Can't see you ever giving up your commitment to exercise and healthy chow.

  4. 1)Fasted cardio in the AM is a guaranteed fat burner.

    2)HIIT may burn calories, but if you want to be able to run long distances, you better train by running long distances.

    That is all.

    1. Good point! Not everyone is a "sprint and get it done fast" sort of person.

      And I'm getting more and more curious about the whole notion of tinkering with the timing of calorie consumption, especially carbs, to turn on that fat burning switch.

    2. Although crap, I just googled and it seems like the whole fasted cardio thing is a bit controversial, with newer research saying it may not help. Was hoping for a magic solution to instantly burn fat! Drat, foiled again.

    3. I read something about it over the summer on Mark's Daily Apple that said fasting workouts and the Intermittent Fasting schedule of only eating between 11am-7pm actually has the opposite effect on peri- and pre-menopausal women. It clicked with how I was feeling...I could not do an effective workout on a completely empty stomach (I lift in the morning and I wasn't going to stop lifting and start running), and I found myself become food-obsessed and wanting to eat just for the sake of eating during those eight hours. Everyone's bodily makeup differs, and while the IF/fasted cardio may be a great magic trick for a lot of people, it doesn't agree with my body -- maybe because of my sex, my age, my metabolic disorder, or whatever. But I have to have a small meal (half serving of a protein smoothie) within 30 minutes of getting up, and then I can perform a killer strength training workout about 60-90 minutes later. I refuel ASAP after the workout with a protein-based meal and then go on with the day.

    4. Interesting Norma! I can't imagine having the self-discipline to restrict my eating to an 8 hour window, but I don't eat much before working out and had been curious what might happen if I skipped eating entirely. Sounds like you've figured out a great strategy and are getting awesome results--thanks for the helpful report!

  5. I am in a different catagory that some others I think. I'm older and obese and injury prone. I find intense often translates into Oh OH! I would much rather workout for 2 or 3 hours at 60 to 70% of my capacity than take a risk.

    1. That's great Cindy that you know your own body! Because yeah, injuries suck. For me, the least risky way to play with intensity is by doing intervals on an elliptical or bike because there's less pounding, but I know that's just not everyone's thing. I hear pool workouts can be a safer way to ramp things up, but ick, I hate getting wet.

      And that's cool that since intensity doesn't work, that you're going for endurance!

    2. I knew I should have read everyone else's comments before adding my own way down below here. I tried the elliptical and bike and both also hurt my knee a lot. In fact, when I am having a good day, I actually run a little when I go for my walks because I just feel good. I run in such a way though, that is not intense. I have run for almost half a mile without getting breathless or hurting my knee.

      Other days I just get out of bed and stand up and the knee is screaming. blah...it can be a B getting old! I think I have just answered my own question about what to do? I think I won't worry a fig about doing interval training. I will just do what I CAN do, and do it safely so I don't get injured and can't do anything at all!!! :D

    3. Oww, that sounds so painful and frustrating!

      Glad you've found some things that do work, and yeah, intervals definitely aren't for everyone!

      Dave has some more advice below for leg strengthening; and if you've got decent health insurance, maybe at some point a physical therapist could tailor something or have some suggestions?

      So sorry about the pain, that just sucks.

  6. Good info, and i like adding Pilates moves for my legs, it seems to be working.

  7. Love your smart trainers - they have some really good tips. I'll totally admit it: I read the "hot to get hot legs" one very, very closely!
    P.S. Thank you for your amazingly sweet comment on my blog today. You made my whole day:))

    1. Charlotte, your writing just amazes me! And yeah, I feel lucky to have trainers who actually KNOW something pop by sometimes to break up my usual offerings of speculation, cursing, and whining.

  8. Honestly I've done squats and lunges all over the world, and my legs definitely toned up nicely but the inner thigh, WTF...why does that take soooo long to remotely tone

    1. Ooh, good question! I wonder what muscles those are specifically and if it would be helpful to isolate, even though trainers tend to be all about the functional. Are those the squeezy-in ones maybe, like you'd use to ride a horse? Maybe our gyms should buy mechanical bulls! Surround 'em with plenty of padding and I bet there'd be lines out the door.

      Actually, seriously, how fun would that be? 24 hour fitness, are you listening?

  9. I actually watched Dave's first video, all five minutes of it. (Is there a way to show how long a vid is without starting it?) I'm a functional fitness type, not interested in burning fat or losing weight or sculpting anything, just preparing for a healthy old age, and I do planks and squats as part of yoga and also from time to time during my (physical!) work day to loosen up, but those side to side leaps look like fun! Will be trying them as soon as I finish my coffee and get up from the computer.

    StarvingBitch, try doing side plank and raising and lowering the upper leg. Not that I do it often enough to know it would work, what with falling over a lot.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

    1. Back to report that the side leaps didn't seem to do much to raise my heart rate in sixty seconds, but boy! are they a balance challenge! I'll be doing some more of those. Thanks, Dave.

