This No-Slip Charcoal Yoga Mat Is the Only One You’ll Ever Need for Hot Yoga

This No-Slip Charcoal Yoga Mat Is the Only One You’ll Ever Need for Hot Yoga

Hot yoga fans know the struggle: you’re in the zone, holding an impeccable downward dog position, and suddenly, you’re slipping out of the pose—fast—thanks to sweaty palms and feet. Help!

While yoga mat towels that provide a barrier between your perspiring bod and the slippery mat can improve the sticky situation, there’s now an even better solution: Manduka’s brand-new GRP mat ($98; manduka.com, dickssportinggoods.com, rei.com), which is designed to absorb moisture and nix odors on even the sweatiest mats. 

According to Manduka, the mat’s innermost rubber layer is infused with charcoal, which helps filter out moisture and eliminate smells. The anti-slip surface also increases traction so you’re less likely to slide out of poses while you sweat it out in the studio.

You don’t have to be into hot yoga to use the GRP mat, either. The brand tells us that their newest product is appropriate for all types of sweat conditions, so you can use it for an unheated restorative class or a full-fledged Bikram practice. It all works.

RELATED: 3 Basic Yoga Poses You’ve Been Doing Wrong—and How to Fix Your Form

To buy: $98; manduka.com, dickssportinggoods.com, rei.com

If you’re thinking the GRP sounds too good to be true, I get it. I, too, was skeptical when I first heard about the product. But after taking a hot vinyasa/HIIT combo class hosted by Manduka last week, I can confidently say I’m convinced of the new mat’s mega powers.

Though I wasn’t drenched during the class—and thus can’t speak to its ultimate absorption abilities—I was more than a little taken with its undeniable quality. At 6mm thick, the mat felt sturdier than any other I’ve practiced on. With a bottom layer that basically suctioned itself to the studio floor, it didn’t budge, even as I burpeed my way through the HIIT portion of the class. The GRP’s subtly bumpy top layer also cushioned my hands and provided just enough grip to keep them supported and slip-free through my hot vinyasa flow. Translation: I was a big fan.

So, there you have it. My honest endorsement of Manduka’s newest creation. Yes, it’s pricier than your run of the mill mat, but I also think it’s worth the money. Plus, once you’ve worked out on the GRP, chances are you’ll never forget it at home…and inevitably have to pay the $5 mat rental fee at your fave studio. Just saying.

5 Crazy-Effective Crunch Variations

These moves come to you from four of our top Daily Burn 365 trainers. For a new, 30-minute workout every day, head to DailyBurn.com/365.

When it comes to the ultimate ab exercises, crunches top the list. From runners to yogis to CrossFit buffs, athletes favor this simple, no-equipment move to strengthen the abdominals, obliques and hips. But the basic move can become, well, routine. So to help you kick up your core game, we rounded up these killer crunch variations, guaranteed to tighten and tone your midsection. As Daily Burn 365 trainer Justin Rubin says, “Crunches work your obliques, your sides, your lower abs, your upper abs. It’s a total-core workout.”

RELATED: 5 Standing Ab Exercises for People Who Hate Crunches

5 Crunch Variations to Sculpt Your Abs

1. Modified Bicycle Crunch
If you have trouble keeping your legs lifted during a bicycle crunch, this modified version helps ease discomfort on your lower back and keeps your neck supported—all while toning your obliques. Your upper body will also benefit from a fuller range of motion as you move from one side to the other.

How to: Lay flat on your back on an exercise mat and place your hands behind your ears on your head, keeping your arms in a straight line (a). Lift your head with your hands in a 45-degree angle to the floor and bend your knees in front of you with just your heels touching the mat (toes pointed up) (b). Lift your right knee to about a 90-degree angle to the floor as you bring your left elbow to meet it. Now switch opposite sides with the same motion, engaging your core muscles the whole time (c). Repeat for eight reps.

RELATED: Hate Crunches? 6 Better Core Exercises for Beginners

2. Standing Crunch
Standing crunches are great as part of a dynamic warm-up because they activate the muscles in your abs, arms and legs while getting your heart rate up. But they’re also ideal for an active recovery mid-HIIT workout when you transition from one set to the next, or when you want to slow down your heart rate as you switch from cardio to strength training.

