My Top Exercises For Toning

Plus, other workout tips by Lizbeth Simancas, BS, Exercise Science, and Fitness Manager at the Pritikin Longevity Center

At the famed Pritikin Center, Certified Exercise Physiologist Lizbeth Simancas helps guests from all over the world get fit, shed excess weight, and live well. In this Q and A, get expert tips from her on top exercises for toning, revving up your motivation to work out, avoiding injuries, and choosing a personal trainer.

Lizbeth Simancas, BS, Exercise Science | Fitness Manager, Pritikin Longevity Center shares her best tips for toning.

Lizbeth Simancas, Fitness Manager at the Pritikin Longevity Center, shares her top exercises for toning, plus many other tips for burning fat, building muscle, and getting fit.

If you’re having a low energy day, what’s a good motivator to get to the gym?

Have a goal in mind, a really important goal. And keep reminding yourself that the only way to achieve the goal is to do something about it and not just think about it.

Also, remove any barriers. I always pack my gym clothes the night before and take the bag to work. This means there is no excuse as to why I cannot achieve at least 30 minutes of exercise. When you really look at the time spent, exercise is only 4% of my day.

What are your top 3 tips for avoiding injury while exercising?

1. Know your limitations.

For instance, if your knees are in bad shape, avoid working out on a treadmill. Instead, use equipment that eliminates weight-bearing activity, such as the stationary bike. It has no impact on the knee.

As a general rule, you want to avoid activities that stress the injury, but do not avoid building up the weakened area. A stationary bike, for example, will do a good job of strengthening the muscles around the knee but without hurting the knee itself.

2. Work one-on-one with a professional.

If you feel lost when you walk into a gym, or are concerned about possible injuries, it’s best to seek help through individual training with a certified professional, such as an exercise physiologist. Focus on quality of coaching, not quantity. Form is key. Working one-on-one with a professional will help ensure your body is in proper alignment while exercising.

Here are 4 key tips for choosing a personal trainer:

Educational Background: A degree or certification in an exercise-related science is important. Certification should be from a reputable organization, such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Experience: Find out how long the trainer has been working. Ask for references from other clients.

Expertise: Find out if the trainer specializes in an area that you are interested in, such as weights or aerobics.

Motivation: The trainer you choose can (and should) motivate you. Ideally, your attitude should be, “I look forward to my exercise sessions as I work towards my health goals and learn about my body.”

3. Slowly build the pace of your exercises.

If your goal, for example, is to complete 2 sets of 12 repetitions for bicep curls, make sure you choose a weight that gives you the safest but most effective workout. It shouldn’t feel too easy (you could continue curling up to 20 repetitions) or too hard (you can barely make it to 8 repetitions).

Once you find the right weight for 12 repetitions, go for it! Resistance train 2 to 3 times weekly. A few weeks later, when it starts to get easy, you have several options:

  1. Increase weight and continue doing 12 repetitions.
  2. Lower the amount of repetitions while bumping up the weight.
  3. Use the same weight but increase the repetitions to 15.

What are your top exercises for toning?

I like to spice up my workouts and create a good circuit training routine.

My 4 top exercises for toning are:

Scissor Bridges | Top Exercises for Toning

Excellent for hamstrings, glutes (butt muscles), outer and inner thighs

Lie face up on mat. Squeeze your glutes, and lift your hips off the ground. While holding the bridge, lift your right foot off the mat. Using a controlled motion, move your right leg out to the side and then back to center. Repeat at least 10 times. Switch to the other side.

Opposite Arm Leg Crunch | Top Exercises for Toning

Excellent for obliques (side abdominal muscles)

Lie face up with arms and legs extended overhead. Crunch upward while aiming your right hand towards your left foot. Alternate sides. Complete 10 on each side. (Yes, that’s long-time Pritikin instructor Ivan Ferran on the mat!)

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Squat With Side Leg Raise | Top Exercises for Toning

Excellent for quadriceps (large muscles at front of thighs) and outer thighs

Stand with legs hip-width apart. Squat, keeping your knees behind your toes. As you stand up after each squat, lift your right foot off the ground, performing a side leg raise. Complete 10 squats/side leg raises on the right side. Then switch to the left.

Side Lying Circle Leg Raise | Top Exercises for Toning

Excellent for glutes and outer thighs

Lie on your right side. Lift the top leg and draw a large circle with it. Once you draw one full circle, “erase” the circle by drawing another one in the opposite direction. Repeat 10 in each direction before switching sides and legs.

If you’re getting bored at the gym, or not seeing progress, what can you do to turn things around?

It’s easy to get bored with the same old routine. SO CHANGE IT!

If your goal is to burn fat, get a new cardio routine going. For example, rather than sticking to the same machine for the entire 45-minute session, break it up.

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Try 15 minutes on the stepper, then switch to the elliptical for 15 minutes. There goes 30 minutes! Now try spinning for 15 minutes.

Push yourself out of your comfort zone, yet be cautious of any injuries, of course.

On each machine, do mini intervals. For instance, increase your speed for 90 seconds, then slow down (yet still working within your Training Heart Rate Zone) for 60 seconds. Then increase your resistance for 2 minutes while keeping the speed the same. Then decrease resistance for 1 minute. Repeat till your 15 minutes are up.

What do you like most about working at Pritikin?

I really enjoy working here at Pritikin because it’s such a healthy environment. It has helped me get back on my feet with my own health. I’m paying close attention to what I eat based on what I’ve learned from attending Pritikin’s very informative lectures on nutrition.

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