Here’s What’s Keeping You From Getting Bigger Calves

A lot of guys know the struggle of trying to build bigger calves and never seeing noticeable gains. That’s because many men “suffer” from ‘high calves,’ which means they have a long Achilles (the tendon that connects the heel to the back of the leg) and small muscle bellies. Basically, this means the calf muscle is naturally shorter and a lot less likely to grow into that boulder.

But less likely does not mean impossible, according to former high-calf sufferer BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S., owner of digital workout platform The Daily BJ. After seeing his social media followers constantly nit-picking of his toothpick lower legs, the magazine cover guy got seriously diligent about his calf strategy—and now his lower legs are the objects of envy.

Related: The Hard Gainer’s Guide To Packing On Size

“Guys tend to make three big mistakes when they’re trying to beef up their lower leg muscles,” Gaddour says. But fear not, high-calvers, you can fix these common blunders by adding Gaddour’s calf-building workout to your routine.

Mistake #1: Thinking Running Will Do The Trick

Our calves have become conditioned for the endurance to do basic things, like standing, running, and walking. “The calves are stubborn, strong muscles that have a lot of stamina, so they need to be shocked into growth,” Gaddour says. So, just doing more of the same thing won’t make them bigger. (Check out the workout below to get yours growing.)

Mistake #2: Saving Calf Exercises For The End Of Your Workout

Far too many of us quickly tack on a few calf raises to the end of leg day—and by doing so we sabotage our calves’ potential. “The movements you do first in your workout are the ones you’ll get the most out of,” says Gaddour. Even if you don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to training your calves (and most people don’t), hitting them hard early in your workout will produce better results because your body is fresh and not fatigued, he says.

Mistake #3: Ripping Reps Too Quickly

“If you want to basically guarantee growth in any muscle, you need to increase the amount of time it’s under tension,” says Gaddour. So if you’re flying through reps, your muscles may burn, but they’re not getting the maximum stimulus they need to get bigger. Gaddour advises performing reps methodically, and sometimes even slowly, lingering at different phases in the exercise in order to build evenly-distributed strength and muscle.

Follow this mini-calf workout from Gaddour to avoid these physique-sculpting faux pas and maximize your results. Perform the exercises at the beginning of your workout at least two to three times a week.

Make sure your form is on-point and you’re maxing out your gain potential:

Seated Calf Raise

This exercise zeros in on the Soleus, which is the large muscle in the lower calf. This portion of the lower leg is largely composed of endurance-focused fibers that respond well to high reps and short rest periods, according to Gaddour—which is why he recommends performing two to three light sets of 25 to 50 reps.

How to do it: Sit in a seated calf raise machine or sit on a bench with a weight plate in your lap. Your feet should be firmly planted on the floor and your torso should be upright. Pushing through your toes, use your lower leg muscles to lift your thighs upwards towards the ceiling. Pause at the top and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That’s one rep.

Standing Calf Raise

This move, on the other hand, targets the Gastrocnemius, which is the upper calf muscle. Since this muscle is comprised more of fast-twitch muscle fibers—meaning it’s primed for explosive movements or heavy loads—performing moderately-weighted sets of 12 to 25 reps will help promote growth, says Gaddour. However, he adds, this portion of the muscle also responds to heavier loads of six to eight reps, as well as burn-outs of light weight high reps—so feel free to mix up your approach from workout to workout.

Related: Shop supplements to support muscle growth.

How to do it: Stand tall with the balls of your feet on a platform a few inches off of the ground (the base of a squat rack or a step works perfectly) and your heels hanging off the back. Using your lower leg muscles, press through your toes to elevate your body. Pause at the top and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

Donkey Calf Raise

Donkey raises take the traditional standing calf raise and turn it on its head—almost. By hinging at the hips, you transfer the bulk of your weight forward, which stretches the gastrocnemius muscle while you work it, says Gaddour. This can help promote even more calf-building power by introducing a new stimulus to these stubborn muscles. Perform two to three sets of 12 to 25 reps to start, and increase your reps as your legs become more adjusted to the movement.

