Unlike wine, cheese, and Clive Owen, workout strategies don't get better with age. That's because each year, fitness researchers release thousands of studies that challenge conventional thinking-or at least shed light on ways to tweak it. We've ID'd five stale fitness approaches and sifted through the latest research to come up with surprising updates that will land you a scorching body ASAP.
1. Position your hands shoulder-width apart
You often see this in instructions for upper-body moves like bench presses and lat pulldowns. Why? Because it gives you a stable starting point. But that doesn't mean you need to stay there set after set. "Spreading your hands a few inches farther out stresses more of the inner portion of your biceps; bringing your hands in a few inches builds more of the outer part," says New York City personal trainer Steve Lischin, M.S. Switch up your position after every set for balanced strength and overall tone.
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2. Crunches for a flat belly
Turns out Pilates abdominal moves are superior to crunches for sculpting your midsection and uncovering those abs, according to a study at Auburn University Montgomery in Alabama. An exercise called "the teaser" is especially effective. It activates 39 percent more of your rectus abdominus muscle (that's your six-pack) and 266 percent more of your external obliques (your love handles).
To do the teaser: Lie face-up on a mat. Lift your legs so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your knees are bent 90 degrees. Raise your hands toward the ceiling. Lift your torso and straighten your legs, so your body forms a V. Hold for one second, then roll back down, keeping your legs raised. Do 8 to 10 reps.
3. Squats = a perfect bum
To flaunt that sexy bikini bottom by your when-will-winter-end beach getaway, try doing hip raises instead of squats. The move hits 55 percent more of your hamstring muscle and 79 percent more of your glute muscle, according to a study by the American Council on Exercise.
To do it: Lie faceup on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause for 5 seconds before lowering back down. Do two or three sets of 10 - 12 reps.
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4. Eat lots of extra protein for less jiggle and more tone
While it's true that protein is a vital muscle food, your body can use only so much of it. "Any extra protein calories you take in will be stored as fat," says Molly Morgan, R.D., owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions in Vestal, New York. "As a general rule, remember that 20 percent of your calories should come from protein."
So if you're eating an 1,800-calorie diet, try to shoot for a maximum of 360 calories, or 90 grams, of protein each day. Low-fat milk and cheese, broccoli, and chicken are all good sources of lean protein.
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5. Up-down-up-down. Repeat.
Up Instead of raising and lowering a weight (or your body weight) in one continuous motion, pause for a second about halfway up, continue the movement, then pause again about halfway down.
"In a set of eight to 12 repetitions, you'll add only an extra 16 to 24 seconds to each set, but you'll exhaust your muscles," Lischin says. Translation: You'll fry more fat without sucking much more time out of your schedule.
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Tell us: What's the worst fitness advice you've ever been given????
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