Q: I was involved in a one car rollover on Sept 20, 2009 which resulted in having 2 rods and 12 screws in my back and a plate and 4 screws in my right hip. What kind of exercises can I do to firm up my legs, buttocks and upper arms? – Brenda
A: Sorry to hear about the auto accident. I bet you’re ready to get moving again! I’ve got a few ideas for things you can do to help with firming up, provided they feel comfortable and there is no danger of aggravating your injuries.
(Please keep in mind that I’m not a physical therapist, so I’m not prescribing exercises for specific injuries. Rather, the following are great tips for anyone starting a new body sculpting routine – if the situation permits!)
For fool-proof body firming, you’ll want to create a solid routine, one that you enjoy so much you’ll do it at least three times a week. Your routine should combine cardio and strength training, either on the same day or alternating days. It’s important to leave at least a day between strength training sessions. Your new regimen should also incorporate the right nutrition (more on that later).
Firming Up with Cardio
Simple cardio activity like cycling and brisk walking will help improve firmness and burn fat. I love both of these because they’re simple and I can really feel them working, especially when I engage my glutes, legs and core as I go. When walking I always add arm movements, such as arm circles. To do them, just extend your arms out at your sides and pump them in mini circles forward or backward. You’ll feel the burn in your shoulders and arms pretty quick!
Tone Your Arms
For more targeted toning, do sculpting and resistance exercises. Compound movements are very efficient because they work multiple muscle groups at once. Here are some of my favorites for the arms (and more!):
- Deadlift with Fly or Row: works triceps, shoulders, core and legs. Watch a demonstration at YouTube (their bosu ball is optional).
- Dumbbell Squat to Overhead Press: works shoulders, core, arms, glutes and legs. Pictures at Women’s Health Magazine
- Dumbbell Pullover to Crunch: works shoulders, core, arms. Pictures at Women’s Health Magazine
- Overhead Press: works back, shoulders and triceps. More at FitSugar. You can also add a bicep curl to this movement.
Tone Your Legs
Sculpting exercises – high repetition, low stress – can firm your legs, hips and glutes without the resistance of your whole body. Leg lifts and bicycle maneuver are two good examples (descriptions here). If you’re able to use your body weight, some no-fail resistance exercises are squats, lunges and pliés. These will really target your legs and your glutes. Read more on firming your glutes in this post, which includes an ultra-firming walking lunge series.
Compound movements like the above are wonderful, however they often involve engaging your core (back and abs) which may exacerbate some injuries. Your physician or physical therapist can weigh in here.
Body Firming Foods
While cardio and strength training can help you shape up, you can’t get a firm figure without a fat-blasting diet. That means keeping your metabolism high and eating 5-6 small healthy, balanced meals every day, starting with breakfast! Poke around this site for a wealth of info on using nutrition to shape your body.
For extra firmness, be sure to use a protein supplement after your workouts. Whether it’s a protein shake, protein bar or other healthy source (milk, yogurt, cheese, lean meats), post-workout protein will facilitate muscle recovery and growth. Muscle facilitates fat burn, helping you create firmer arms, legs and glutes in no time.
And finally, don’t forget to measure your results so you know what’s working!