When it comes to exercising in the a.m., it’s way easier to be a wimp than a warrior—which is bad news, considering how an early sweat session may benefit your body, not to mention your to-do list.
Not only are morning workouts easier to stick to (hey, impromptu happy hours don’t happen before the sun comes up), but science also suggests that working out early—more specifically, before you’ve had breakfast—may help the body burn fat more efficiently. Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males. Gonzalez JT, Veasey RC, Rumbold PL. The British journal of nutrition, 2013, Jan.;110(4):1475-2662. That said, actually getting yourself to the gym—or even out of the house—at the crack of dawn can feel like a one-way ticket to struggle city.
It’s no wonder, really, since your body’s still in snooze mode at that hour, particularly if it’s not acclimated to doing something right away, says personal trainer Stacy Berman, founder of Stacy’s Bootcamp in New York City. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on all your #riseandgrind aspirations—just opt for a calmer kind of workout at the beginning.
Start with gentle movements that yield big results—ones that strengthen and stretch the entire body while getting the blood pumping, but are a bit less intense, Berman suggests. Consider this workout created (and demonstrated) by personal trainer Tamara Pridgett below your entry into the morning-person club.
How to use this list: Complete 3 rounds of the following circuit. Perform 10 to 12 reps of each move in the first set, 12 to 15 reps in the second set, and 15 to 20 reps in the third set. By the end, you’ll feel stretched, energized, and ready to take on the day.
1. Hollow Body Hold
Lie faceup with arms by sides and legs extended straight. Engage abs. Lift shoulder blades and straightened legs off the floor, keeping lower back pressed into mat throughout the entire exercise (the closer your legs are to the floor, the more challenging this is).
2. Single-Leg Glute Bridge
Lie faceup with knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Extend left leg straight out then press into right heel to lift hips straight up off mat. Keep knees in-line and engage glutes as you lift. Lower down slowly, creating your own resistance, then repeat on other side.
3. Reverse Oblique Crunch
Start sitting on mat, legs extended out in front of you, hands on mat behind you. Lean back slightly onto fingertips for balance and lift legs two inches off floor. Keeping core tight, shift weight onto right hip and twist at the waist to bring bent knees toward chest. Extend back out (don’t drop legs to mat). You should feel this in your side abs. Twist to the other side and repeat. Continue alternating.
4. Plank With Knee Tap
Start in high plank position, hands directly under shoulders, shoulders in-line with hips. Engage core to keep torso still, and without shifting weight, draw right knee to chest and lift left hand to tap right knee, then draw left knee to chest and lift right hand to tap left knee. Continue alternating as fast as possible without losing form.
5. Double Leg Lift
Lie faceup on mat, legs extended up toward ceiling so body forms a 90-degree angle, arms by sides. Keeping core engaged and lower back pressed to mat, slowly lower legs down to mat as low as possible (the lower you go the harder it is). Don’t let lower back pop up off mat. Slowly lift legs back to starting position and repeat.
7. Lateral Lunge With Knee Drive
Start with feet together, arms at your side. Take a big step to left with left foot, send your hips back, and bend left knee (right leg is straight) as you bring palms together in front of chest. Keep chest lifted and abs engaged. Press into left foot to reverse momentum and shift weight onto right leg as you draw left knee to chest. Return to lunge position and continue to repeat. Then repeat on the other side.
8. Inchworm Push-Up
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hinge at hips to bend over and touch floor with hands, then walk hands out to high plank position. Keeping elbows close to sides, bend elbows and lower chest to floor. Push back up, then walk hands back toward feet. Repeat.
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Photography: Julia Hembree