Often people come into the gym wanting to tone very specific areas of their bodies. They want the flab on their tricep gone…Or to lose the fat right on the outside of their thigh…Or to lose only the weight right around their middle.
The problem is…..YOU CAN’T SPOT REDUCE!
I really really wish you could because that would make things so simple, but you can’t. Honestly, if you want to look lean and strong, the best thing you can do for yourself is compound exercises.
Compound exercises are movements that work multiple muscles at once, including the big ones. That means you burn way more fat while gaining the lean muscle mass that helps you look like a lean mean fighting machine!
So what compound movements are best to tone the most common trouble areas? Check out these 5 Compound Moves to Tone Your Trouble Spots and get as close to “spot reducing” as you can.
1. Push-Up to Dip
A ton of men and women want to tone their arms. Women want the jiggle gone generally and men want their arms to look bigger and more muscular. The best way to work your arms and build muscle to help you lose fat is by doing push ups!
Push-ups are a compound move that work your chest, shoulders and triceps. Push-ups also have the added bonus of really working your core. And when you then pair the push-ups with dips, you get even more bang for your buck!
To do a Push-Up to Dip:
- Set up two kettlebells or push-up stands right outside your chest where your hands would be when doing a push-up. Place your hands on the stands or kettlebells.
- Set up on your toes with your feet together. Squeeze your legs together and tighten your glutes, quads and core. Your body should be in a nice straight line from your feet to the top of your head. Your hands should be right under your shoulders.
- Perform two push-ups. Drop your chest down between the stands, making your arms form an arrow with your body. Your elbows and shoulders should not go up by your ears. Keep your body tight and in a nice straight line as you go down.
- Completely lock out at the top of the push-ups. Your body should stay in a straight line as you come back up to the top.
- After completing two push-ups, swing or walk your legs through the kettlebells to set up for the dip.
- Keep your butt back by the bells or stands. The straighter your legs are, the harder the dips will be.
- Bend your elbows and drop your butt to the ground, staying close to the stands or kettlebells.
- Press back up to the top. Do not bridge your hips up as you dip down and up.
- Complete two dips then swing back through and repeat until all rounds are done.
- Beginners can do this move by doing a push-up from their knees and walking their feet in closer to their butt during the dip. They can also perform the move on an incline using a bench.
2. Inverted Row
A sexy, strong back is a great way to look better in your summer-wear. It will also help you be able to do more pull-ups and improve your posture! The best way to tone your upper back (and improve your posture) is with an Inverted Row.
To do the Basic Inverted Row:
- Hold a suspension trainer strap in each hand or use a bar.
- Walk your feet forward so that as you lean back with your arms straight, your body is at an incline. The closer to parallel to the ground you get, the harder the move will be.
- Squeeze your core and glutes and press your chest out so there is tension between your shoulder blades. Make sure you don’t shrug your shoulders and that your body is in a nice straight line from your head to your heels.
- Row up, keeping your body in that nice straight line as you drive your elbows down and back.
- Row until your chest comes up to the handles and then lower yourself back down. Don’t let your hips sink as you lower back down or your low back arch. Also, keep your chest pressed out the entire time and keep tension between your shoulder blades.
- Move in a controlled fashion and make sure you row low and don’t shrug your shoulders at any point. Do not bounce off the bottom of your row or use momentum to get back up.
For Inverted Row Variations, click here.
3. Single Leg Deadlift
The Deadlift is one of the BEST exercises to work your entire backside – everything from your shoulders to your heels. So anyone who says they want to spot reduce or tone anything down their backside need to do this move! It will tone and strengthen your back, butt and hamstrings while also working on your core strength and balance.
To do the Single Leg Deadlift:
- Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand down by your sides. Stand on your right leg with your knee slightly bent and your left toe lightly touching the ground.
- Then lift your left leg back toward the wall behind you as you hinge over, keeping your back flat. As you hinge over, drop the weights down and back. Do not reach them toward the ground and let your back round. Only lower them as far as you can without rounding or “squatting.” Your standing knee should be soft but isn’t going to bend extra as you hinge over.
- Make sure that as you hinge over you sit your butt back and then drive through your heel to come back up to standing. You want to feel your hamstring and glute work. Make sure to keep your hips level as you hinge over and really feel your glute loading.
- Complete all reps on one side before switching. Only add weight if you feel your glute and not your lower back powering the move. Adding weight may also make it more challenging to balance.
4. Goblet Squat
If you want strong, shapely legs (yes guys, I’m talking to you too), then you need to squat. While many women don't skip leg workouts because they want to get rid of thigh or inner thigh jiggle as well as tone up their glutes, most men skip leg day. But when you skip leg day, you miss out on working one of the largest muscle groups in your body, which means you are missing out on a ton of fat-burning potential!
A great way to work the entire leg is with the Goblet Squat. The Goblet Squat works your glutes, quads, adductors, abductors and hamstrings – it works your entire leg! And because you front-load the squat, a.k.a. hold a weight up at your chest, your core has to work very hard to keep you up straight, which develops great core strength and stability as well!
To do a Goblet Squat:
- Grab a kettlebell or dumbbell and hold it up right against your chest with your chest pressed out and shoulder blades pinched down and back.
- Set your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart and stand nice and tall with the weight up at your chest.
- Squat down, sitting your butt back as if to sit down over a bench or chair. Do not go forward up onto your toes as you squat or round forward.
- Keep your chest up and upper back from rounding forward. Make sure to brace your abs and keep your core engaged.
- Squat down until your thighs hit parallel to the ground or squat as deep as you can. If you can go deeper with good form, go deeper. Make sure you sit your butt back though as you squat.
- Drive back up to standing, driving through your heels. Squeeze your glutes at the top and stand tall before squatting back down.
Love handles: the fat on the sides of your core right above your hips. Every person seems to think they have them and want to get rid of them. Actually, belly fat in general is a big reason why many people begin a workout and diet program. And the Woodchop is a great way to get rid of it while also making your core functionally stronger to prevent injury.
To do a Woodchopper:
- Grab a dumbbell and hold it vertically with both hands overlapping on the handle.
- Stand up nice and tall with your feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. Start the dumbbell on one side by your hip with your arms slightly bent at the elbow.
- Using your glutes, throw the dumbbell off from your hip and up and over the other shoulder.
- Do not extend your arms as you come across. You may even bend them a bit as the dumbbell comes up over your shoulder.
- Use your core to accelerate and then slow down the dumbbell as it comes up above your shoulder to right beside your ear.
- Lower the dumbbell back across quickly, again using your core to decelerate the dumbbell by your hip.
- Move quickly to complete all reps on one side before switching to the other side. Use your glutes and core to power and control the movement.
Next time you just “want to tone this one spot, right there,” try these great compound moves. They will help you burn more calories and develop the lean muscle tissue to build the body you want!
Cori is the owner of Redefining Strength, a functional training facility in Orange County, California focused on helping each client find their strong. She started training and writing a fitness blog in 2011 because she wanted to empower people through diet and exercise so that they can lead healthier, happier lives.