KIDDING! The only way to “lengthen” your muscles as some women’s magazines claim, is to take Polyjuice potion and become someone else with longer muscles than you.
“Long, lean” muscles have more to do with genetics (where the muscles insert on your bones) than what exercise modality you choose. “Toning” really means, bigger muscles with less fat. How does one do that? Pick up heavy things and eat your vegetables.
So, as promised, 3 exercises to accomplish you fitness goals:
1. Deadlift- I can’t tell you enough how important picking up something heavy (correctly!) can improve your physique and strength levels. Want a better butt and thighs? Deadlift. What to get a bit leaner? Deadlift (and eat your veggies) Want to run faster? Deadlift. Want to be as kick-butt as Katniss from the Hunger Games? Deadlift.
Seriously, deadlifts are amazing. And it doesn’t have to be the standard barbell deadlift either. One can deadlift a kettlebell (remember, “heavy” is relative. It doesn’t have to be 200 pounds.), a trap bar, heck, even your little brother. Just keep your spine neutral, crack you walnut between your butt cheeks and lift! Steve, my hubby, wrote a great post about deadlifting. You can read it here.
2. Overhead press- As I’ve stated before, pressing heavy things over your head “tones” (read: strengthens) everything between your toes and your upraised hands. Fairly effective, no? And the overhead press category has a wide application. Choose the variation that best suits your mobility (i.e. pain free movements).
3. Swings- Ok, I debated putting down squats instead, but swings work wonders on body composition and conditioning. They’re safer to program high volumes without form breaking down. SQUATS are IMPORTANT, even if it’s a 10 lb goblet squat, everyone should squat. Squats are amazing (and you should do them too) but, if we’re looking for something that can train aerobic conditioning that’s easy on the joints, I choose swings over squats. Swings also tend to be less problematic for achy joints (knees, back, shoulders).
Farmer walks. Picking up heavy things and walking around. Excellent way to condition and build up muscular endurance.
Tried and true, the above exercises are not fancy but they ALWAYS WORK. I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t gotten stronger, leaner and more Jedi-like while doing deadlifts, presses and swings. Keep it simple. Keep it strong.