How to: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart (a). Bring your arms up with your hands reaching for the ceiling and your palms facing each other (b). Engage your core to lift your right knee to hip height. At the same time, lower your arms at your sides, bringing them by your waist (c). Return to starting position and repeat on the opposite side. (d). Do eight reps.

RELATED: 5 Stability Ball Exercises For a Crazy Strong Core

3. V-Sit Crunch
In addition to strengthening your core like crazy, this challenging move will help elongate your body. Did we mention it helps stretch your hamstrings, too? (We’re looking at you, runners!). If your hands can’t meet your legs, keep your feet flat on the floor and bend your knees as you lift your hands to your feet.

How to: Lie flat on the floor with your arms by your head and your hands reaching for the wall behind you. Keep your feet straight out in front of you (a). Engage your core as you lift your right leg straight up into the air, until it’s perpendicular to the floor (b). At the same time, pull your upper body toward your leg so your hands meet your ankle or shin (c). Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite leg. (d). Repeat for eight reps.

RELATED: The Pilates Ab Workout to Sculpt Your Core

4. Reverse Crunch
This variation of reverse crunches borrows the pulsating movements of barre with the bridge pose. The trick is to keep your upper body still as your core and lower body do the work. In this reverse crunch variation, the spine is also lengthened and strengthened (win-win!).

How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Your hands should be at your sides and your palms facing down (a). Press your feet against the floor and use your abdominal muscles to lift your hips up. Hold this pose for two seconds (b). Bring your hips back down to the floor and lift your legs as you pull your knees toward your chest. Avoid using momentum from your legs to pull them in and engage your core muscles instead (c). Hold the crunch for two seconds before bringing your feet back down to the floor (d). Do eight reps.

RELATED: Need a Cardio Fix? Try This 5-Minute Kickboxing Workout

5. Kickboxing Crunch
Add some pep and power to your standing crunch with this kickboxing-inspired move. For those looking to strengthen your balancing skills, this is the exercise for you. This kickboxing crunch offers the right combination of strength training and cardio, working out your core and arms while building endurance, too.

How to: Get into a kickboxing stance, standing tall with your hip-distance apart. Keep your left arm bent high at your side. (a). Jab with your right arm to the side from the bottom to the top. At the same time, engage your abs and do a squat. Then, pull your right knee towards your chest to do a crunch. (b). Next, kick with your right leg out in front of you with your hands at your sides (left arm bent high and right arm at waist-height). (c). Repeat this motion for eight reps before switching to the other side.

This article originally appeared on Daily Burn.

Want more quick and easy moves you can do right at home, head to DailyBurn.com/365 — it’s free for 30 days!

More from Daily Burn:

Daily Burn 365: New Workouts, 7 Days a Week
5 Exercise Machines That Aren’t Worth Your Time
5 Planks to Seriously Sculpt Your Core
This article originally appeared on Life by Daily Burn.

5 Power Lunges for Killer Glutes

These moves come to you from four top Daily Burn 365 trainers. For a new, 30-minute workout every day, head to DailyBurn.com/365.

Now that spring has finally sprung, you might be itching to run your first 5K or break a new personal record at your next half-marathon. While it’s true you need to mix up your paces to run faster, doing lower-body exercises, such as power lunges, helps you run more efficiently and carry you through longer runs. When you’re at the last leg of your race, your mind and heart will thank your hamstrings, glutes, and calves for helping you cross the finish line.

And that’s not all. If cardio isn’t your thing, lunges will bring the heat in other ways. Hello, mobility and power! Lunges will also help improve your coordination and balance since the move is broken down into single-leg components. Plus, you don’t need any equipment to fit these lower body moves in and reap the benefits.

“Lunges strengthen your lower body, including the glutes, hamstrings and calves,”says Daily Burn 365 trainer Gregg Cook. “But what makes lunges different from a squat that it challenges your balance. You have a broader base for support with a squat, but with a lunge, you have a split stance, which makes it inherently more difficult to balance,” he says. “Lunges are also more dynamic, and your body needs to re-adjust to absorb the body weight and figure out where it is in space.”

Here are some beginner-friendly power lunges to get started.

RELATED: 9 Reasons Not to Skip Leg Day

 5 Lunges for Stronger Legs and Glutes

GIF: Daily Burn 365

1. Lateral Lunges
If plyometric exercises put pressure on your knees, consider this side lunge, which helps strengthen the muscles around your knees and improves flexibility and hip mobility, too. These classic lateral lunges also help stretch your hamstrings (a godsend for runners), while engaging your core.