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

    2. Great that you tried the side leaps! And you must be fit if they don't raise your heart rate; maybe you need to sling a Saint Bernard over your shoulders and give it a go. :)

  10. Sorry I am so late to this... way behind on everything!!! I love these posts & learn so much! I don't actually always do what they say But I learn. I have found what works for me & I am sticking with it says this cranky old 55 year old! :)

    I work out way more than the experts say BUT I also incorporate HIIT & intervals & eat well so it just goes to show that we are all different & short intense workouts may not work for all. I do INTENSE but I have to do more with the cardio. In addition, some people just can't do plyometrics & other stuff like that due to joint issues & age.

    I am intense with weights too BUT I like them & never want to leave the gym! :) I am actually writing a post about my NO apologies for the way I work out. :)

    1. You're never too late Jody! And I am CRAP about making blog rounds myself.

      I think you know your own body better than anyone, and am glad you've figured out that what you love is working for you!

  11. How about some suggestions for someone with osteoarthritis in their knees? (near bone on bone in the knee joints)
    Squats or "chair pose" in yoga are not possible without pain and can't usually be done at all. Walking can be done though it still hurts a bit. The knee isn't bad enough for surgery. It slows me down and I am protective of it because I don't WANT to have surgery on it!
    I see interval training suggested a lot. Other than going into a swimming pool which bores me to death, are there any other things I might try?

    1. Hey Sherri,

      I totally hear where you're coming from (I've gone through 2 sports-related knee surgeries and have my own cartilage issues). Oftentimes, doing wall squats with a stability ball behind your back will take enough weight off the knees that it can be a pain-free option. The key is to continue using the muscles so that they don't whittle away to nothing.

      I'd also say that glute exercises should be your best friend in the gym. Strong glutes = safe knees!

    2. Hey thanks Dave!!

      And there's an additional comment upthread Sherri, but good for you for trying your best despite the godawful pain.

    3. Thanks Dave and Crabby. And I am a tough old bird...the pain isn't always so it isn't THAT bad. I have had it go bad once though, just before losing my first 100 pounds. I was on a cane for months and could hardly do anything. Did not have insurance at that time so could not afford to see the doctor. Anyway, no big deal...you do what you need to in order to stay as healthy as you can OR you give up and go from cane to walker to wheelchair to bed to coffin...a whole lot sooner than I would be willing to go!

      Dave, thanks for the tip on working the glutes more. I will incorporate that muscle more in future workouts. I have a ball at home. I can sit on it when on my computer and have no trouble giving a little bounce and then stand up. Does that help if I were to do it a lot?

      Ok, back to cleaning up the kitchen. Dishes won't wash themselves. :D

  12. Wow, that's actually some very sound advice, and I've learnt a lot! Thank you so much for sharing this, as I know that I'll be coming back soon when I want to incorporate some new things into my routine.

    I can definitely vouch for HIIT, it's fantastic, I feel completely shredded afterwards, but that's a good pain, so I feel great! Thanks again for this great article :)

    1. Hey Nick,
      I'm a fan of HIIT too! Even as I'm hatin' it. The results and the feeling of smugness are SO worth it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Well, it was depressing to find my BMR and all the associated rates, but, not much of a surprise. As I hurt my hip a couple of weeks ago and am trying to ease my way backing to walking at regular pace again, I will not be trying many of the suggested exercises soon. The second leg ones from Dave, I already do, but, now I will also try them with a ball. As for HIITs and such, I need to shed a few lbs first 'cause I don't want to give myself a heart attack or heat stroke or just any injuries. I'm a wimp in my decrepitude.

    1. Reb, taking care of your health and adjusting accordingly does NOT make you a wimp!!! Figuring out the safe ways to keep active and strengthen your body while also eating healthy sounds like an excellent plan. I know it can be discouraging to read about workouts meant for non-injured bodies; sorry about that! (I had to stop reading fitness magazines for many months post-hysterectomy as it was driving me crazy to be so limited in what i could do).

      Hang in there and keep doing what you can!

  14. Very interesting. I have no personal trainer but for a fit body we have to need exercise. thank you.

  15. Great ideas. The blast theory is not new and I have tried it on a very limited basis. Seems a logical idea.

  16. Some nice ideas. Personally I would agree totally with Taylor Ryan. I have always found that a 60 minute workout produces less results over time than shorter more 'intense' workouts especially using high intensity interval training.

    Tried and tested with hundreds of my own clients over the last five years I have seen the results first hand of this can of training. Contrary to popular belief it's really not about how long you spend exercising but far more about the quality and intensity of the workouts.

  17. Hi I have thin and long legs but not sexy .. I've been looking for the best exercise that can help me with my problem until I found this blog. Thanks for the tips and information. God Bless!

  18. Every one has their own preferences but to me it always cardio exercises as they are easy and also helpful to the newbies.

  19. Great post! I think that simplifying a well-balanced workout like you've done here is more effective in motivating me to workout than all those crazy workout trends! Thanks for all the great tips.


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