Feel the burn in your arms, legs, bum and tum.
Photos: Frenchescar Lim
“There’s a misconception that if women lift weights, they’ll get bulky,” says Rishi Mirpuri, trainer and deputy general manager at Ultimate Performance Singapore. Client Chloe Tong’s lean physique is a prime example that this impression is moot.
This misjudgment could have arisen from seeing female body builders, but Rishi wants to make it clear that it’s not a straightforward conclusion. “If your goal is to improve body composition and work on muscle toning, then you’re going to be on a calorie deficit,” he explains. “It’s scientifically impossible to get bulky.”
The exercises Rishi has planned can either be done with bodyweight, or you can take it up a notch by incorporating dumbbells. While Chloe predominantly uses weights and machines, the routine includes exercises that she is familiar with.
And if you’re new to these exercises, Rishi recommends working on the motions till you’re confident with your form. “Learn the movement first, feel the right muscles and then add weight or reps to progress,” he advises.
Not sure if you’ve got the right form even after you’ve followed the instructions to a T? Get someone who knows what they’re doing to watch you.
(Also read: 5 Great Strength Training Benefits For Women)
For each of these exercises, do 15 to 20 reps or 10 to 12 reps if you add a weight. Go for 3 to 4 sets. If you’re pressed for time, try doing half the exercises on one day, and the other half on the next. Working out twice a week is all you need to see your strength progress.
Chloe Tong, the better half of Grab CEO Anthony Tan demonstrates the moves in this workout video.
Get into a plank position on the floor, with your hands shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Ensure that your spine is neutral – neck to hip in a straight line.[A] Lower yourself towards the floor (until you’re an inch off) by bending your arms, and keeping your elbows close to your body naturally. [B] Push yourself back up to the starting position without letting your hips sag down.
Beginner tip: Start with your knees on the floor first, before progressing to a full pushup.
Place your hands in a neutral or underhand grip on the chin up bar, with your arms fully extended.[A] Keep your legs straight, bend your knees or cross your feet. Choose a position that you feel comfortable with and maintain it throughout. [B] Pull yourself up towards your hands and think about leading with your chest to meet the bar. Lift yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Slowly lower yourself back down into the original position, with your arms fully extended.
Beginner tip: Use a resistance band (looped around the base of your feet to the bar) to assist you with the movement, before progressing to a bodyweight chin-up.
(Also read: How to Do a Pull-Up, According to A CrossFit Trainer)
3. Glute Bridge
Position yourself lying on the floor, or lean your upper back on the edge of the bench (advanced).[A] Tuck your knees towards your buttocks, and place your feet hip width apart on the ground. Drive your hips up towards the ceiling by pushing through your heels. Your knees should remain in line with your feet. [B] At the top, your hips should be fully extended. Pause for 1-3 seconds before lowering your hips back to the ground.
Tip: Be careful not to overextend at the top of the movement by excessively arching your lower back.
Level up: You can perform this exercise using your bodyweight, a single dumbbell or a loaded barbell. The dumbbell or barbell should be placed at the crease of your hips.
4. Split Squat[A] Start in a lunge position (staggered stance) position. Stand with your front foot planted flat on the floor, with the heel of your back foot raised up. Both your hips and back heel should be straight. This is your start and finish position for the movement. [B] Drop your back knee towards the floor and push your front knee forward as you lower yourself to the ground. Your back knee should be no more than an inch off the ground, with your front knee at roughly a 90 degree angle. Pause for a moment.
Push through both legs and return to the starting position. Complete your reps on the same leg before changing sides.
Tip: Start with your weaker leg in front.
Level up: You may use dumbbells (one in each hand) for this exercise.
(Also read: The Right Way to Do Squat Exercises)
5. Flat Reverse Crunch[A] Lie face up on a flat bench with your knees tucked towards your chest at 90 degrees. Hold onto the edge, with both hands beside your head. [B] Curl your lower back off the bench by squeezing your abdominals as hard as you can. Your knees will move towards your elbows. Go as far as you can before pausing for a second. Reverse slowly back to the original position.
6. Incline Bench Ab Crunch[A] Lie face up on an incline bench with your feet flat on the floor and hands placed on your ears. [B] Take a breath, engage your abs and curl your back off the bench, bringing your sternum (breast bone) towards your belly button. Come up as high as you can, pause for 1 to 2 seconds, and exhale. Your feet should remain flat on the ground. Return to the original position with control.
Beginner tip: Increase the incline before progressing to a lower incline.
(Also read: 9 Crunch Variations That Will Give You Six-Pack Abs)
7. Body Weight Squat[A] Stand tall with your feet shoulder to hip width apart. [B] Lower your body by pushing your hips back and bending your knees until your buttocks are at least parallel to the ground (or lower if you can). Pause for a second before pushing yourself back up to the original position.
Tip: Ensure that your knees don’t collapse inwards as you complete the movement.
Level up: Take 3 seconds to lower yourself, and 3 seconds to stand up.
8. Romanian Deadlift[A] Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your feet slightly less than hip width apart, with your legs fully extended. Position the dumbbells in front of your thighs. You may also place the dumbbells by the side of your legs. [B] Push your hips back as far as you can, with your knees slightly bent, as you lower the weight towards the floor. Keep your lower spine neutral, and lower yourself until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Pause for a split second at the bottom, and squeeze your glutes to return to the starting position.
Climb onto the machine and lie face down with your ankles firmly pressed up against the foot pad. Adjust the thigh pad so that it covers your upper thighs only.[A] Squeeze your glutes at the beginning so that your body is lined up with the machine. Place your hands across your chest and keep your head in a neutral position. Gaze forward. [B] Push your hips back and bend forwards at your waist. Keep going as far as you can as the tension in your hamstrings starts to build up. Pause for a moment, drive your hips forward into the pad and return to the starting position.
Beginner tip: Set up the machine such that your body starts off more upright. Increase the slant as you get stronger.
(Also read: How to Use Gym Equipment Correctly & Avoid Injuries)