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands at your sides (a). Take a big step back with your right leg and land on the ball of your foot (b). Bring your hands together as you lower your body down to the floor while bending your knees. Make sure your right knee doesn’t touch the floor. Your left knee should form a 90-degree angle to the floor (c). Next, reverse your lunge and return to the starting position (d). Then, take a big step to your right and bend your knee as you lower your body and bring your hands together. Make sure your knee doesn’t extend past your right toes (e). Sit your hips back into the stretch and keep your left leg straight with your feet flat on the floor. Reverse your position and return to the starting position (f). Do eight reps of one reverse and lateral lunge on each leg before moving onto the other side.

RELATED: 5 Calorie-Blasting Cardio Exercises (No Treadmill Required!)

GIF: Daily Burn 365

2. Standing Split Lunge
Once you feel more comfortable with balancing on one leg, this standing split lunge is perfect for adding more pep into your step and transitioning into plyometric lunges. It’s also a great active stretch to warm up your body before a workout. You even engage your core muscles, while increasing your heart rate to boot.

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your hands at your sides (a). Take a big step back with your right leg and land on the ball of your foot (b). As you lower your body down to the floor, bring your right hand forward and your left hand back (c). Make sure your right knee hovers over the floor, and your left knee forms a 90-degree angle to the floor (d). Now, straighten your left leg and pop up to draw your right leg in front of you (e). Return to a reverse lunge and do eight reps before moving onto your left side.

RELATED: The 12 Move Total-Body Workout: The Daily Burn Dozen

GIF: Daily Burn 365

3. Pendulum Lunges
This variation challenges your balance and coordination further by applying more pressure on one set of muscles at a time. And while this one is performed without weights, as you get stronger, you can consider adding dumbbells.

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands at your hips (a). Take a big step forward with your right leg, and lower your body down to the ground, bending your right knee to form a 90-degree angle to the floor (b). Once you’ve lowered your body to the floor, clasp your hands under your right thigh. Hold this position for a few seconds before unclasping your hands and returning to standing position (c). Now, take a step back with your right leg to do a reverse lunge, clasping your hands under your left thigh (d). Reverse your lunge and return to the starting position (e). Do eight pendulum lunges on each side.

RELATED: The 7 Best Strength Exercises You’re Not Doing

4. Lunge to Back Hand
These pulsing lunges train your glutes in a new way, while activating your arm muscles as well. We don’t use dumbbells in this exercise, but you can work your way up to incorporating weights or a body bar.

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your arms at each sides shoulder height (a). Take a big step back with your right leg and land on the ball of your foot (b). As you lower your body to the floor and pulse your right leg, bring your arms forward, crossing your arms out in front of you (c). Do eight reps on each side.

RELATED: 5 Strength Training Moves to Help You Run Faster

GIF: Daily Burn 365

5. Plyo Lunges
A perfect combination of cardio and strength, these plyometric lunges get your heart rate up while toning your muscles and burning fat. In this variation, we pause to do a lunge after two jumps.

How to: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hands at your sides. Step your right foot back and your left foot in front (a). Lower your body to the ground, keeping your right knee bent and your left knee perpendicular to the ground (b). Scissor jump your legs twice and land with your right foot in front and your left foot is behind. Be sure to land with both knees bent to provide you with support (c). Three sets of eight reps.

Want more quick and easy moves you can do right at home, head to DailyBurn.com/365 — it’s free for 30 days!

This article originally appeared on DailyBurn.com.

More from Daily Burn:

5 Beginner-Friendly CrossFit Workouts

The 50 Best Half-Marathons in the U.S.

7 No-Crunch Exercises for Six-Pack Abs
This article originally appeared on Life by Daily Burn.

My CrossFit Transformation Was Much More Drastic Than I Expected–But Not for the Reason You’d Think

My CrossFit Transformation Was Much More Drastic Than I Expected–But Not for the Reason You’d Think

Most people start CrossFit because they’re looking to lose weight, or get stronger, or get into the best shape of their life. Having played rugby in college, taught Zumba, finished a marathon, and taken up bodybuilding, for me, CrossFit wasn’t about the physical promises. I joined a CrossFit box (as the gyms are called) because I needed a job.

