By Candice Graham
Perfect Form: “I would say one of the most important things with a jumping jack is when you land, you want to make sure your knees bend,” says Chung. “The ball of your foot is going to land, but make sure your heel lands as well.” Touching your heel to the ground on impact will avoid knee injury.
Target: Jumping jacks will primarily target your legs, butt, and thigh muscles, with shoulders getting a workout too. Plus, it’s a great cardio exercise.
Take It to the Next Level: Amplify the impact of a jumping jack by using very light hand weights – one to two pounds tops.
Perfect Form: In a standard pushup, your hands should be positioned slightly wider than shoulder width, says Chung. Make sure your arms are in line with your chest. “You don’t want your hands too far forward because you could damage your shoulders,” Chung advises.
Target: A pushup targets your core and chest through holding your body in the plank position.
Take It to the Next Level: Chung suggests picking one of your feet up off the ground. “Your leg doesn’t have to be flying up in the air, but even if your toe just leaves the ground slightly it’s going to change quite a bit,” she says. Another variation is to push off and leave the ground a bit, which Chung calls plyometric pushups. “It’s a step toward clapping in the middle of a pushup, but you don’t have to go to that level – pushing off the ground is plenty.”
Perfect Form: In a squat, you want your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Your feet can point forward or out, with your tailbone tilted back the entire time. “Make sure your knees don’t go past your toes but keep them over the ankle,” says Chung. Keep your heel planted firmly on the ground and push through the heel – pushing through the ball of your foot puts too much stress on the knees. Lastly, maintain your focus up to ensure your tailbone stays back.
Target: Squats target the legs and glutes primarily, however the calves get a workout too.
Take It to the Next Level: Use hand weights to increase the effect of squats, or add a small jump in as you straighten the legs each time.
Perfect Form: It’s important that as you step forward in a lunge your heel is solid on the ground and your knee aligns perfectly over your ankle. “Your knee should never go past your toe,” Chung instructs. “If it does, you’re stressing your knee and ankle quite severely.” The key, she says, is to make sure the knee of the back leg is aiming straight down toward the ground. Avoid the tendency to let the back knee bow outward or inward.
Target: Lunges target the quads, thighs, and glutes.
Take It to the Next Level: There are several ways to take your lunge up a notch, according to Chung. One way is to hold hand weights. “If you’ve got a 5 pound dumbbell in each hand, you’ve added 10 pounds to your body weight and the lunge is going to be more difficult,” she says.
Perfect Form: Aligning your elbows underneath your shoulders is a crucial component of a plank. “If your elbows are too far forward or backward it can start to cause damage and fatigue in your shoulders,” Chung states. You’ll be up on your toes, but feet can be either together or hip-width apart. “You want to pull the belly button in toward the spine and make sure the hips are lifted up. Avoid any sort of sagging in the lower back, which happens commonly when people start to fatigue,” adds Chung. Make sure your belly button is pulled in toward the spine and you’re pushing your elbows into the ground.
Target: Planks are a major core workout. “It’s not just your abs,” explains Chung. “It includes the entire band around the center of your abdomen including the muscles in your lower back. Those muscles underneath your abdomen and underneath your lower back – a plank strengthens those like nothing else.”
Take It to the Next Level: When you’re on your toes in a plank, lift one foot off the floor. This takes away an element of stability, causing you to work even harder to maintain your balance.