How to do it: Stand on a low step or a platform a few inches off of the ground in front of a bench or a box. Instead of standing tall, hinge at the hips (keeping your legs straight) until your arms rest on the top of the bench or box. Lift and lower your heels as you would in the standing calf raise.

3 Ways To Improve Your Squat

Sorry, leg day loathers, squats aren’t going anywhere. This classic move is just that important. “Whether you want to shore up your strength, build muscle, or lose fat, squats are one of the foundational movements that you have to be doing,” says Sean De Wispelaere, master trainer at MBSC Thrive and owner of Sean D. Thrive.

Since they work some of the biggest muscles in your body—your glutes, quads, hamstrings, your abs, and back—squats provide some of the biggest return on your reps. Since big muscles burn more calories in order to power through and recover from exercise than small muscles, squatting is crucial whether you’re looking to build strength or slim down. “And you don’t have to load up barbells to make squatting worth your while,” says De Wispelaere, “cranking out a few sets of bodyweight squats will have your muscles burning in no time.”

Whether you’re squatting heavy loads or sticking to bodyweight squats, proper form is key. “Allowing your knees to cave in or your back to round, for instance, can potentially lead to injury,” says De Wispelaere. “And if you load weight on top of improper movement pattern, you’re likely in for a world of hurt at some point.” That’s why De Wispelaere recommends establishing a solid foundation with the bodyweight squat before progressing to weighted versions.

And even though the squat isn’t a terribly difficult-looking move, it can be tricky to master perfect form. Look out for these common mistakes—and take De Wispelaere’s advice for a more effective burn the next time you drop it low.

Mistake #1: You’re Rounding Your Back

What it means: Your core is weak. (Your “core” is more than just your abs. It’s all the muscles on your front and back between your hips and shoulders.)

While your legs are working to bend and extend through the reps of your squats, you want your core in what’s called an isometric hold, a.k.a. braced as it would be when you do a plank. If your back rounds while you squat, it indicates that your core isn’t strong enough to maintain the tension needed to keep you upright throughout the whole movement, says De Wispelaere.

Why it’s a problem: Repeating a movement over and over with your spine in flexion (meaning your spine aggressively rounds forward, causing your vertebrae to run into each other) can do damage to your back, even if you’re squatting without any weight.

The quick fix: Before lowering yourself down into the squat position, tense your core as though someone is about to punch you in the gut. Keep your abs clenched and pull your chest up in order to keep your back as straight as possible. “No matter how strong you are, only squat as far as you can without your back rounding,” De Wispelaere warns.

The long-term solution: To build lasting strength, performing other isometric holds—like planks or hollow holds—can help build your core strength. You can also practice tightening up your torso during the movement by practicing wall slides, De Wispelaere recommends.

To perform wall slides, face a wall and stand at arm’s-length away from it with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Raise your arms over your head until you form a “Y” shape. Keeping your chest up and your arms high, squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. If your hands do not touch the wall at any point, inch yourself a little closer and perform another rep. Repeat until you can’t perform a squat without your hands brushing into the wall. This is a great load-free way to make sure you’re practicing good form.

Related: How To Lift Heavy For Maximum Strength Gains

Mistake #2: You’re Lifting Your Heels

What it means: Your ankles are tight.

This sounds silly, right? Unfortunately, tight ankles are more common than you think, because pretty much everything you do contributes to the struggle. Walking, playing a pickup game, and even sitting on the couch with your feet relaxed can shorten and tighten the tendon (your Achilles) that connects your heel to your calf. Since your ankles are so close to your feet—which are your physical foundation—having tight tendons can affect everything up the chain from there, even leading to knee and hip pain, warns De Wispelaere.