I moved to New York for what was, at the time, my dream job. But six months in, I called my mother sobbing. I’d just been given notice that the company would be letting me go in two weeks’ time. The eager post-grad haze had worn off, I was no longer certain I had chosen the right career field, and I was hit with a wave of loneliness.

After living in the city for half a year, I’d failed to make any friends. Late nights at the office had taken precedence over happy hours and girl-gang hangs. And because I’d often gotten off work late, instead of sampling New York’s fitness class scene, I’d opted for a 24-hour big box gym. There, I’d do some bicep curls, walk on the stairmaster, and after about an hour, flex, take some mirror selfies, and leave.

RELATED: 25 Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Now, here I was, bummed out, wishing for pals to vent to about my impending unemployment, and in serious need of pulling together work. So when I saw on Instagram that a Manhattan box, ICE NYC, was hiring a front desk social media manager, I applied.

I’d talked (or at least, thought) trash about CrossFit in the past, even though if I’m being totally honest with myself, I had no reason to. But I guess there was a part of me that was a little intrigued with the whole CrossFit phenomenon and the community it promised.

My first interview took place directly following a class. Having arrived super-early, I caught the tail end of the workout and watched as the athletes congratulated each other and brought it in for a cheer. The ethos of the group reminded me of my time playing rugby in college: The coach was treated with respect, the team was determined and focused, and the athletes followed an implicit “No One Left Behind” policy.

While the promise of barbells alone couldn’t convince me to try CrossFit, watching a class and talking with the gym’s owner about community, fitness, and joining the two could.

After my interview, the owner called to let me know that if I tried CrossFit and liked it, he’d hire me. So I signed up for a class the very next morning. I thought taking a CrossFit class would be like updating my LinkedIn, flossing my teeth, or eating greens: a necessary evil.

Turns out, CrossFit is not a thing you just walk in and out of every once in a while. If it sticks, it sticks real good.

I’ve changed plenty since I was originally hired at the box. For one, I switched to a part-time role so that I could pursue a fitness writing career, but I still work out there and consider the box my home. Twelve months since joining the ICE NYC CrossFit community I can safely say the sport has changed my life. Here’s how.

RELATED: 7 Things to Know Before Trying CrossFit

It’s cliché, but patience is a serious virtue

Most boxes have an on-ramp process that involves learning the ropes (and basic barbell lifts and bodyweight movements), but because I had weightlifting experience from my collegiate days I was allowed to pass over those sessions. (If you’re thinking about joining a box, take advantage of these offerings; I regret missing the learning opportunity). Even though I had fitness experience, it still took a long time to figure out what the heck I was doing.

CrossFit defines itself as constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensities, and that constantly varied part… it’s a lot. There’s the snatch, and then there’s the power snatch. There’s also a hang power snatch, and a hang squat snatch.

This variety is part of what makes it fun; you get to try so. many. different. things! But that also means there’s an unending stream of things to learn. The go-go-go New Yorker in me loved the exhaustive list of exercises, but the athlete in me felt overwhelmed by the variety.

I had to learn to be patient with myself and my body. If I forgot the difference between a hang, a squat, and a power clean, I had to learn to ask. If I couldn’t string together more than a few pull-ups, I had to ask for drills that would help me be able to… eventually. I gave myself permission to not know what the heck I was doing, and then developed the patience necessary to be okay with the learning curve.

Winning isn’t everything

My position in rugby was wing, which is the position that scores. Racking up points for my team was my job, and when I failed to do my job well, a loss for the team was usually the outcome. I love winning, and I brought that love of winning to CrossFit. “Finish first” was my motto.

And sometimes I did. Sometimes I’d take the top of the leaderboard on a bodyweight WOD (which stands for workout of the day), and I’d smile smugly, feeling proud. But then the next day, I’d have a workout with heavy barbells, and no amount of willpower would allow me to lift the barbell and lift it quickly while keeping good form.

A few conversations with my head coach helped me realize that my competitive spirit will help bring results for any goal, but that when it comes to heavy lifting, there’s a cardinal rule: Technique first, consistency second, and intensity last. “I love how competitive you are and how eager you are to learn and get better,” she told me. “My advice to you: There’s no rush. CrossFit isn’t going anywhere. Take it slow, learn, work hard, trust the process. You’ll end up where you’re supposed to be.”

Rest days aren’t a sign of weakness

When it comes to getting stronger, you need two things: First, you need to work your muscles, which causes little tears in the muscle fibers. Then, your muscles need to repair themselves, which is a process that requires rest.

