Prevention: Remember the Fountain of Youth? Sixteenth-century Spanish conquistador Ponce de Leon searched relentlessly for it, when it might have resided within him all along—in the form of sweat.
“Exercise can absolutely tighten your muscles and give you the appearance of being younger,” says Kansas City-based personal trainer Serena Merrill, a senior exercise consultant for the American Council on Exercise. “And if the moves you do are functional—meaning, they mimic actions you perform in your everyday life—they can actually help you to move more easily and function younger, too.”
Even better: You don’t even need to produce a fountain of sweat. Just a trickle will do. Eat your heart out, Ponce.
For gravity-defying thighs:
Photo by Thomas MacDonald
Carousel horses are essentially mini-lunges, with support. Because lunges engage large muscle groups, they’re incredibly efficient. Do it once a day, and you’ll see results within as little as 2 weeks.
Rest your hands lightly on the back of a chair with your feet hip-width apart. Step back with your left foot, and bend both knees into a lunge. Make sure your hips are level and facing the chair back, your core is engaged, and your shoulders are over your hips, not slumped forward. Hold for 5 breaths, with your right knee directly over your right ankle and your left knee under your left hip. Next, lower your left knee 1 inch toward the floor, keeping your right knee directly over your ankle. Press your feet into the floor to lift up 1 inch, and repeat for 30 reps. Repeat on the opposite side. To up the ante: Let go of the chair. Just stand with your arms extended out to either side, and do the move as directed.
For gravity-defying inner thighs:
SUMO SQUAT WITH DRAG
You’ll feel the muscles of your inner thigh engage in this exercise, which also works your butt and hips.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes facing out. Squat and lower your butt to about the depth of your knees. Then, as you straighten your legs and return to standing, drag your right foot across the floor toward your left leg (you should feel it in your inner thigh as you pull your leg across your body). Repeat the move to the other side, this time stepping your right leg out to the right, lowering into a squat, and dragging your left foot toward your right as you stand back up. Continue alternating sides for each rep. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. Work up to 3 sets, 3 times a week.
For gravity-defying hips:
Photo by Mitch Mandel
“This move works the muscles of the hips, butt, and back without destabilizing your spine and making it vulnerable to strain and injury,” says Merrill.
Get down on all fours with your knees under your hips and your wrists directly beneath your shoulders. Engage your core, and pull your shoulder blades back toward your hips. Next, simultaneously lift and lengthen your left leg until it’s parallel to the floor, and lift and lengthen your right arm until it’s parallel to the floor. Don’t lift your head or let it sag. Return to starting position and switch sides. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. Work up to 3 sets, 3 times a week.
For gravity-defying hips and butt:
Like squats, glute bridges take the muscles of your hips, thighs, and butt through a full range of motion, which makes them a big-bang-for-your-buck exercise. Unlike squats, they don’t make your knees scream (a relief, no?). Also, because you’re lying down during the bridge, you’re zeroing in on your hip extensor muscles.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about 12 inches away from your hips. Slowly tuck under your pelvis (you’ll feel as though you’re bringing your pubic bone toward your navel), push into your heels, and lift your back off the floor until your hips are completely open at the top. Make sure your pelvis stays tucked to prevent your back from arching. Hold for 5 breaths, then slowly lower to the staring position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. Work up to 3 sets, 3 times a week. To add difficultly, hold a light dumbbell on top of your pelvis throughout.
For a gravity-defying core:
Photo by James Farrell
“Easy on your back and hard on your core, planks are the perfect combination,” says Merrill.
Lie on your stomach with your elbows close to your sides and directly under your shoulders, palms down and fingers facing forward. Engage your abs and flex your ankles, tucking your toes toward your shins, then slowly lift your torso and thighs off the mat, keeping your torso and legs rigid. Don’t allow any sagging in your ribcage or low back, and avoid hiking your hips into the air or bending your knees. Continue to breathe, keeping your abs strong. Hold for 5 to 15 seconds to begin; work up to 1 minute at a time, 3 times a week.
For a grafity-defying lower belly:
This move instantly goes to work on your lower belly. If you feel any discomfort in your low back, don’t lower your legs as far.
Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, elbows out to the sides, shoulders lifted, and legs lifted over your hips. Keeping abs engaged, slowly lower your legs toward the floor (stopping right before your back starts to arch), then lift them back over your hips. Repeat 10 to 15 times. Work up to 3 sets, 3 times a week.
For a gravity-defying waist:
Photo by Beth Bischoff
This move works all of the muscles of the abdomen, including the obliques [the muscles along the sides of your abdomen that cinch in your waist] better than any other crunch, says Merrill. “If you’re going to do just one crunch, this should be it.”
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, and fingertips resting lightly behind your ears. Engage your abs, and lift both feet off the floor until your thighs and hips form a 90-degree angle and your knees are bent at 90-degree angles, too. Contract your abs to curl your head and shoulders off the mat and simultaneously bring your right knee in toward your right armpit and straighten your left leg in front of you. Rotate your torso slowly to bring your left elbow toward your right knee (this movement will press your low back into the mat). Continue moving until your elbow touches or comes close to touching the opposite knee. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement to the opposite side. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. Work up to to 3 sets, 3 times a week.
For a gravity-defying lower and upper back:
T, Y, I’S
Photo by Yuri Arcurs/Getty Images
Most moves for your back require weights or a machine, but you can do this one anywhere, no equipment needed.
Lie on your stomach, extending your legs out straight behind you and your arms out to either side (you should look like the letter T). With your palms facing down, slowly elevate your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together, keeping arms straight, then slowly bring arms back down. Repeat for a set of 20.
Next, extend your arms above your head at an angle into a Y position. Keeping your palms down, slowly elevate your arms and squeeze your shoulder blades together, keeping your arms straight, then slowly bring arms back down. Make sure to keep your shoulders from coming up toward your ears. Repeat for a set of 20.
Last, extend your arms straight above your head so that they form an I. From there, lift your arms up, squeezing your shoulder blades together while pushing your shoulders down toward your lower back. Repeat for a set of 20. Aim to do the entire series at least 3 times a week.
For gravity-defying triceps:
Illustration by Chris Philpot
“This move directly targets the triceps, but it also challenges the core, packing a giant one-two punch,” says Merrill.
Start at the top of a push-up position (either on your knees or on the balls of your feet) with your hands forming a triangle, thumbs and forefingers touching. Lower yourself by bending your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor, then slowly push back up and repeat. (You can also do this move against a wall.) Work up to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps, 3 times a week.
For gravity-defying biceps:
Photo by Commercial Eye/Getty Images
Research has crowned this move queen when it comes to strong, sleek biceps. “It will tighten your upper arms and help you look younger, but they’ll also help you function younger,” says Merrill, “since this move strengthens the muscles responsible for lifting heavy objects—like kids!”
Sit on a chair or bench with your feet wider than hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in your right hand. Lean forward and rest your right upper arm against your right inner thigh, making sure there is plenty of clearance for your forearm and the weight to curl up and down. Starting with your arm extended, curl the dumbbell up until your elbow is fully flexed, then slowly lower to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. Work up to 2 to 3 sets, 3 times a week.
For gravity-defying shoulders:
DUMBBELL SHOULDER PRESSES
You’ll hit your shoulders, triceps, and upper back at the same time.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows, and bring the weights to your shoulders. This is the starting position. Slowly extend your arms overhead, bringing your biceps up by your ears, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for 1 set. Work up to 3 sets, 3 times a week.