Every week, you perform basic big-muscle moves like the squat, deadlift, row and bench press. Those are your meat-and-potatoes exercises, and they're important for revving your metabolism and building size and strength. But are you getting enough of your workout vegetables? Probably not, says Sean De Wispelaere, expert coach for Men's Health Thrive.

"Vegetables are the exercises you love to skip because they're hard, make you move in new ways, call out muscle imbalances, or highlight weaknesses," says De Wispelaere. "But they're also some of the best moves for you."

Over time, neglecting these exercises can slow your progress and your gains. After all, to build a body that moves better, lifts better, and feels better, you can't just focus on strength alone. You need a balanced routine that incorporates other facets of fitness, too, says De Wispelaere.

So add some of these effective -- but commonly disregarded -- vegetables below to your weekly routine. You can do them as part of your warmup or during rest periods so you're not logging extra time in the gym. Then reward yourself by doing an exercise you love directly afterward. Think of it as your dessert.

Plank
DO THIS: Perform three 30-second planks between each circuit or set of your workout.

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The plank is one of the best moves for a hard core, even if it's not the most exciting abs exercise. It forces your core to brace against potentially spine-injuring motion like rotation, flexion, and extension, explains De Wispelaere. And stronger you are in a plank position, the more weight you'll be able to lift in every exercise. (Think you have the pushup down? Think again. Here are 5 Body-Weight Exercises You're Doing Wrong.)

Ankle Mobility Drill
DO THIS: Perform three 10-second holds on each side. Do between squat sets.

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Sure, mobility drills are boring, but they improve your range of motion, help you lift more weight, and decrease your risk of injury, says De Wispelaere. One of the least-mobile areas on men are the ankles. Lack of ankle flexibility can cause unstable foundations in your squat and lunge patterns. The result: You can't support as much weight and the neutral alignment of your spine is compromised. (Which moves do fitness experts hate? Read 5 Exercises That Make Trainers Cringe.)

Lateral Slide Lunge
DO THIS: Perform 10 reps per side during your warmup

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"At the gym, most guys perform forward-and-backward or up-and-down movements," says De Wispelaere. "But life rarely happens in just one plane of motion." Moving laterally strengthens the muscles that run down the sides of your body, while testing your hip flexibility and targeting your glutes and groin muscles. You'll build strength you can use inside and outside the gym, he says. (Build a better performing body and a sculpted core with The Toughest Exercise You Aren't Doing (but Should)).

Bulgarian split squat
DO THIS: Do 8 to 12 reps on each leg. Perform between sets of an upper-body exercise.

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The Bulgarian split squat might be one of the hardest moves you'll ever do, which is why many guys try to avoid it. Unlike the regular split squat where your back leg pushes about 50 percent of the load, this version relies on the back foot only for balance. Your front leg is doing the majority of the work. But training one leg at a time prevents imbalances and increases total-body stability, says De Wispelaere.

Carve the invincible abs you've always wanted in as little as 2 hours a week with The New Rules of Lifting for Abs.




You might remember the dragon flag from the Rocky IV training montage. Rocky Balboa laid on a bench, and then lifted and lowered his feet, legs, butt, and torso in one straight line. It makes your abs burn just watching it. But then we saw Josh Halbert, Director of Education at Kinetic Systems Strength and Conditioning in Columbia, Maryland, do the walking version of the exercise. Suddenly, the dragon flag didn't look so tough. Check out the video below to see him perform the move.

"Just like the dragon flag, the move requires extreme core strength," says Halbert. However, "walking" your legs during the movement requires every last stabilizing muscle in your body to fire. The reason: You not only have to resist your back from sagging or bowing, but you also have to stop your body from tipping side to side, he says. (Carve the invincible abs you've always wanted in as little as 2 hours a week with The New Rules of Lifting for Abs.)

Think about the move as an upside-down plank: While holding a plank position, your glutes, quads, and core are braced as one solid unit. The second you pick up one foot from the floor, though, the move instantly becomes more difficult. The muscles that are still involved must work even harder to maintain the same rigid, straight torso you had before.

To prepare your body for the challenge, start with an exercise called Rocky Abs, seen in the video below. It focuses on the eccentric, or lowering, portion of the movement. Your muscles can handle more weight on that phase of a lift, but slowing the pace forces your muscles to work harder. Once you master that, add in the "walking" leg movements. (Reveal the abs you never knew you had with the 6 Moves for a Six-Pack.)

Your workout could be all wrong. Ditch these 4 Moves Trainers Hate.

By Katie Rosenbrock
TheActiveTimes.com

Maybe at first, dating a runner might not seem like a bright idea. Really, who wants to spend the majority of their time with a fitness-obsessed freak who usually wakes up before the sun is out, hands over their hard earned cash for race entry fees and is probably missing a few toenails?

It doesn’t really sound all that great, does it? Well, maybe we can convince you to reconsider, because if you can get over the toenail thing (really, that's only true for a small portion of long-distance runners anyway), then you'll likely find that dating a runner comes along with a pretty long list of sweet perks.

