05/30/2013 11:40 am ET Updated Mar 19, 2015

Home Exercises You Can Do While You Watch TV


By Corrie Pikul

You always say you're going to do 200 crunches every time The Bachelorette comes on, but you barely make it through 20 before relaxing on the floor. These made-for-multitasking routines will keep you going until the credits roll.

1. The Routine That Makes You Appreciate Your Favorite Sitcom Even More

You can use a character's predictability to remind you to keep you moving -- sort of like a college drinking game, but with squats instead of shots. Love New Girl? Try this circuit workout from Mike Donavanik, a Los Angeles–based personal trainer and the creator of the Extreme Burn DVD series. Every time Schmidt says something offensively lame (which happens so frequently that his roommate have started a "douchebag jar"), use that as a cue to do one exercise for one minute. Donavanik recommends alternating upper and lower body moves: Start with push-ups, then squats, then tricep dips, then lunges. Finish with crunches. Keep cycling through these five exercises for the entire 30-minute show.

2. Strengthen Your Arms Without Ever Leaving The Couch

Tricep dips tone the muscles on the backside of your upper arms, Donavanik says, and the only piece of equipment you need is a sturdy piece of furniture. Position your hands on the couch on either side of your hips, and scoot your bottom off the edge of your seat. Your legs should be bent, with your feet placed hip-width apart on the floor. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your upper body until your arms are at a 90-degree angle (keep your back close to the couch). Straighten your arms and return to the starting position. Don't worry about counting; just do as many as you can, then rest. Repeat three to four times. While you should definitely feel the burn in this position, Donavanik says you can make this even more challenging by extending both legs straight in front of you or putting them up on a coffee table.

3. The Cardio Workout For When You Can't Be Bothered To Get Up

A portable pedal bike (which costs between $30 and $150) allows you to exercise in the comfort of your La-Z-Boy. These mini machines are much cheaper and take up less room than a stationary bike, treadmill or ski machine, but you have to be strategic to get your heart rate up. Skip steady-state cycling (which is easy to phone in) and do intervals instead. Start with a five-minute warm-up at easy resistance. Adjust the knob until turning the pedals takes moderate effort. Then do one minute of fast, intense pedaling, then one minute of easy -- and keep that up for the duration of the 30-minute program. (You can also take an "active recovery" during commercials by easing up on the resistance).

4. The Moves To Do When You Can't Take Your Eyes Off The Screen

Look away from Mad Men for one minute and you'll miss a symbolic detail or a key facial expression (or possibly a rare glimpse of Jon Hamm's bare torso). For these situations, Chicago-based personal trainer Traci D. Mitchell recommends wall squats, which she says strengthen the front and sides of the quads as well as the glutes. Keeping your upper back against a wall facing the television, take a big step forward. Sink down until you feel like you're sitting in a straight-back chair, with both thighs parallel to the ground. Mitchell likes to do pyramids: hold the squat for 10 seconds, then rest for a minute or so; hold for 20 seconds, then rest again. Keep lengthening the intervals until you get to 40 seconds, then take it back down (squat for 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 seconds). To work the shoulders at the same time, Mitchell says to extend your arms and lift them to shoulder height with each squat.

5. An Ab Workout You'll Actually Finish (And Feel)

The first rule, Mitchell says, is to stay off the floor -- that position makes it too tempting to grab a few cushions and stretch out. Instead of crunches, she recommends oblique twists that you can do while standing. Grab a heavy object, like a gallon of milk or water, and hold it with both hands. Plant your feet shoulder-width apart, tighten your core and extend your arms in front of you. While keeping your hips stable, rotate your torso and arms to the left, then back to center. Rotate to the right, and back to center. Do three sets of 20 reps.



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