Why it’s a problem: While squatting, you want all parts of your feet—heels, ball, and toes—firmly planted on the floor for maximum stability. This stability will not only keep you from tipping forward or back, but will give more power to your push as you stand, helping you to lift more weight or perform more reps.

“If your heels come off the ground, your base of support is less stable, which means you won’t be able to perform the full range of motion of your squat,” according to De Wispelaere. This undercuts the benefits of the move and sabotages your ability to progress. Think about it this way: You can’t build a solid house on a shaky foundation. You can’t build well-balanced strength and muscle with and unstable base either.

The quick fix: Put a weight plate under each of your heels so they’re elevated while you perform your reps. While this doesn’t fix the problem of inflexible ankles, it does allow you to fully access the squat without lining yourself up for injury, according to De Wispelaere. If you feel unstable with your heels elevated, hold a light five to 10-pound dumbbell in front of your chest for counterbalance.

The long-term solution: To gain more range of motion in your ankles, De Wispelaere recommends performing a super-simple ankle mobility drill.

Here’s how it works: Face a wall and plant your palms on it about shoulder-width apart. Assume a split stance, like you would if you were about to lower into a lunge, with your front foot about six inches away from the wall. Keep your feet hip-width apart. Without taking your feet off the ground, try to touch your front knee to the wall by driving it forward until your heel lifts off of the floor. Hold your position wherever your heel pops up for five deep breaths. Repeat five times on each side.

Related: I Stretched For 30 Days With The Goal Of Touching My Toes—See How It Went

Mistake #3: Your Knees Are Caving

What it means: Your hips are weak.

Shakira might be the only person whose hips don’t lie. For the rest of us hip weakness is really common, according to De Wispelaere. From prolonged periods of sitting at your desk, driving in your car, and relaxing on the couch, your hip muscles shorten and weaken because, in those seated positions, they hardly have to work.

Most people fall into one of two categories: Those who found out they had weak hips and fixed them, and those who don’t know they have weak hips, he says.

Why it’s a problem: When your knees cave in towards each other instead of staying out over your toes while you squat, it can make you more susceptible to knee injuries over time, says De Wispelaere. Why? Your knees are meant to travel front to back (unlike a joint like your wrist, which can rotate around in circles), so any time you force them to go diagonally or sideways, you’re making demands that your tendons and ligaments just can’t keep up with.

The quick fix: Focus on pushing your knees away from each other and lowering yourself down between them as you squat. If you can’t do this on your own, De Wispelaere recommends squatting with a light-resistance miniband and looping it around your legs just below your knees. “The feedback from the miniband will naturally force you to push against it, driving your knees out as you squat,” he says. And, bonus perk: Squatting with the miniband will also help you build strength in your outer hips.

The long-term solution: De Wispelaere recommends doing banded walks to strengthen your hips for the future. To perform a band walk, loop a miniband around your legs just below the knee and stand with your feet a little further than hip-width apart. Keeping your legs the same distance away from each other the whole time, walk yourself in a box pattern using short, choppy steps. Perform 10 steps to the left, then 10 to the front, 10 to the right, and 10 to the back to return to your starting position. Repeat three times.

Related: Shop training accessories for effective workouts anywhere.

The Hard-Gainer’s Guide To Building Muscle

There’s tons of advice out there about how to lose weight, but what if you want to gain it? Anyone with a persistently scrawny build understands the struggle of trying to pack on pounds—especially pounds of bod-shaping muscle.

Just like losing weight, putting on the pounds has a lot to do with genetics—but with the right diet and exercise plan, you can forge that mystic muscle! Spoiler alert: You’re going to be spending a lot of time picking heavy things up and even more time chowing down. If you’re game, read on for some expert-backed body-building strategy.

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The Gym

Putting on weight requires a very specific approach to exercise—and it can be tricky. You don’t want to end up actually losing weight when you ramp up your routine, says Brian Neale, C.S.C.S., performance coach and owner of Brian Neale Personal Coaching in Westchester, New York. And that’s even more likely to happen if you haven’t been exercising regularly for a while, he says.

