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Strength and Grace--An East Meets West Exercise Combo

Fitness expert Minna Lessig has chosen to focus on two key elements in exercise--strength and grace in a workout video bearing that very title. Minna is here to demonstrate some of the combinations from that video, which is part of her new "Optimizer" series.

Her video "Strength and Grace," is East meets West with a workout that blends Eastern Yoga with Western strength exercises. The "Grace" is the fluidity of the movement.

The goal is to strengthen and lengthen the muscles. This workout combines strengthening and toning which is a combo you don't get in other types of workouts. For example, in step classes or circuit classes, you don't stretch in the middle of class. You stretch in the beginning and maybe at the end but for the most part, stretching and flexibility isn't emphasized.

Don't be fooled by the name of this workout. It can be very difficult to do, even for accomplished athletes. That being said, "Strength and Grace" would be a great complimentary workout to intense cardio exercise like stair climbing or running. Any time you do one type of movement for exercise over and over -- like stepping on a stair master -- you need to work out your muscle tension. This routine is especially helpful for weightlifters who might not be working on flexibility.

People should do this workout three to five times a week. The frequency depends on your fitness level. If you are in shape, you can do this five times a week. But, you're going to get sore in areas of your body that you're not used to working. "Strength and Grace" is also good for beginners (those who don't normally exercise) who want to lose weight. It will raise your heart rate because there are no breaks; you move from one stretch or pose to the next without stopping. If you want more cardio, add power walking to your workout regime.

What We're Doing:

  1. SKI SQUAT/CHAIR COMBO - Start out doing squats with your legs closed. Then go into the yoga chair pose. While holding this pose, go into a wrap. This combo strengthens your lower body and stretches your upper body.

  2. REVERSE LUNGES AND WARRIOR I COMBO - Start on one side doing reverse lunges. Then, hold a Warrior I yoga pose. While holding the Warrior I, flex your torso forward and then lift back up. This stretches your shoulders and strengthens the abs, lower back and gluts. For a more advanced "killer" glut workout, try drags. A drag is to put all of your weight on your front foot. Then, drag your back foot up to meet that front foot.

  3. PLANK COMBO - Go into the top of a push-up and then lower halfway down. Once there, go into a cobra pose. Next, push back up to the plank position then into the downward dog yoga pose. This combo conversely stretches your backside and strengthens your front, and vice versa.

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