First thing’s first: No, you can’t get ripped overnight (no matter what that Instagram ad says). But even though muscles aren’t built in a day, that doesn’t mean a solid workout can’t give you instant definition. See, by performing certain moves, you force a ton of blood into your muscles’ fast-twitch or power fibers. Long story short, this makes your worked muscles pop in a good way, says Erica Suter, CSCS, a Maryland-based trainer and strength coach.
The result is a sneak peek of how awesome your muscles will consistently look after weeks of training, she says. (It’s also a secret strategy among fitness models everywhere—ahem, nature’s Photoshop.)
This technique—called the “pump”—can also prevent the muscle breakdown that often occurs when you’re working out to lose weight (we’re looking at you, cardio queens), according to a study in Strength and Conditioning Journal.
Take the following exercises for a spin, then check yourself out in the mirror, good lookin’.
Time: 30 minutes
Equipment: resistance band and set of dumbbells or kettlebells—aim for a weight that feels heavy to lift by the last two to three reps.
Good for: total body
Instructions: Perform 1o reps of each move below, then continue to the next exercise. Once you’ve completed all movements, rest for up to one minute. Then, repeat two more times for three rounds total.
This dynamic, high-intensity move works the power muscles throughout your entire backside, like your butt, back, and hamstrings, making them look more toned, says exercise physiologist Pete McCall, CSCS. Plus, it’ll rev your cardiovascular system and get you sweating, which will help reduce any belly bloat caused by excess fluid retention, and even constipation.
How to: Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart and a KB on the floor between them. Bend knees, push hips back, and grab the top of the kettlebell with both hands. (The kettlebell should be heavy enough to demand serious work, but allow you to maintain proper form.) Swing the bell back between thighs and, and then stand up while pressing hips forward, squeezing glutes, and raising straight arms (and the kettlebell) directly in front of chest. Let it fall back through legs to return to start. That’s one rep. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps.
This one is all about the booty. After just one set, you’ll notice that your glutes feel firmer, look bigger, and even sit rounder and higher on your backside, he says. Your glutes are your body’s biggest muscle group, and this move hits them hard.
How to: Loop a resistance band under feet and hold the ends of it in hands with arms extended. (You can also grab a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip, and hold them at arm’s length in front of thighs.) Start standing with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Without changing the bend in knees, bend at your hips and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Pause, then lift torso back to the starting position. That’s one rep. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps.
“You could argue that dumbbell thrusters are the most efficient total body exercise for burning calories and working major muscle groups,” says trainer Albert Matheny, CSCS, co-owner of SoHo Strength Lab in NYC and a registered dietitian for ProMix Nutrition. “It’s a great move for your glutes, hamstrings, quads, abdominals, shoulders, triceps, and gives you a great cardiovascular workout.”
How to: Hold dumbbells at shoulder height, elbows bent and palms facing each other, feet shoulder-width apart. Bend knees and sit hips back to lower into a squat. Explode back up, pushing the dumbbells directly overhead until arms are fully extended. That’s one rep. Pause, then lower the weights as you squat. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps.
Resistance Band Bicep Curls
“Resistance bands are my go-to for curls because they provide continuous tension in the muscles,” says Taylor Gainor, CSCS, co-founder of LIT Method in Los Angeles. And the longer you keep your biceps tense, the more of a pump you get, she says. “Resistance band bicep curls will leave your arms looking a little bit tighter and toned for the rest of the day,” she says.
How to: Stand on the center of a resistance band with feet about shoulder-width apart. (Adjust feet if you need more or less resistance.) Hold the ends of the band at sides with elbows fixed to your waist. Slowly curl fists up to shoulders, and then back down, while keeping core engaged. That’s one rep. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps.
Resisted Bird Dog
Since this exercise seriously engages both your core and booty, it can make a visible difference fast, says Suter. For the best results, perform as many reps as you can, she says.
How to: Tie a knot in resistance band to make a loop then place it around arches of feet and get on all fours. This is your start position. Keep core engaged and simultaneously extend right arm and left leg until both are straight, stretching the band. Make sure to squeeze the glute of working leg when kicking back. That’s one rep. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps then switch sides.
Performing this squat variation with your legs externally rotated will not just target your butt muscles in a major way—it’ll also fire up your inner thighs for a serious burn.
How to: Stand with feet wider than shoulders, toes turned out to 45 degrees. Hold a dumbbell by one end in both hands in front of body, arms straight. Engage core and lower down as far into a seated position as you can while keeping tailbone under hips. Pause, then slowly push through heels and squeeze glutes and inner thighs to return to start. That’s one rep. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps. For extra results, pulse up and down at the bottom of the squat for 30 seconds.
Pump up your quads with this classic lower-body move. “Moving lunges are great for strengthening your legs and challenging your cardiovascular fitness,” says Matheny.
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart and hands on hips or holding a pair of dumbbells and shoulders. Step forward with right leg and slowly lower your body until right knee is bent at least 90 degrees. Pause, then raise up and bring left foot forward and repeat. Continuing alternating sides for two minutes moving back and forth across your space. Repeat for three sets.
Goblet squats are an amazing exercise if you want to see quick results. “Holding a weight at your chest forces your body to engage your entire core, including the muscles of your lower and upper back,” explains PJ Stahl, CSCS, a trainer at Lock Box LA Fitness & Performance Center. “And while all those muscles are engaged, you’re performing squats, which use the largest calorie burning muscles of your body: the legs.” You’ll feel the burn—and see the effect.
How to: Start with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and holding a weight against chest. Lower into a squat. Push through feet to rise back up to starting position. That’s one rep. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps.
“This is one of the more challenging lower body exercises, because using the weights in the hands increases the difficulty on the legs, core, and grip strength during the movement,” says Stahl. You’ll fire up your hamstrings, glutes, and quads to see results in no time.
How to: Start in the standing position behind a box holding dumbbells in each hand with arms by sides. Step right foot on top of the box and press through heel to come to stand on top of the box, driving left knee up to hip height. Reverse movement to return to start. That’s one rep. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps on each side.
You’ll feel your hamstrings, glutes, inner thighs, core, and back quaking after just one set—it’s a total-body exercise, says Stahl. “As you finish the movement, the upright row will pump up your arms and shoulders so you feel like an Amazonian warrior.”
How to: Holding two kettlebells or dumbbells, start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed out. Position weights in between thighs, arms straight and palms facing in. Keep knees slightly bent, press hips back to hinge at the waist and lower the weights toward the floor. Squeeze glutes to return to standing. That’s one rep. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps.