Fit Tip: Work Big Muscles First

Being more strategic about how you target your muscles could lead to better results.

Popular barre workouts may place the focus on smaller muscle groups, but the key to an effective session, according to Christina Ilisije, a Figure 4 Barre instructor at Pure New York City, is to work big muscles then small ones. “The goal is to first heat up the larger muscles of your core—the abdominals, shoulders, back, and supporting pelvic muscles—to warm up the body and prepare for the more acute toning of your biceps, triceps and the four distinct layers of your abdominals,” she says.

Ilisije designed this short 20-minute, arms- and abs-sculpting barre series to do just that. Perform it in the order the moves are listed below.

Wide-Stance Push-Up with Arm Lift 

Start in push-up position, with hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart, fingers pointed slightly inward. Flex feet to activate your glutes. Keeping abs engaged, shoulders down and pelvis/back neutral, inhale and slowly lower chest toward floor, bending elbows diagonally behind you. Exhale as you straighten arms. Once you reach the top of the push-up, lift right arm straight out to shoulder-level in front of you. Lower hand back to mat; switch sides and repeat on left. That’s one set; perform 10 sets. 

Forearm Plank 

Start in plank position, with forearms flat on floor, elbows under shoulders. Step toes to outer edges of the mat. Brace abdominals in and up. Drop shoulders down the back. Maintain a neutral spine and pelvis. Focus eyes right between forearms, keeping your neck long. Hold for 30 seconds. Drop one shoulder, and lift one quadricep. Next, start to bend one knee, then the other, alternating. Do 20 reps. Take child’s pose and repeat plank set from the beginning. 

Triceps Dips

Sit on the mat with legs together, and place hands behind you, with fingertips pointed toward toes. Bend your knees and place feet on floor. Shoulders should be down and directly over your wrists. Start to bend elbows behind you and slightly inward, to activate triceps and open chest. Straighten elbows. Do 20 reps (bend/straighten). Next, bend elbows halfway and pulse up and down. Do 20 reps. 

Arm Stretch 

Sit on the floor and take right arm across body, hooking it with left arm, keeping your shoulders down and spine tall. Then put your right elbow behind your head, with your right palm down toward the center of your back. Pull elbow back with your left hand. Switch sides and repeat. Upward Facing Dog Lie facedown on floor with hands under shoulders, legs extended behind you, hip-width apart. Keeping your shoulders down, extend arms to lift your chest and heart up toward the sky. Activate your quads to protect your lower back and keep the tops of your arches on the floor. Open up and breathe.