The solution? “The best way to ensure you don’t create an inverse effect is to limit your cardio,” he says. (What you eat plays a big role, too—but we’ll get into that a little later.)

But why nix cardio? Cardio and metabolic conditioning-style exercise is considered a catabolic process, meaning it breaks down tissues in the body, says Neale. While it’s effective for breaking down fat, it often takes some muscle with it. Instead, you want to focus on lifting weights, which is considered an anabolic exercise and helps build tissues in the body, he says.

Find The Rep/Set Sweet Spot

You know you’re safe from endless bouts on the treadmill, but that doesn’t mean you should just start throwing around the heaviest weights in the gym. “There’s a very small window in which to maximize how much muscle size you build,” according to Neale. That means finding the perfect balance of weight and reps.

Lifting weight that’s too light or performing too many reps can put your body right into that cardio state you want to avoid, he explains. On the other hand, lifting weight that’s too heavy and performing too few reps might help you build strength, but not necessarily size.

Related: 6 Ways Building Muscle Benefits Your Health And Well-Being

The muscle-building sweet spot, according to Neale: Find a weight you can lift for 12 reps with good form, but that requires a seven-out-of-10 effort for the last couple of reps.

This moderate rep range allows your muscles to adapt maximally for size (instead of for endurance or strength) by triggering a hormone response that promotes muscle fiber growth. Neale recommends performing two to three sets of each exercise when you’re first starting out, and then progressing to four sets as you ramp up after a month or so of training.

Now, you may think that if four sets is good, eight sets is even better, right? But that’s where you can get in trouble, according to Neale. “When you work your body too intensely, you won’t have enough time to recover between workouts, which can ultimately hinder your performance in the gym and slow your progress,” he says.

To prevent your routine from getting stale, though, Neale recommends adjusting your reps from week to week. Try the following structure:

Week 1: 2-3 sets of 12 reps of each exercise
Week 2: 2-3 sets of 10 reps of each exercise
Week 3: 2-3 sets of 12 reps of each exercise
Week 4: 2-3 sets of 8 reps of each exercise

“Remember, you always want to keep your exertion level at a seven out of 10,” says Neale. So when you decrease your reps, up your weight slightly to maintain that level of intensity, he says.

Repeat this four-week cycle three times, for a total of 12 weeks. After those 12 weeks, you’ll focus purely on strength for four weeks. That means dropping your rep ranges down super low—like two-to-five reps total per set. (We’ve already got that strength-building plan ready for you, here.)

These four weeks will help you increase the weight you can lift in that eight-to-12 rep range. Then, you’ll restart the 12-week muscle-building cycle, using heavier weights and renewing the optimal stress put on your muscles to maximize growth.

Neale recommends hitting the gym no more than four to five times per week. “In some cases less is more,” he says, “in order for your muscles to grow, they need time to recover and repair between tough workouts.”

Use The Right Moves

That also means you shouldn’t be hammering the same muscle groups workout after workout. Neale recommends breaking up your training sessions by movement type instead of muscle group. Why? “You want to perform exercises that work more than one muscle group at a time, so you build muscle efficiently,” he says. So instead of focusing on hitting just your shoulders, pick upper-body exercises—like the overhead press, for example—that will hit your shoulders, upper back, and core.

Here’s what your weekly breakdown might look like:

Day 1: 2 upper-body horizontal push exercises (like bench press and pushups)
Day 2: 2 upper-body vertical push exercises (like overhead press and dips)
Day 3: 2 upper-body horizontal pull exercises (like barbell or dumbbell rows)
Day 4: 2 upper-body vertical pull exercises (like cable pulldowns or pullups)
Day 5: 3 lower-body exercises (like squats, deadlifts, and lunges)

food

Nutrition

Just as important as your work in the gym is how you fuel your body for building muscle. What you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat all come into play.

