The full-body workout that stretches *and* tones at the same time


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Photo: Getty Images/ yulkapopkova

I like to feed two birds with one scone—always. While I do it with multi-tasking beauty products and eating prunes (because, ya know), my workouts are my favorite avenue to combine steps. That’s why I opt for things like resistance band sequences for better posture and yin yoga for emotional release. Now, thanks to the legendary at-home fitness instructor Denise Austin, I’m all about workouts that tone as they stretch.

Austin has been teaching this fitness modality for the past 30 years (which you may or may not have seen on TV). “I always had a segment called ‘tone and stretch,’ and these have always been the most popular because it’s two workouts done in one,” says Austin. “When you’re stretching and toning the body, it happens to work on balancing your body.” How could something so genius exist, you may ask? “It’s one of the easiest ways to work out that’s simple on your joints,” Austin tells me. “That’s why I love it—anyone can do it, and it’s a complement to a tougher, more cardio-based workout.”

The multi-tasking effect happens in opposites—when you’re working on strengthening one side of your body, the opposite side of the muscle gets stretched (in Austin’s workouts, at least). “The opposite muscle’s the one being stretched,” she explains. “As an example, when you’re doing a butt lift on your hands and knees and lifting one leg straight up, you’re stretching through the quadricep and groin area as well as toning your butt and hamstrings. So in each exercise, there’s a counterbalance.” Ready to try it out?

Try Austin’s 5-move stretching and toning workout

1. Walking lunges: Lunges, but get them movin’. Step out with one foot, knee over your ankle, back up straight. “When you do a lunge, you’re also stretching through your quadriceps and hip flexors, and when you walk forward you’re continuing to tone and stretch,” says Austin.

2. Walking plank: This one’s kind of like mountain climbers, but you’re lifting one knee into your chest at a time without the speed. “Hold a plank pose, and at the same time, pull in one knee up towards your chest, so you’re targeting your abdominals while getting a nice length and stretch for the lower back,” she says.

3. Tricep-overhead press: Take a dumbbell at your preferred weight, sit on the edge of a seat or a bench, and use both hands to extend your arms up behind and over your head while keeping your shoulders together. “A tricep-overhead press is stretching your muscles through the triceps while strengthening them at the same time,” says Austin.

4. T-stand: While standing up straight, feet hip-width distance apart, extend one leg behind you so that your weight is concentrated onto the opposite leg. Then, extend both arms down to the floor. Alternate sides. “Doing this is lengthening through the arms and shoulders, but you’re also getting a hip, thighs, and side body stretch,” says Austin.

5. Superman: Lying down on your stomach, arms and legs out straight, lift your chest up while squeezing your glutes. “I like to call this a back extension,” says Austin. “It’s targeting the muscles of your back, strengthening it and the spinal muscles, and opening up through the clavicle. So you’re stretching through the ab area while opening up the chest and back.” And now you’re going to feel like a million bucks.

BTW, here’s why flexibility is important (it’s not just for the sake of touching your toes). And let me introduce you to the clock rug stretch, a full-body stretch from… a clown. 

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