Before CrossFit, I would go to the gym six to seven times a week. I stuck to that same schedule when I started CrossFit. I often went seven days a week because it was all so new and fun. My workouts lasted an hour, but sometimes I’d join some of the CrossFit vets for an additional workout afterward. Surprise, surprise: I got an overtraining injury.

Six days of heavy weights and intense intervals every week is too much, and I probably would have gotten stronger faster if I had stuck to just four or five days a week and actually given my body the time it needed to recover between sessions.

The mind is a muscle that needs to be trained

Anyone can do CrossFit: The workouts are scalable, which means that people of all fitness levels can come to a box and do the workout of the day. But CrossFit is no joke. When it comes to barbells, box jumps, and burpees, you need more than physical strength. You need mental toughness.

If you want to achieve your best performance on a workout, you must be willing to suffer–we call it “finding the pain cave.” When you’re trying to snag a personal best, your body and mind work against you. But the pain cave is a place where I’m forced to ask myself just how much I’m willing to give to reach my goals.

Building the toughness necessary to endure the pain cave isn’t as easy as dropping to the floor and cranking out 20 push-ups. It takes work to get your brain to a point where it is willing to push longer and harder than it ever has before–and to know when to tone down the intensity. During my first year of CrossFit, I had to train my brain every single day through practices like journaling, meditation, and breathing exercises.

You don’t need to switch your eating habits to match your friends

Paleo. Whole30. IIFYM. Before these diets went mainstream, CrossFitters were jazzed on them. Until I started CrossFit, I didn’t realize the nuances of these diets.

I’ve dipped my toes in the waters of all of these diets for anywhere from a week to a month, and I always come out thinking the same thing: They’re just not worth it to me! Counting macros may work for certain goals, but it is hella time consuming, and it made me obsessed with food.

Similarly, while I liked the Paleo diet (and it’s even stricter cousin Whole30) in theory–lots of veggies, protein, healthy fats, some fruit, and no grains or dairy sounded okay–in practice, I became a hangry monster. Basically, cutting out all grains and added sugars meant that I ate fewer carbs, and carbs are really important when you’re exercising regularly.

While I thought trying out my friends’ eating habits would be a fun bonding activity, it always just ends up making me grumpy.

Abs really are made in the kitchen

A month into my stunt as a CrossFitter, I had the flattest stomach I’d had up until that point. Which meant I had a new-found confidence to strut around the gym in my sports bra after every sweat sesh.

But while I looked good, I was getting tired four hours into my workday and didn’t have the energy I used to. Could I have mono a second time? Why was this happening?

My coach guessed it: I was under-eating. My go-to meals and daily intake hadn’t changed after I’d joined CrossFit, and I wasn’t giving myself the fuel I needed to power through–and then recover from–the high-intensity workouts.

With a little guidance from the coaches in my gym and phone calls with a nutritionist, I revved up my breakfasts to include more protein and complex carbohydrates (wahoo for sweet and nutty overnight oats!) and made a point to have a snack between lunch and dinner. Suddenly my energy levels shot back up–and my abs have only gotten more defined.

RELATED: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

CrossFitters make great friends

CrossFit isn’t just special for its high intensity and unique lingo; there’s also a surprising level of camaraderie. I used to think that made CrossFit a cult, but it’s way more accurate to simply call it what it is: a community.

People usually work out at the same time every evening, so you end up spending five to seven hours a week with the same crew of 20 who are similarly interested in health and fitness.

While the concept of breaking a sweat with someone as relationship-building is not unique to CrossFit, in CrossFit “working out” really means something much more specific. It means changing your life and the lives of those you sweat alongside; it means being pushed physically harder than you’ve ever been pushed with a group; and it means calloused high fives, fist pumps, and even sweaty group hugs.

Candace Cameron Bure Claps Back at Troll After Getting Body Shamed for Her Weight

Candace Cameron Bure Claps Back at Troll After Getting Body Shamed for Her Weight

Candace Cameron Bure isn’t here for people’s negative comments about her weight.

Responding to a comment left on a sweet picture of the 42-year-old Fuller House star cuddling up with her 18-year-old son Lev, Bure spoke out against an Instagram user who left a body shaming comment about her figure.