“While genetics play a role in how much muscle you gain and how quickly you gain it, the biggest impediment for most people is an insufficient intake of calories,” according to Mike Israetel, Ph.D., sports physiologist and co-founder of Renaissance Periodization.

How Much To Eat

If you’re working on a muscle-building program, you should be chowing down on enough grub to gain about a half-pound to a pound of weight each week, according to Israetel. No fancy calculator needed—just get on the scale! “If the number is going up week to week, you’re eating enough,” he says, “If it’s not, you need to take in more calories.”

Think of it like you do your money: If you make more than you spend, you start to build savings, while if you spend more than you make, you start to go into debt. So, if you consume more calories than you burn, you store the extra, while if you burn more than you consume, your body blows through those calories for fuel. Too few calories means muscles that are too starved to grow.

What To Eat

While eating enough is the most important part, what you eat plays a role too. Your muscles are made of protein, so one of the best ways to insure they grow is to add more protein to your diet. Most people should eat about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight in order to gain muscle, suggests Israetel. You can bump your intake even higher, but all the protein in the world won’t do much good unless your total calorie-intake is high enough, he says

Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

That’s where the other two macronutrients come into play. Carbs and fats will help you reach that higher calorie intake, says Israetel. Carbs have gotten a bad rap from recent fat-loss fads, but they’re crucial for your muscle recovery after a workout. Israetel recommends at least two grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight for hard-gainers. If you’re still not putting on weight with two grams, bump it up to three, he says.

If you’re finding it difficult to eat enough calories to put on weight (eating a lot more than you’re used to is harder than it sounds!) fats come to the rescue. Since fats contain nine calories per gram—carbs and protein contain four—adding some extra fat to your diet can really boost your caloric intake. So go ahead and smear an extra tablespoon or two of peanut butter on that toast.

When To Eat

If you’re really trying to pack on pounds, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll be able to consume as much food as you need to in only a few sittings per day, suggests Israetel. Eating four or five meals a day will make your big eating a little easier.

These don’t have to all be full-on dinner-type meals, Israetel says. Some might be as simple as a protein shake. The key is eating regularly throughout the day. “For individuals with a fast metabolism and a small appetite, getting enough food regularly to gain muscle is the toughest part,” he says.

Instead of focusing on specific times to eat—like immediately post-workout, for example—just try to spread your meals out evenly from when you wake up to when you go to bed. That’s a meal every three-to-four hours if you’re getting a good eight hours of sleep. And remember: protein, protein, protein!

Related: Find a carb- and calorie-packed gainer protein to support your goals.

The Effective Cardio Machine You’re Not Using

When you think “cardio,” a treadmill likely jumps to mind, right? But pounding away on this hamster wheel isn’t your only option. One of the most effective ways to get your heart racing also happens to be impact-free: the rowing machine.

“Rowing is one of the most effective forms of training because of the amount of large muscle groups that are used in every stroke,” says Greg Hammond, rowing coach and training subject matter expert at Concept2. Think about running or biking—even though your entire body is in motion, it’s mostly your legs powering your progress. But when you row, you recruit your legs, your core, and your shoulders, says Hammond. This means more muscles are calling for oxygen and fuel—and you’re burning more calories—all at once. (A half-hour of moderate rowing equals about 260 calories burn for someone who weighs 155 pounds, and 311 calories burned for someone who weighs 185 pounds, according to Harvard Health Publications.)

The full-body effort shows in the physiques of competitive and pro rowers. “They tend to have a good balance of muscle all over their body,” says Hammond. (Sounds pretty good to us!) And there’s another rowing perk that might just sell you: In addition to its muscular and cardiovascular benefits, rowing also spares a lot of wear-and-tear on your joints since it’s low impact. “Since you don’t experience a lot of pounding forces on the body, rowing is a great way for people who are overweight or have sensitive knees or hips to get in shape.”

