5 Quick Workout Extras That Will Make a Big Difference

woman exercising on a stability ballYou fit your workouts into your lifestyle pretty well overall, but there are days when you just can’t make the time. When it happens, you wonder how you can make up for it.

If you have to cut your workout short, or miss a day altogether, you can use a quick “power booster” approach to tide you over until you’re back on track.

If you managed to get your cardio in, try tacking on a core move or a couple minutes of upper body work. If you only had time for strength today, squeeze in ten minutes of cardio drills later on.

And if you’re at home or on the road, use any or all of these little extras to let your body and mind know you’re not really “off,” even if you didn’t work out. They don’t take long but they make a big difference!

  1. Cardio Drills

    Take ten, or even five minutes, to perform a repeatable pattern of simple cardio movements. The key here is intensity, then just enough rest to repeat again. This is also known as an interval approach.

    woman running

    Interval Running: Sprint for ten seconds, jog for 20 seconds, walk for 30 seconds. You can count this rotation in your head to help manage the timing.

    Sprint Series: Be speedy and do a 100 yard dash, or run up a few flights of stairs. Rest briefly to prep for repeating. Do as many as you can in your time frame.

    Burpee Intervals: Do burpees for 30 seconds (also known as squat thrusts), then stand and march with high knees for 30 seconds. Repeat several times.

  2. Pushups

    Pushups are a go-to choice for core and upper body exercise just about anywhere, any time and any place. They make the perfect “commercial break” exercise: just get on the floor and do another set every time a new ad starts during your favorite TV show.

    You can get more pushups done than you might think if you take a rest in between sets. Your rest doesn’t have to mean doing nothing, either. Pushups alternate well with other power booster moves, like lunges (see below).

  3. Lunges

    You might do lunges as part of your strength routine—if you do, you know they are very effective at getting to the muscles of your lower body. When you use lunges on their own, a few other advantages are highlighted as well: they get your heart rate up and they don’t require a lot space.

    Standing lunges make a good add-on after an upper body workout, or to intersperse with an upper body or core move like crunches or pushups. You can also use them as a dynamic warm-up. Walking lunges will give you a good stretch. If you lunge around your house for a few minutes, you’ll feel them.

  4. woman doing crunches

  5. Bicycle Maneuver

    This crossover crunch movement is considered one of the gold standards in ab exercises because so many abdominal area muscle fibers are set on fire when it’s done right. If you only have time for one exercise devoted to your abs, this is terrific choice. Just be sure to fine tune your position and technique.

    For example, curve your rib cage and shoulder up and over toward the opposite knee rather than yanking on your head or flapping your elbow. Also avoid kicking your legs as you bicycle: instead, extend them with control. This will help you keep your hips on the floor so you won’t rock side to side and take away from the work of your obliques (those awesome muscles along the sides of your waist).

  6. Stability Ball

    You can do extra work for your core by adding instability to a few of your favorite exercises that you’re already doing. Sitting on a stability ball will engage deep muscles and help you develop your balance—this is the reason many people now sit on a ball instead of an office chair during their workday.

    Try doing your biceps and triceps with dumbbells while seated on a stability ball. You’ll realize you must engage those abs to keep your posture and hold the ball still. It’s an even greater challenge to do this sitting on the ball with only one foot on the floor. Pushups with your feet on a ball will add a new dimension as well.