“All that excercising [sic] and you still look like you weigh more than your husband, did you change your diet?” the social media user wrote in a comment found by the @commentsbycelebs Instagram account, which seemingly mistook Bure’s 18-year-old son for her husband of over 20 years, Valeri Bure.

Although Bure chose not to correct the social media user on that point, she did speak out against their body-shaming  comment.

“If a 25 inch waist looks big to you … then you’re looking through an altered lens. Be well,” she wrote.

RELATED: Candace Cameron Bure Is in Her Best Shape at 40: ‘I Feel the Most Fit and Strong That I’ve Ever Felt in My Life’

The Fuller House star previously told PEOPLE that she “feels the most fit and strong that I’ve ever felt in my life.”

In addition to fitting in workouts whenever possible, which can consist of anything from “a 20-minute workout a couple of times a week, or an hour five times a week,” the actress attributes her toned physique to the healthy diet she follows.

“I eat a very plant and grain-based diet,” she said. “I follow a more Mediterranean diet, so I eat lots of fresh vegetables and whole grains and fish. I don’t eat dairy very often, and I’ve cut most of the sugar out of my diet — I see the biggest effect from not eating as much sugar.”

RELATED: Candace Cameron Bure on Her Struggles with Bulimia: ‘It Was Never About the Weight, It Was an Emotional Issue’

While Bure has been open about struggling with bulimia when she was younger, she has recovered from it.

“It’s something that I’m always aware of and that I do think about, but having been healthy for so many years, it’s not something I have to think about on a daily basis,” she remarked. “It’s not something that I struggle with anymore. I really found my joy in fitness, and then as I get older I’ve just been fine-tuning my diet and I enjoy eating what makes my body feel the best.”

“I feel a real sense of accomplishment about what my body can still do, and I want to keep it in shape and keep it strong for so many years that are ahead of me,” she told PEOPLE. “You kind of take your body for granted when you’re younger, so the older I get the prouder I am of the things I’m able to do with it.”

The 8 Best Back Exercises for Those Hard-to-Tone Muscles

The 8 Best Back Exercises for Those Hard-to-Tone Muscles

Back fat, bra bulge … whatever you call it, it’s frustratingly stubborn. What’s more: Your desk job can actually mess with your efforts to sculpt your rear view, says Ideen Chelengar, a master instructor and Tier 3+ trainer at Equinox Sports Club Boston. That’s because when you sit hunched over all day, the way your shoulder blades function during exercise can change—and it may become even tougher to target your upper-middle back. Read: Ugh.

Of course, even if you were targeting those muscles properly, exercise alone wouldn’t blast away back fat: “In reality, losing fat comes down to your diet more than exercise,” Chelengar points out. But a challenging fitness routine—one that combines cardio and resistance training—plays a key role as well. And the benefits of back workouts go way beyond weight loss.

For starters, training your back the right way can actually help combat “computer posture.” It can also help balance out your body, Chelengar adds, since “[w]e tend to use our shoulders and chest muscles more often than our back muscles.”

So next time you hit the gym, try these eight moves and start building up strength in those hard-to-tone spots.

Thoracic Spine Extension

Start with knees on a pad, 1 to 2 feet away from a bench. Prop elbows on the bench. Sit back into hips (similar to how you would in Child’s Pose). With elbows propped and hips bent, drive chest toward ground. From here, keeping chest down, lift head up as high as possible. Then tuck chin down as though trying to lengthen neck. While keeping chest down, drive back of neck toward ceiling. You should feel this in middle of back, between shoulder blades. You may also feel some tightness through upper arm and armpits. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Why it works: When you live your days hunched, your shoulders don’t function as they should, making it tricky to target that lower trap and rhomboid area everyone wants to tone, says Chelengar. The first step to hitting those areas? Teaching your body how to extend from the thoracic spine and not the lumbar spine, he says. This move does that.

Cross Band

Start on back with arms up and hips, knees, and ankles at 90 degrees. Cross a resistance band around soles of feet so that right arm is pulling at left foot and vice versa. Start by reaching right arm as far as possible overhead. While you reach, make sure your legs stay still, ribs stay down, and that subtle arch in low back is unchanged. Bring right arm back to center. Switch sides. Complete 2 sets of 15 to 25 reps.

Why it works: “Maintaining proper posture is key to getting the middle-back muscles involved, and that means getting your core to participate,” says Chelengar. “This is a great way to teach your body the relationship between your arms and spine.”

