Pete McCall by Pete McCall

This year’s Halloween workout is comprised of exercises contributed by several ACE Certified Professionals. The exercises are challenging, fun and provide important benefits such as burning calories and improving strength. Plus, these exercises are completely safe as long as you take the time to learn and practice the movements before doing a high number of reps or adding extra weight. As you are learning these moves, focus on controlling the range of motion. When you’re ready to increase the intensity, either use more weight, perform more repetitions or move at a faster tempo. Start slow, take it easy and, where possible, practice the move without weight before adding external resistance.

To make this, or any workout, more metabolically challenging, follow an AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) format. Your goal is to perform the number of reps for each exercise in the circuit and see how many times you can complete the circuit in 12 minutes. Note that metabolic just means the focus of the workout is on energy production as opposed to building strength training or increasing muscle-force production.

The Workout

Anterior Lunge With Reach for Foot
Keeping the back leg straight during this exercise causes the spine to bend to complete the move, but keeping the heel on the floor while moving from the hip helps protect the spine and applies a tensile force to the hamstring and adductor muscles. Lengthening the fascia and elastic connective tissues is an effective way to strengthen them against potential strain injuries.

Stand with both feet hip-width apart while holding one dumbbell in each hand. Step forward with the right leg; keep the left heel on the floor and hinge from the hips to reach toward the right foot with the dumbbells. To return to standing, push the right foot into the floor while straightening the spine and come back to a tall posture. Alternate legs for a total of eight reps on each side.

Beast to Kick-through (contributed by Monica Ammann, ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor, Carlsbad, Calif.)

In mythology, a beast can be a frightening monster bent on destruction. When it comes to exercise, however, “beast” simply means being in a quadruped position with the hands and feet on the floor.

To perform this movement, begin with the hands directly under the shoulders and the knees under the hips so that you are resting on the toes with the knees off of the floor. Keep the spine long and straight as you push he hands into the floor to rock back into the hips. Next, shift forward and lift the left hand as you kick the right leg across the body so that you are resting on the right hand and left foot with the hips off of the floor. Pull the right leg back, place the left hand on the floor, lift up the right hand and kick the left leg across the body. After kicking each leg across the body, rest on your hands and feet, and shift back into the hips to start the next rep. Perform eight reps one each side of the body. Note: this exercise may be too intense for anyone who has previous shoulder injuries, mobility issues or pain.

Reverse Lunge to Single-leg Romanian Deadlift (contributed by Abbie Appel, ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer, Boca Raton, Fla.)

This exercise is excellent for improving both strength and mobility on one leg at a time while using the hamstrings, adductors, gluteal complex and deep core stabilizers.

Balance on the left foot while holding a dumbbell in the right hand. Step backward with the right foot and lean forward slightly as you lower yourself down. At the bottom of the move (do not let the right knee actually hit the floor), press the left foot into the floor to pull yourself back up as you swing the right leg forward. When you are back in the standing position, keep the left knee slightly bent as you hinge forward while keeping your spine long. Lower yourself to a comfortable point (keep the spine straight to focus the movement into the hip muscles; if your spine starts to bend, you’ve gone too far). Pull he right leg back down to return to standing to complete the move. Tip: As you hinge forward on the left hip, keep the spine straight to control the movement. Complete six to eight reps on the left leg and then switch legs.

Push-ups With Hands on Stability Ball
This exercise can help improve strength in your upper body and deep spinal stabilizers.

For best results, use a stability ball that is properly inflated. If the top of the ball is considered the 12 o’clock position, place your hands at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions, with the center of your chest right over the top of the ball and your feet about shoulder width apart. Squeeze the sides of the ball with both hands and press your feet into the floor (like doing a toe-raise). Perform as many push-ups as you can with good form. Once you can no longer maintain a long spine or your hips start to drop, you’re finished.

The TRX Inverted Row (contributed by Irene Lewis McCormick, ACE Certified Health Coach, Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, and Master Trainer for TRX, Akeny, Iowa)

This exercise is effective for strengthening the upper body and core muscles.

Hold the handles so that the hands are facing each other. Walk forward until your chest is almost directly under the anchor point. Squeeze the thigh muscles to keep the legs straight and press the backs of the heels into the floor. Keep both elbows close to your body so that they brush past the rib cage as you pull yourself up toward the anchor point. Pause at the top and slowly lower yourself back down. Perform as many reps as you can with good form; the set is over as soon as your hips drop or your grip starts to fatigue.

Kettlebell Windmill (contributed by Keli Roberts, ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer, and Master Trainer for Schwinn Indoor Cycling, Pasadena, Calif.)

When performed correctly, this exercise is an effective move for improving hip mobility while strengthening the muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine.

Stand with your feet placed so that the left foot is at the 12 o’clock position and the right foot is at the 4 o’clock position (the toes of both feet should be pointed in the same direction). Hold a kettlebell in the left hand so that it is resting along the inside of he left thigh; hold he right arm straight up in the air. Keep the spine long and turn to look at the right hand as you push the right hip back so that you are hinging forward at the hips (the movement should be from the hip joints and the lumbar spine should remain straight). Allow the weight to lower along the inside of your left leg. When you can’t lower yourself any further, press both feet into the floor and push the hips forward to return to standing. Perform six reps and then switch sides.

To progress the intensity of this movement, hold the kettlebell in the arm extended into the air. To make the exercise more demanding for your grip and forearm muscles, hold the kettlebell in an inverted, bottom-up position by gripping the handle tightly so that the bottom of the weight is facing up toward the ceiling.

The Ickey-shuffle (contributed by Amy Dixon, ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor and director of Group Fitness Programming for Equinox, Santa Monica, Calif.)

Maintaining proper body position during this exercise places the force of the movement in the lateral muscles of the hip and thigh, which will help protect the knee.

Stand with the feet hip-width apart. Push off with the left foot as you pull with the right foot to move to the right (a lateral shuffle is a combination of pushing and pulling with the feet). Shuffle three times to the right and pause on the right leg to hold a single leg balance for two to three seconds. Next, push off with the right foot to shuffle to he left three times before balancing on the left leg. Perform eight balances with each leg.

Yes, some of these exercises are quite challenging, but as long as you are using proper form and allowing time to learn the movement before increasing the intensity, you can expect to achieve the benefits with a very low risk of injury. Whether you are trying these, or any other moves, here are some general guidelines for making any exercise less scary:

  • Keep your spine long. When your spine is extended, it can rotate more efficiently and you have more control of your hips.
  • Move from your hips. Whether you are hinging forward or rotating, make sure that the movement comes from your hips, not your spine.
  • To increase activation of your core muscles, press the feet firmly into the floor, like you are trying to push the floor away from you, and grip the weight tightly. Engaging the hands and feet can help improve activation of your deep core muscles.

Remember that exercise is physical stress applied to the body. If the stress is applied the wrong way—too much, too quickly or too frequently—it could cause injury. However, when the stress is applied the right way, it can lead to desired physiological changes such as weight loss, muscle gain or an improved physical appearance. And no one is scared of that.

For other ways to scare away Halloween calories, check out these recommendations here, here and here.