And I’m not just saying that because I am a runner. I asked my boyfriend to share his perspective. “You’re passionate, dedicated and just the perfect amount of nuts,” he said, inserting a smiling emoji with its tongue sticking out and a “JK.” (Whatever, most runners can admit they're a little nuts, so no need to cushion the blow.)

“But seriously, just being fit and pushing others to better themselves, but not in an overbearing way,” he said. “Being around someone with too much passion can rub off on another person the wrong way.”

So there you have it; dating a runner means you get a partner who will inspire you to be better, not by badgering you, but simply by being who they are and doing what they love to do.

And if you’re still not convinced, continue reading to find out a few more (really good) reasons you might consider dating a runner.




There's no denying that the six-pack muscles are the most popular abs muscles. But your core houses of a bunch of abdominal muscles that help stabilize bend, and rotate your torso. This three-move challenge from Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., author of The IMPACT! Body Plan, hits all of them: the transverse abdominis, a deep abdominal muscle that's part of the musculature that maintains spine stability; the obliques, the muscles that run along the side of your core and help rotate and resist rotation; and the rectus abdominis, a.k.a. the six-pack muscles that pull your torso toward your hips. (Reveal the abs you never knew you had with the 6 Moves for a Six-Pack.)

Here's how the challenge works: Grab a stopwatch. Perform 16 tiger pushups, 16 single-arm thrusters, and 16 single-leg V-ups back-to-back. That's 1 round. Do 2 more. Complete the challenge as quickly as possible, but maintain good form the entire time to lower your risk of injury and to increase muscle recruitment. Your goal: 4 minutes and 10 seconds. What was your time? Let us know in the comments below.

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Add these 4 Post-Workout Moves That Burn Fat to your regimen, and that extra belly roll will be gone soon.




Completing 110 burpees in a row is extremely difficult. Doing them on one leg at a time in a suspension trainer -- as this week's challenge requires -- will make your muscles scream and test your willpower. The instability of the TRX makes it tough to stabilize your body throughout the movement, says Pete Holman, PT, C.S.C.S., director of Rip Training at TRX. You must activate more muscles and work harder to maintain proper form during each rep. (Try these 5 Secrets to the Perfect Workout and you'll never be held back in the gym again!)

That's why cranking out 110 reps requires an insane amount of athleticism and total-body stability. If you can reach that goal, you'll know your body is primed for peak performance at the Men's Health Urbanathlon, a 10- to 12-mile run that's filled with crazy barriers (taxi pileup, anyone?). "You'll have no trouble crawling under obstacles or jumping over them, and sprinting your way to a fantastic finish at the race," says Holman.

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Didn't reach 110 reps? Don't worry: Click here to get a full TRX Urbanathlon training plan. It'll prepare your body for race day and get you in the best shape of your life.




Want to perk up fast?

In the video below, I’ve focused on three of my favorite twists geared to awaken the energy in your spine and help you in releasing any stagnant energy. These postures stimulate the digestive system, and detoxify and massage the internal organs.

MORE: 5 Breathing Exercises to Try Today

Do this sequence anytime you’re feeling lethargic or have been out of commission for too long. It's guaranteed to give you an instant shot of energy and more vibrancy!

Discover the power of yoga to tighten, tone, and calm. Buy The Women's Health Big Book of Yoga today!

Kathryn Budig is a jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the Contributing Yoga Expert for Women's Health Magazine, Yoga Journal contributor, Yogi-Foodie for MindBodyGreen, creator of Gaiam's Aim True Yoga DVD, co-founder of Poses for Paws and author of Rodale's The Women's Health Big Book of Yoga today. Follow her on Twitter; Facebook; Instragram or on her website.

By Diana Gerstacker
TheActiveTimes.com

Contrary to popular belief, your abs aren't the only group of muscles that have a major effect on total body strength and power. Your glutes are among the strongest muscles in your body and they play a huge role in overall fitness, too. Yet, despite their importance, they are often overlooked and under-trained.

The butt is a powerful tool. The muscles in our backsides help with everything from climbing stairs to running marathons and that's just the beginning. Our gluteal muscles -- the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus -- are three of the most critical muscles that keep humans standing upright. Without those muscles, we wouldn't be able to walk or maintain balance -- and heavy lifting, forget about it.

It is imperative, then, that we make an effort to strengthen and fortify these muscles. If total body fitness and proficiency at everyday tasks isn't enough motivation, these nine exercises will tone your behind and have your butt looking better than ever. How's that for incentive?




Your core is made up of more than just your abs. The many muscles between your hips and shoulders stabilize your spine and allow your torso to rotate and bend. "If you want to be stronger in everything you do, you need to work all of those muscles," says Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S., author of The IMPACT! Body Plan. This fitness test does just that with three moves -- the leg raise, the bicycle crunch, and the Russian twist. It'll measure your total core strength, stability and muscular endurance. It won't take long to find out if your midsection is up for the challenge or not.

