Muscles aren't built in a day—but that doesn’t mean a solid workout can't give you instant definition. See, by performing certain moves—think, three to five sets of eight to 12 reps—you force a ton of blood into your muscles’ fast-twitch or power fibers. Long story short, this makes your worked muscles bloat in a good way, says Erica Suter, a US-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—nature’s Photoshop, amirite?)
A recent Strength and Conditioning Journal shows that 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). Take any of the following seven exercises for a spin, then check yourself out in the mirror, good lookin'.
1. Kettlebell Swing
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. 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.
Get instant results: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees, push your 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 your legs and, as you straighten your legs, thrust your hips forward, squeeze your glutes, and swing the kettlebell directly in front of your chest. Let it fall back through your legs to return to start. That’s one rep.
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.
Get instant results: Grab a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip, and hold them at arm's length in front of your thighs. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Without changing the bend in your knees, bend at your hips and lower your torso until it's almost parallel to the floor. Pause, then raise your torso back to the starting position. That's one rep.
3. Resistance Band Bicep Curls
“Resistance bands are my go-to for curls because they provide continuous tension in the muscles,” says Taylor Gainor, 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.
Get instant results: Stand on the center of a resistance band with your feet about shoulder-width apart. (Adjust your feet if you need more or less resistance.) Hold the handles at your sides with your elbows fixed to your waist. Slowly curl your arms up to your shoulders, and then back down, while keeping your core engaged. That’s one rep.
4. Assisted Chinups
“If you want to improve definition in your arms, shoulders, and back with one simple movement, the chin-up is essential,” says McCall. “You’ll see an immediate difference in the definition of those muscles.” Seriously. This move is awesome.
Get instant results: Stand facing an assisted chin-up machine or wrap a band around a chin-up bar so there is a loop hanging underneath it. Grab the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart, palms facing you. Kneel onto the bench or band and let your body hang, arms straight. Squeeze your back and brace your core to pull your chest to the bar. Pause, then slowly lower back to start. That’s one rep.
5. Resisted Bird-Dog
Since this exercise seriously engages your core and booty, it's a great one to do before a night out in a tight dress, says Suter. For the best results, perform as many reps as you can, she says.
Get instant results: Get on all fours and place a resistance band handle snug around one foot. Hold the other handle with the opposite hand so that the band is stretched. Then, keeping your core strong and engaged, simultaneously extend the banded arm and leg so that your body forms a straight line from head to heel. Make sure to squeeze the glute of your working leg as you kick back. That’s one rep. Complete reps, then repeat using the other arm and leg.
6. Man Makers
Prepare for beyond-burpee levels of impressiveness with this move that's so cool it should be called “woman-makers.” They'll blast your arms, legs, shoulders, and—if you are using a moderate to heavy amount of weight—your core, says Suter. Expect your stomach to de-bloat from all that sweat as your muscles swell. Make sure you have a towel (or bucket) handy to mop up the floors after this one.
Get instant results: Get into a high-plank position, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping a straight line from head to heels, perform a single row with each arm. Then, jump or step your feet forward and stand up (Kind of like you’re doing a burpee). Immediately press the dumbbells straight overhead. Lower the dumbbells to your sides. That’s one rep.
Apart from making your backside sore for days, sumo squats fire up the muscles that run along your inner thighs, says Gainor. The'll feel instantly tighter, firmer, and stronger.
Get instant results: Stand with your feet more than shoulder-width apart, and your toes turned out to 45 degrees. With your hands clasped in front of you for balance, brace your core, and lower your body as far into a seated position as you can. Pause, then slowly push through your glutes and inner thighs to return to start. That’s one rep. For extra results, pulse up and down at the bottom of the squat for 30 seconds.