Related: 7 Reasons Your Joints Are Aching—And How To Deal

But if this stationary contraption seems totally foreign (or old-school) to you—aside from its occasional appearance in and episode of House of Cards—you’re definitely not alone. Luckily, nailing the movement boils down to four simple steps. So take a seat on the rowing machine, strap your feet in nice and snug, and grab that “oar” handle.

  1. The Catch

This is the moment that your body is ready to spring into action—imagine an oar catching on the resistance of the water if you were rowing in a boat. Your upper body should be leaning forward with your arms straight, your core tense, and your knees bent.

  1. The Drive

This is when you start to apply force to the hypothetical oar. Pressing through your feet, and keeping your back upright (core tight!) and arms straight, powerfully push through and extend your legs. (While many newbies might think you row with your arms, the first part of the movement comes from your lower-body, says Hammond.)

  1. The Finish

Now you engage your upper body to dig that last bit of “umph” out of your stroke. At this point in the movement, your legs should be extended, but not so much that you end up locking your knees. Keeping your torso straight and your core tight, lean back slightly and pull the “oar” to your ribs by bending your elbows.

  1. The Recovery

Once you’ve gotten the most out of your pull, you have to reset your position in order to catch the hypothetical water again and take your next stroke. To do so, perform the prior three steps in reverse order: Extend your arms, lean your torso forward until the handle passes your knees, and then bend your knees until you return to the starting position. (Think ‘arms, hips, legs.’)

Related: Power through your workouts with a performance supplement.

If your still a little intimidated, don’t worry: There aren’t too many serious form ‘don’ts’ when it comes to rowing, since the exercise is so low-impact, Hammond says. Your form may even improve as you start to feel winded, since your body will naturally default to the most efficient movement possible. So just keep hauling along!

And since rowing doesn’t produce the joint-pounding forces that other forms of cardio and weightlifting do, it’s relatively safe for anyone to use during nearly any phase of training. Whether you’re old, young, a seasoned gym veteran, or just starting out, rowing is a great way to work up a sweat, suggests Hammond. Plus, a light and easy row can also provide a great recovery stimulus if you’re feeling super sore from a few days of going hard.

And the benefits of rowing are really catching on. Group classes—like Row House in New York City, Indo Row in California, and LIT Method in Chicago—are popping up all over the country.

Ready to hop on the rower at your gym? Whether you’re going for a moderate, steady row or pushing through sprint intervals, you’ve just found your new favorite workout.

Pick one of these three workouts from Hammond, and get rowing!

page-0.jpgRelated: 5 Treadmill Workouts That’ll Make The Time Fly By

6 Exercises That Double As Cardio AND Strength-Training

Juggling a job, family, friends, and fitness can sometimes feel like a circus act, with quality time at the gym hard to come by.

To make the most of your precious muscle-building moments, you need to be as efficient as possible. The best way to do this? Kill two birds with one stone and perform exercises that work your muscles and your heart rate at the same time, suggests Sean De Wispelaere, master trainer at MBSC Thrive, and owner of Sean D. Thrive. You’ll reap the benefits of both strength-training and cardio at once, instead of focusing on each separately.

The following six powerhouse moves do just that—so put them to work the next time you need to churn out a killer workout in a hurry. Just start out with a few slow warmup reps before going all out: “A few slow reps to pattern the movement will help wake up your muscles to make the exercises more effective and keep you safe at the same time,” De Wispeleaere says.

Total Body

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Kettlebell Swing: “The kettlebell swing is king when it comes to building muscle and jacking up your heart rate at the same time,” says DeWispeleaere. The exercise hammers your hamstrings and glutes—some of the most metabolically-active muscles (meaning they torch the most calories when you work them) in them. But the kettlebell swing also demands serious work from your core and upper body, making it an effective total-body burner.

Place a kettlebell on the floor in front of you and stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Grip the handle tightly and lock your shoulders back and down. Swing the bell back between your legs. (Your forearms will make contact with your inner thighs and your hamstrings should feel like they’re stretched.) Once your hamstrings reach maximal stretch, snap your hips forward to shoot the kettlebell up to chest height. The kettlebell should feel like it’s floating at the top of the rep.

