woman lifting medicine ball
Photo Credit:
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Double-Duty Exercises

These hardworking moves engage multiple muscle groups, giving you more bang for your effort
Written by 
Holly St. Lifer

Sometimes, no matter how much we exercise, we want our workouts to give us more in return. Compound exercises—multi-joint movements that work several muscles and muscle groups simultaneously—can pack a harder punch in a shorter amount of time, much like high-intensity interval training. These exercises are a combination of strength and cardio, helping you build muscle while boosting your heart rate and burning calories. You’re using more oxygen, which means your metabolism remains revved up long after your exercise session is over—otherwise known as exercise post oxygen consumption or EPOC.

Incorporating these moves into your workout routine is a great way to challenge your body in different ways (and save some time on busier days).

You’ll need a pair of dumbbells for the following double-duty exercises. Rest for no more than 60 to 90 seconds after each set for maximum calorie burn.


Push-up and Row

What It Does: Targets your chest, back and abdominals

How to Do It: Grab your dumbbells and get into the push-up position with your hands holding the weights (which are positioned lengthwise) instead of flat on the floor.  Keep your feet slightly wider than hip-width, wrists aligned under your shoulders, your abdominals engaged and your head and spine in a straight line. Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor and then push back up. Now pull one dumbbell up to your ribs. Pause, then slowly return the weight to the floor and repeat with the other arm. That's one rep. Perform 6 to 10 reps; complete two sets.

Be careful not to…let your torso drop by keeping your abdominals engaged.  When performing the row, keep your hips facing the floor, not open to the side.


Squat and Curl

What It Does: Targets your quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and biceps

How to Do It: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width, toes turned slightly outward, and hold a pair of dumbbells down in front of your body, palms facing out. Keep your shoulders down, chest lifted and abdominals engaged. Lower into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, knees wide and over your toes. Push yourself back up as you curl the weights up to your shoulders. Lower your arms and return to your starting position. That's one rep. Perform 6 to 10 reps; complete two sets.

Be careful not to…let your knees roll inward to prevent injury. Avoid raising your shoulders during the curl, allowing your biceps to do the work.


Deadlift and Row

What It Does: Targets your back, legs and glutes

How to Do It: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing your body. Keep your shoulders down, chest lifted and abdominals engaged. Keeping your knees bent slightly and your back flat, hinge forward at the hips to a 45-degree angle and then pull the weights up toward your rib cage. Lower them, press back on your heels and raise your torso back up to your starting position. That's one rep. Perform 6 to 10 reps; complete two sets.

Be careful not to…round your back when you hinge forward.  Press your glutes back so you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and glutes. Keep your chin parallel to the floor throughout so your neck stays aligned with your spine.


Wall Squat and Shoulder Raise

What It Does: Targets your quads, biceps and shoulders

How to Do It: Stand with your back flat against a wall, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Place your feet about one foot from the wall, hip-width apart, and lower into a squat so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle, raising your arms to shoulder height with your palms facing forward. Extend your arms toward the sky, lifting the weights overhead. Lower them back down to shoulder height. That’s one rep. Perform 6 to 10 reps while remaining in the squat position. Complete two to three sets, standing up between sets.

Be careful not to…lean forward. Maintaining a straight spine along the wall allows your quads to do the work and prevents injury when lifting the weights.

Reference(s) 
IDEA Health & Fitness Association
About the author 
Holly St. Lifer is a health, fitness, nutrition and human interest writer whose work has appeared in AARP, Health, Ladies' Home Journal, Prevention and other publications. She also teaches magazine writing at New York University.