It's that time of year again! The holidays are over, and the New Year has begun, which means it's time to get back to the grind. The problem: You haven’t been to the gym in weeks. We get it…things have been busy and when that happens, the gym seems to be one of the first things to take the backseat. But is it too late for you to get back into a routine now? And can you jump back in right where you left off?
“If you haven't worked out in over a month, it would behoove you to ease into things intensity-wise,” says Prince Brathwaite, NASM-certified trainer, owner and head trainer at Trooper Fitness in New York City. “This doesn't mean you can't jump back into your old routine or favorite boot camp class. Just be mindful of your movement and that your body will not be as conditioned as it was when you were being consistent with your workout regimen.”
Chances are that because you took some time off, you won’t be able to run as long or lift as heavy as you did last time you worked out…but that’s okay. “There’s a good possibility you lost some muscle integrity and endurance, so you may need to lift a little lighter than you used too or dial back your intensity when attacking your cardio workouts,” explains Brathwaite, “Don't fret though—the body has muscle memory and it will get you back to where you were.”
So where do you start? “Since the legs are the biggest muscle group in the body, focus on that first to knock it out,” says Brathwaite. Try this leg routine that will also get your heart rate revved, to help you get back into the swing of things.
DYNAMIC STRETCH WARM UP:
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Tap your right toes six inches in front of you, then tap left toes six inches in front of you. Continue alternating for 30 seconds.
Standing Glute Medius Stretch
How to: Stand with feet hip width apart. Lift right leg and bend knee, crossing right foot over left knee. Sit back into a quarter squat. Hold for 15 seconds then switch sides.
"World's Greatest Stretch"
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step right foot out into a lunge, placing hands on either side of right foot. Twist torso to the right as you reach your right arm up toward ceiling. Hold for a few seconds. Lower hand back to floor, switch legs and twist the opposite way. Continue alternating 10 on each side.
How to: Reach arms up towards ceiling. Keeping chest lifted, sit back into a squat. Push through heels to come back to standing. Repeat 10 times.
Alternating Single-Leg Dead Lift
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Keeping back flat and chest lifted, bend from the hips to lower torso forward, reaching hands towards right foot, while simultaneously lifting leg leg straight out behind you. Return to standing but don’t touch your left foot to ground. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.
Lateral Walk in Squat Position
How to: Sit back into quarter squat. Keeping body low, take 10 steps to the right, then 10 to the left. Repeat twice to each side.
How to: Hold a dumbbell in front of your body with both hands, or place a barbell on your shoulders. Set your feet wider than shoulder width, with your toes slightly turned out. Lower your body down by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Complete two sets with the bar to warm up. For beginners, complete two to three sets of 12 reps, with just the bar. For advanced, complete four sets of 12 reps at 50 percent of your maximum weight challenge.
Perform Leg Extension Machine immediately followed by Glute Bridge With Dumbells. Choose a weight that makes you feel the burn in the targeted muscles.
Beginners: 2-3 sets, very light, manageable weight
Advanced: 4 sets
LEG EXTENSION MACHINE
How to: Adjust the seat and ankle arms so your knees are next to the rotation joint of the machine and the ankle arm is just above your feet. Hold the handles of the machine. Flex your feet with your toes turned slightly outward. Contract your thighs and extend your legs outward until your knees are fully open, nearing a locked position. Pause, then slowly bend your knees and lower your feet back to starting position. That's one rep, complete 15.
GLUTE BRIDGE WITH DUMBBELLS
How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells by your side, upper arms touching the floor, palms facing each other. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Press both dumbbells up until your arms are completely straight. Lower the dumbbells back to starting position, then lower the rest of your body to starting position. That's one rep, complete 15.
Perform Split Squat immediately followed by Fire Hydrant Extension.
Beginners: 2-3 sets
Advanced: 4 sets
How to: Stand in a staggered stance, right foot about two feet in front of left, hands on hips. Slowly lower your body as far as you can. Pause, then quickly push yourself back up to starting position. That's one rep. Complete 15 reps on each leg.
FIRE HYDRANT EXTENSION
How to: Get on all fours with your knees directly beneath your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Extend your left leg, and lift your it up and out to the side as high as possible. Pause, then bring it back to start. That's one rep, do 20 on each side.
Perform Jump Squat immediately followed by Squat then Power Lunge.
Beginners: 2 sets
Advanced: 3 sets
How to: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides. Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor. Raise your arms until they're parallel to the floor. Pause, then jump as high as you can while swinging your arms back toward your sides. Land and reset. That's one rep, complete 20.
How to: Stand as tall as you can with your feet spread shoulder-width apart. Lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Push yourself back to the starting position. That's one rep, complete 20.
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step right foot forward and lower down into a lunge. Push back up to standing and immediately lunge with left leg. Continue alternating. That's one rep. Complete 20 reps on each leg.
Finish up with some static stretching for at least 10 minutes, for your cool down.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.