At the top of the swing, you should be in a vertical plank—arms out straight, core tight, legs clenched.  Once you feel the bell start to fall back to the ground, swing it back between your legs to start the next rep.

Related: 6 Kettlebell Moves That Work Every Muscle

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Sled Push: This movement doesn’t have to be fast to be super effective. Slowly pushing a heavy sled is a great way to work your legs, core, upper body, and lungs, says De Wispelaere. “It’s like performing a walking plank,” he says. “You need to tense every muscle in your body to help propel the weight forward.” And even though you’re methodically marching forward, it feels like you just sprinted the 200 meter.

Grab the posts of a sled near the top. Lock your back and down, tense your arms, pull your chest up, and tighten your abs as if you’re about to be punched in the stomach. Step forward by driving your knee to your chest and sharply stomping into the ground with the ball of your foot landing first to push. Repeat and walk the sled 10-30 meters.

Upper Body

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Plyo Pushups: The pushup is a staple in any workout routine because it’s great for hitting your upper-body and core-stabilizing muscles, says De Wispelaere. Dialing up the intensity by making it faster and more explosive will not only test your strength, but also leave you breathless.

Get into a plank position, with your hands directly under your shoulders, your heels together, and your abs tight. Bend at the elbows, (keeping them tucked) and lower your chest to the ground. Once your elbows are at a 90-degree angle, quickly push away from the ground so your hands jump off the floor. Land with your hands directly under your shoulders and repeat.

If you can’t make your hands leave the floor just yet—or if the impact bothers your wrists—you can get a similar effect by powering through fast-paced pushups with your palms firmly planted.

Related: Find a preworkout formula to power your next sweat session.

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Push Press: If you’re looking to build boulder shoulders, the push press will help you load up the pounds. Since you’re using some lower-body strength to heave the dumbbells overhead, you can use heavier weights than you’re typically used to, according to De Wispelaere. After pumping out a few fast-paced reps of this exercise, you’ll be panting.

Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them at shoulder level. Bend you knees a few degrees to get in the loaded position. Pop up by pushing through your legs, clenching your glutes, and driving through your heels. At the same time, use your shoulder muscles to punch the dumbbells up to the ceiling until your elbows are fully extended. In a controlled manner, lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders. Repeat.

Lower Body

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Rear-Foot-Elevated Split Squat Jumps: Single-leg exercises are critical for building well-rounded strength. “When you only perform bilateral—or two-sided—exercises you can end up with strength imbalances that affect your performance and can potentially lead to injury,” says De Wispelaere. That’s why one of his favorite exercises is the rear-foot-elevated split squat (also known as the Bulgarian split squat). “It takes one leg almost completely out of the equation so you’re forced to rely on the muscles in one side of your body,” he says. Plus, adding a jump to the movement will send your heart-rate soaring.

Find a bench or box that’s about knee height and stand about a foot in front of it with your back to it. Reach back with your left leg and rest the top of your left foot on the box or bench. In a controlled manner, lower yourself until your right knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. Pause, and then explode up, jumping your right foot off of the floor. Pause to reset if needed and then repeat. Perform the same number of reps on your left side as you do on your right.

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Jump Squats: These are a doozy no matter how fit you are. Jump squats hammer the large muscles in your lower body to jack up your heart rate and rev your metabolism. If you want to make them even more potent, try performing them after a set of slower weighted goblet squats, suggests De Wispelaere.

This activates what’s called post-activation potentiation (PAP). By doing the weighted version of the movement, you stimulate your muscle fibers and nervous system, so when it comes time to drop the weight for explosive reps, you recruit more of the muscle to do the work, resulting in a bigger burn for your buck and better performance, according to De Wispelaere.