RELATED: This Is Tracy Anderson’s Go-To Arm Workout

Back-to-Wall Band Vertical Retraction

Pull band lightly apart, maintain that tension. Press arms up and down making sure forearms stay vertical and wrists stay over elbows. Band can be in front or behind head. Complete 2 sets of 15 to 25 reps.

Why it works: This exercise teaches your body proper shoulder blade rhythm during a vertical pulling motion, says Chelengar. “I like using walls for feedback on your posture. Be aware of the subtle curve in your lower back and make sure you don’t hyperextend.”

Dead Lift

Start with bar in-line with boney part of ankles. With soft knees and flat back, push hips back until you can reach bar without rounding back. (If you still can’t reach, add more knee bend until you can.) Build tension in torso by squeezing shoulder blades together and down. Maintain a broad chest but tight core, drive through feet and push hips forward. (The subtle curves in back shouldn’t change at all through the movement.) If torso maintains stiffness, this forward movement will lift the bar from the ground. Complete 3 to 5 sets of 4 to 10 reps.

Why it works: But wait—deadlifts shouldn’t work my back, you’re thinking. And you’re right! “Proper dead lift is driven by your glutes and hamstrings,” notes Chelengar. “However, to actually move the weight, the horizontal movement of your hips has to be transferred to vertical movement of the bar through a stiff back and core.” There are few better ways to test your ability to maintain a good posture than the dead lift. Voila!

RELATED: 7 Moves to Tighten Your Core From Celebrity Trainer Anna Kaiser 

Bent Over Row with Horizontal Band Resistance

Set up light resistance band pulling at right arm from left side, perpendicular to torso. Wrap band around weight or wrist. Focus on keeping shoulder blades down as you pull. Leave about a fist-sized gap between elbow and ribs. Pull from elbow, not hand. Don’t rock torso. Stop at midline. Complete 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Why it works: This move is a difficult twist to your standard horizontal row, says Chelengar. “By adding the horizontal band resistance, you increase activation of the posterior deltoid—one of the hard-to-hit muscles on the backside of your shoulder.”

Vertical Pull

Legs should stay straight and still, ribs down. Retract shoulder blades (imagine pulling them into back pockets), and focus on keeping shoulders away from ears. Elbows should stay right under wrists, and you pull collarbone directly to the bar. If you find yourself hiking up at shoulders, add some assistance (or lower the weight if you’re doing lat pull downs). Control the descent. Complete 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Why it works: This might be a basic move but many people miss their middle back muscles through slight faults in technique, says Chelengar. Doing this move right targets the back spot-on.

Face Pull

Pull rope to face with high elbows. At the end, keep elbows up and try to rotate arms open as much as you can, as though pointing at glutes with thumbs. Keep chest broad and ribs down. Complete 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Why it works: This exercise helps you work on retraction and external rotation—movements that are key for proper function and strength-building, notes Chelengar.

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Single-Arm Overhead Carry

Start with a single weight in hand at shoulder. Think about pressing weight up with shoulder, not hand. Reach up and get arm in line with ear. Keep chest up and ribs down. Upper back on the loaded side should be tight. Walk slowly forward maintaining a strong posture. Complete 3 rounds of 20 yards.

Why it works: “Being able to press a weight overhead required good scapula function, a stable spine, and a strong upper back,” says Chelengar. “The single arm overhead carry tests your ability to press and maintain that press under load.” If you do it right, you should feel your upper back just as much as your shoulder.

The Full-Body Strength Move That Helped Blake Lively Lose 61 Lbs. After Giving Birth

The Full-Body Strength Move That Helped Blake Lively Lose 61 Lbs. After Giving Birth

The blonde beauty recently revealed that heading back to the gym after giving birth to her second baby helped her shed 61 pounds. One move she relied on: the Single-Arm Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift. “With this movement, you’re balancing on one leg, causing your hip to have to stabilize, as well as working the back, glutes, hamstrings, and core,” says Lively’s trainer, Don Saladino, owner of Drive 495 in New York City.

Stand tall with feet together and a dumbbell or kettlebell in right hand at thigh and left arm out to side for balance. Hinge at hips, lowering torso until almost parallel to floor as you lift right leg behind you, toes facing down. The weight should travel straight down in front of right leg. Return to start and repeat. Aim for 2–3 sets of 8–10 reps per leg, three times a week.