20s: Focus on Your Core
"A toned core will help your body age well in the decades to come, so it's crucial to build a strong one early on," says Valerie Orsoni, founder of LeBootCamp.com. "Also," adds Geralyn Coopersmith, senior national manager at Equinox Fitness Training Institute, "developing a fit core early in life sets you up for amazing posture and a pain-free lower back."
Next: The killer move for your core
20s: Killer Move: The Plank
Goal: To condition your entire core
Frequency: Four times a week
- Get into a push-up position with your forearms on the floor.
- Lift your legs and torso up off the ground so that only your toes and the flats of your forearms remain on the floor.
- Keeping your back neutral and your belly button pulled in, hold this position for 20-60 seconds.
- Repeat for 3-5 sets.
Next: Butterfly abs exercise
20s: Killer Move: Butterfly Abs
Goal: To work your deep abs while getting a flat, sexy stomach
Frequency: Four times a week
- Sit comfortably on a gym mat or carpet with your legs crossed. Using your arms to support you, slowly lie back until your body is flat, keeping your legs crossed.
- Place your hands under the nape of your neck for support. Inhale through your nose, and raise your chest a few inches off the floor while exhaling through your mouth. Your chest should be moving up toward the ceiling, not bending forward to your knees. This should be a smooth, controlled motion.
- Repeat 25 times, and as you progress, move up to 50 times.
- Tip: Do not push your head with your hands as this puts you at risk of injuring your neck. The purpose of your hands is to keep your head in alignment with your back and shoulders. You don't want to curve your back.
Next: The body part to tone in your 30s
30s: Focus on Your Buttocks/Glutes
"Since women in their 30s tend to spend more time at a desk than at the gym, this sedentary lifestyle starts to show," says Orsoni. "The glutes are the biggest and most powerful muscle in the body," says Coopersmith. "Working on this part now and keeping it going will keep your body looking young and sexy as you move on through the decades.
Next: The killer move to tone your glutes
30s: Killer Move: The Bridge
Goal: To get a firm, toned butt
Frequency: Four times a week
- Using a gym mat or a towel, lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Rest your arms on the ground parallel to your body, with your palms facing down.
- Keeping your upper back and your feet firmly on the mat, use your hands to support your body and raise your glutes up toward the ceiling as high as you can while contracting (squeezing) your glutes.
- Release the contraction and lower your glutes almost to the floor, being careful not to touch the mat. Then, immediately raise your glutes again while contracting the muscles.
- Continue to contract and release for about 12-15 reps. On your last repetition, hold the contraction for about 10 seconds.
- Repeat 2-3 times daily.
Next: The body part to tone in your 40s
40s: Focus on Your Arms
Next: The killer move to tone your arms
40s: Killer Move: Kneeling Push-up
Goal: To tone your arms while engaging your core (an extra calorie-burner)
Frequency: Five times a week
- Assume a push-up position, but bend your knees, placing them on the floor. You should use a folded towel or mat under your knees for support.
- Place your hands in line with your shoulders on either side of your torso.
- Make sure your fingertips face forward.
- Cross your ankles as you lean forward.
- Lower your chest until you are about 3 inches off the floor and press back up to the starting position.
- Do 12 repetitions for 1-3 sets.
Next: Alternate, beginner push-up
40s: Killer Move: Wall Push-up
- Stand an arm's length away from the wall.
- Place your palms on the wall and bend at the elbows to do 20 standing push-ups.
- Push your body back from the wall harder each time, moving slowly and maintaining control.
- Increase the intensity by using one arm at a time, or lifting your fingers away from the wall.
Next: Alternate, advanced push-up
40s: Killer Move: The Push-up
Work up to doing "real" push-ups: entire body in plank position, knees locked and off the floor, supporting yourself on your toes.
Even if you can only do one or two at first, eventually you'll be able to do them exclusively on your toes.
Next: What to focus on in your 50s
50s: Overall Flexibility
"In your 50s, assuming you have worked on all of the above-mentioned areas, you need to preserve your overall flexibility to help keep your joints healthy and strong," says Orsoni.
Next: 7-step flexibility routine
50s: Killer Move: Morning Wake-Up Call, Step 1
Goal: To unwind after a stressful day and improve overall flexibility
Frequency: Every morning or night
Set a relaxing mood by secluding yourself in a quiet room and lighting a refreshing lavender or vanilla candle. Use a yoga mat for traction, or a towel.
- Start out in a tabletop pose with your knees bent and hands flat on the floor, keeping your back as flat as a table, eyes forward.
- Curve your back slightly up toward the ceiling into the yoga pose known as cat pose.
- Continue to try to press your chin toward your chest (as if you were trying to hold on to a golf ball with your chin and neck), being careful not to stretch your neck too much.
- Breathe slowly, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth (not the opposite).
Next: Upper back and spine stretch, continued
50s: Morning Wake-Up Call, Step 2
- Stay on all fours, and curve your back in toward the floor, also known as cow position. Breathe slowly, keeping your airway open.
- Raise your head and tailbone toward the ceiling, continuing to curve your back and pull your stomach in toward your spine.
- Switch from cow to cat position approximately five times.
Next: Shoulders and hamstrings stretch
50s: Morning Wake-Up Call, Step 3
Shoulders and Hamstrings
- On your last cat position, curl your toes under and straighten your legs up into the yoga pose called downward-facing dog.
- You should be pushing your buttocks toward the ceiling, keeping your hands and toes on the mat.
- Keep your head down and push back on your arms.
- Keep this position for five breaths. Then move back into your starting position, on all fours.
Next: Lower back stretch
50s: Morning Wake-Up Call, Step 4
Lower Back and Hip Flexors
- Kneel down with your butt sitting on top of your heels.
- Lean forward with your arms stretched out in front of you, resting your chest on your knees, your forehead toward the ground. This is called child's pose.
- Relax and breathe slowly, continuing to reach your hands out toward the wall in front of you while pushing your buttocks toward the floor.
Next: Arm stretch
50s: Morning Wake-Up Call, Step 5
- Rise, remaining on your knees with your butt on your heel and your back straight.
- Make wide circles with your arms — first forward arm rotations, then backward.
- For forward arm rotations, keep your elbows locked and move your arms out in front of you, down toward the floor, back behind you, then up toward the ceiling, and finally back by your knees.
- For back arm rotations, keep your elbows locked and move your arms out in front of you, up toward your head, down your back, and then back by your knees.
Next: Upper back stretch
50s: Morning Wake-Up Call, Step 6
- On the last circle backward, go as far back as you can and place your arms behind your back with your palms flat on the floor, fingertips facing toward the wall behind you.
- Gently arch your back to get a little more stretch while looking up toward the ceiling.
- Don't force it: too arched is not good.
Next: Arms and obliques stretch
50s: Morning Wake-Up Call, Step 7
Arms and Obliques
- Return to sitting on your knees and stretch both your arms toward the sky (with your fingers interlaced and palms turned upward).
- Take your right hand out of locked position, while keeping your left arm raised, and place your right hand toward the floor so only your fingertips touch.
- Now stretch your left arm upward, paying attention to the stretch in your back and side.
- Repeat the same on the other side.