Grab a moderate-to-heavy kettlebell. Hold it at chest level by gripping either side of the handle. Perform weighted squats by bending at the knees and lowering your backside as though you’re about to sit into a chair until your knees form just below a 90-degree angle. Pause, then extend your knees to return to standing. Do five to 10 reps before dropping the weight an adding an explosive jump on your way up for another five to 10 reps.

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Should You Cut Fruit From Your Diet If You Want to Lose Weight?

No matter how strong your sweet tooth, you probably know that consuming tons of sugar is not the best move, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. After all, sugar hits our bloodstream fast, causing a ‘sugar spike’—which forces our bodies to release a hormone (insulin) to get that sugar out of the blood and distribute it throughout the body so it can be used as energy. Too much of this over time can put us at risk for weight gain and diabetes.

But if your goal is to lose weight, does that mean you should slash all sources of sugar—like fruit? (Gasp!).

The short answer: Nope.

“There is no reason why anyone—average exercisers, bodybuilders, or anyone else—should cut fruit from their diets,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D.N., and best-selling author of Eating in Color.

Americans are consuming an average of 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day (amounting to 350 additional calories), when women should consume no more than six, and men no more than nine, says Largeman-Roth.

So if you want to lose weight, start by cutting your intake of foods and beverages with added sugars, not fruit. We’re talking about that flavor pump in your coffee, premade salad dressings, sweetened teas, and packaged snacks—many of which are loaded with the stuff.

Not All Sugar Is Created Equal

It’s important to distinguish between added sugars and natural sugars, says Joan Salge Blake, Ed.D., professor of nutrition at Boston University and author of Nutrition and You!

“The sugars that come in fruit and dairy foods are perfectly fine for you because these food sources provide other valuable nutrition, like fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and calcium,” she says.

Meanwhile, many foods and drinks that contain added sugars are pretty devoid of other nutrition. Added sugars are metabolized quickly, leaving you with a quick energy spike but feeling unsatiated, while the fiber from fruit slows down your body’s uptake of the sugar, helping you to stay fuller for longer.

Additionally, your body is taking in much-needed nutrients as it breaks down that fruit. “So, eating an orange is much better for you than consuming a sugary orange drink, like soda,” says Blake. Opting for a piece of fruit instead of a sugary treat is a great, low-calorie way to satisfy your sweet tooth and your appetite.

Related: 8 Nutritionists Share How They Satisfy Their Sweet Tooth

Does that mean you can eat all the fruit you want, anytime? Not exactly. “Anything can be overdone,” says Largeman-Roth. “If you’re subsisting on fruit and not getting enough high-quality proteins, vegetables, and whole grains, your diet will be unbalanced.” But even then, you’d still be hard-pressed to consume upwards of 22 teaspoons of sugar in a day—you’d probably just fill up on fiber first!

FYI: The USDA recommends between one-and-a-half to two cups of fruit daily for adults.

How To Slash The Sweet Stuff

To wean yourself off added sugar, Blake recommends first looking at what you’re drinking. You’re probably thinking of sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks, right? One of the biggest sneaky sources of added sugar might be part of your morning ritual: coffee and tea. “They carry a misnomer of being benign and even healthy sometimes, but fancy coffee drinks and blended or bottled tea can contain just as much sugar as a soda,” she says. Even smoothies can sneak up on you, because a lot of store-bought smoothies are flavored with fruit juices and other added sugars. (Hate to break it to you, but kale smoothies aren’t that sweet naturally!).  Cutting out these liquid sugar sources can seriously slash your total intake.

If you’re already straying from the added sugars hiding in drinks and processed foods, but are still concerned about your intake, there are a few fruits that are naturally lower in sugar, says Largeman-Roth.

Grapefruit, oranges, pears, strawberries, and apples all make for a satisfying sweet snack that’s low in natural sugars, too. (A cup of strawberries contains about seven grams of sugar, while a medium banana contains about 15 grams of sugar.)

Related: Browse a variety of supplements to support blood sugar.