Here's how it works: Grab a stop watch and perform 10 leg raises, 20 bicycle crunches, and 30 Russian twists, back-to-back without rest. That's 1 round. Do 2 more. Finish as fast as possible while maintaining proper form. (Try these 5 Secrets to a Perfect Workout and you'll never be held back in the gym again!)

Your goal: 1 minute and 48 seconds. Let us know your time in the comments below.

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Think you have the pushup down? Think again. Here are 5 Body-Weight Exercises You're Doing Wrong.




If you want to be an unstoppable athlete, you need a strong, powerful and agile lower body. It'll help you move faster, jump higher, and blow past your opponents. It'll also give you a leg up on the competition at the Men's Health Urbanathlon, a 10-to-12-mile run that's filled with tough obstacles like swaying cargo nets, stadium steps, and police barricades. So how do you build a superior lower body? TRX lunges and TRX hip presses, says Pete Holman, PT, C.S.C.S., director of Rip Training at TRX, who included both moves in the leg-burning fitness challenge shown above.

"The lunge is a foundational movement pattern which must be mastered if you want to run harder and longer," he says. "Doing it with one leg suspended in a TRX emphasizes any strength or balance asymmetries between sides, so you know what leg you need to train more."

As for the hip press, it improves your hamstring and glute strength -- two areas that are often underdeveloped, explains Holman. "The TRX will cause your feet to want to 'float' away from you. You must force more hamstring activation in order to keep your knees at a 90-degree angle," he says. (Do these Fat-Blasting Cardio Combos just once, and you'll rethink cardio forever.)

Are you ready to try the challenge? Here's how it works: Complete 40 TRX lunges on your left leg. When you're finished, perform 40 more reps on your right leg. Rest for one minute, and then do 40 reps of the TRX hip press. If you can't complete 40 reps of each move, perform as many as you can in a row with perfect form. When you're finished, add up the total number of reps you performed of the left lunge, the right lunge, and the hip press. Your goal: 120 reps. What was your score? Let us know in the comments below.

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Didn't reach 120 reps? Click here to get a full TRX Urbanathlon training plan. It'll prepare your lower body for race day and get you in the best shape of your life.




For optimal fitness, you know you should do both cardio workouts for aerobic health and strength training for muscle building, metabolic benefits, and bone density. But if you're a cardio bunny who maybe doesn't visit the weight room as often as you should, listen up: "Swimming, cycling, and running can all be used as mild to moderate ways of building strength,” says Lauren Jensen, head coach at Tri Faster, “as long as the amount of training stress is progressively increased over time.” In other words, as with weights, you have to increase the resistance or the number of reps as your muscles adapt.

While the cardio-strength combo suggestions below aren't a perfect substitute for lifting heavy, they'll definitely boost your strength, especially for the specific sport in question -- though don't be afraid to also cross-train by, for example, trying a swim workout if you’re a runner. Use one of these workouts in place of a shorter steady-state swim/ride/run (with a proper warm-up and cooldown), in addition to one more traditional weight-training workout per week for major muscle toning.

Swimming
Water by nature creates resistance on the body as you move through it. “In simply overcoming the resistance, an athlete gains strength,” says Jensen. She suggests swimmers increase the “load" further by isolating the upper or lower body by doing kick-only laps holding a kickboard or pull-only laps wearing hand paddles. You can also wear a “drag” swimsuit (i.e., one that’s intentionally baggy).

MORE: 4 Reasons Your Next Workout Should Be a Swim

Cycling
Anyone who's taken a challenging cycling class knows that by upping the resistance on the bike, your leg muscles get a real burn. Outdoors, you can get the same effect by tackling hills, riding into the wind on a gusty day, and standing up while pedaling to vary how the muscles get activated. If you’re an indoors-only cycler, Jensen suggests this workout: Pedal for one minute at a resistance that forces you to work hard to sustain 60 to 70 RPMs (revolutions per minute), then rest for a minute and repeat. Work up to five minutes of hard pedaling.

MORE: 7 Mistakes You Might be Making in Indoor Cycling Class

Running
As with cycling, running up hills provides a solid leg-strength workout. Pick a hill outdoors with an incline that takes you 30 to 45 seconds to get up at a pretty hard clip. (On the treadmill, try a 4 percent incline at a pace you can sustain for that amount of time.) Charge up your hill, using shorter strides and a faster step than you do on flat, then walk or lightly jog down (or reduce the treadmill's incline and speed for about triple your time on the "hill"), aiming to keep your timing the same for each uphill. Start with five reps and work your way up to 10. Another option? Run stairs or stadiums. For the harder core, try wearing a weight vest during an interval workout. One “strengthener" to skip: Holding weights in your hands while you run--it’s a shoulder injury waiting to happen.

MORE: 5 Cardio Myths You Need to Stop Believing

Amy Roberts is a certified personal trainer.

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