Some people swear by ballet boot camp or sweaty yoga sessions, but which workout really delivers the best full-body results? Before you invest in the next fitness craze, see how five pros measure up
Just because someone has an enviable six-pack or attacks the elliptical machine at the gym with compulsive zeal doesn't automatically mean they're in top condition. When it comes to working out, it's all about the total package. "We're looking at a combination of endurance, strength, power, and flexibility — not just how far you can run or how much you can lift," says Polly de Mille, an exercise physiologist at NYC's Hospital for Special Surgery, where we tested the five women featured here. "Each component is a snapshot of how efficiently your body is functioning, so scoring high in every category will give us a winner," she explains. Read on to see how our runner, yogi, boxer, ballerina, and biker rank.
NAME: Kimberly Strother
WEIGHT: 124 pounds
WORKOUT ROUTINE: Runs between five and 12 miles every day and swims a mile at least once a week.
BODY COMPOSITION: 13 percent body fat with a body mass index (BMI) of 19.4. (For women in their 20s and 30s, having between 21 and 23 percent body fat is considered normal.)
AEROBIC CAPACITY: Scored a 44 (90th percentile for 30- to 39-year-old women) on her VO2 Max test, which measures the amount of oxygen that the heart and lungs can deliver to the muscles. Generally, the more fit you are, the more oxygen you can pump through your body when you exercise and the higher your VO2 Max number is.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH: 12 crunches and 37 push-ups consecutively before hitting a wall.
POWER: 14-inch vertical jump.
FLEXIBILITY: 19.3 inches on the sit-and-reach test (which measures how far you can stretch over straight legs).
THE VERDICT: No gym? No problem! Strother's cross-country running regimen — which has produced a bod of lean muscle mass, good flexibility, and solid upper-body strength — is the perfect (and free!) workout for building cardio strength and burning calories. Supplement jogs with core-strengthening moves like crunches or planks to ensure total body conditioning.
NAME: Lucie Basamanowicz
WEIGHT: 125 pounds
WORKOUT ROUTINE: In addition to teaching power vinyasa yoga, she takes two to three 90-minute classes daily and adds cardio workouts on the elliptical machine for at least 30 minutes five days a week.
BODY COMPOSITION: 15 percent body fat with a BMI of 17.9.
AEROBIC CAPACITY: VO2 Max of 43, which is in the 75th percentile for women between the ages of 20 and 29.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH: 26 crunches and 14 push-ups.
POWER: 10.5-inch vertical jump.
FLEXIBILITY: 16.1 inches on the sit-and-reach test.
THE VERDICT: Boosting flexibility (and mood), enhancing coordination, and increasing balance make for a workout that's good for your body and your soul. However, muscular strength suffers with a yoga-only routine, so incorporating a weight-training program to increase muscle mass will tone your body fast. It'll also help prevent injury if you, say, slip on a sidewalk. Also, cardio comes only through intensive vinyasa-flow yoga, not through meditative styles like hatha.
NAME: Keisher "Fire" McLeod-Wells
WEIGHT: 109 pounds
WORKOUT ROUTINE: Strength-trains for two to three hours a day, five days a week. Alternates between jumping rope, shadowboxing with 2-pound weights, and sparring in the ring for 45 minutes.
BODY COMPOSITION: 14 percent body fat with a BMI of 16.6.
AEROBIC CAPACITY: VO2 Max of 48, which puts her in the 97th percentile for women between the ages of 30 and 39.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH: 50 crunches and 40 push-ups.
POWER: 14-inch vertical jump.
FLEXIBILITY: 7.5 inches on the sit-and-reach test.
THE VERDICT: If mellow yoga classes aren't for you, try McLeod-Wells' circuit-style boxing routine with endurance- and muscle-building exercises like jumping rope and shadowboxing. Plus, arm-sculpting jabbing sessions result in stellar upper-body strength, making tasks like carrying groceries and carting heavy loads of laundry a breeze. Flexibility can be deficient here, so adding Pilates or some other stretch-oriented class would boost your workouts in the ring.
NAME: Stella Abrera
WEIGHT: 113 pounds
WORKOUT ROUTINE: Takes a 90-minute ballet class every day. Circuit-trains at the gym and swims for 30 minutes four days a week.
BODY COMPOSITION: 12 percent body fat with a BMI of 18.2.
AEROBIC CAPACITY: VO2 Max of 44, which puts her in the 90th percentile for women between the ages of 30 and 39.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH: 65 crunches and 15 push-ups.
POWER: 9-inch vertical jump.
FLEXIBILITY: 13.8 inches on the sit-and-reach test.
THE VERDICT: Your dream of becoming a ballerina may not have panned out, but don't let that stop you from getting a pair of killer legs — and abs. (Our dancer had the strongest core of the group.) Pliés on their own promise a longer, leaner version of yourself, but supplementing them with a Spin class three times a week will keep your heart strong, too.
NAME: Sam Paul
WEIGHT: 112 pounds
WORKOUT ROUTINE: Bikes for six hours a day, four days a week. Does 200 sit-ups daily for added core strengthening.
BODY COMPOSITION: 15.6 percent body fat with a BMI of 20.5.
AEROBIC CAPACITY: VO2 Max of 50, which puts her in the 95th percentile for women between the ages of 20 and 29.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH: 52 crunches and 30 push-ups.
POWER: 13.5-inch vertical jump.
FLEXIBILITY: 9.8 inches on the sit-and-reach test.
THE VERDICT: For those of us with crazy-long office hours (or just a lot of excuses), here's a novel idea for an intense workout: Ride a bike. Paul's riding routine has resulted in lean muscle mass and an incredible aerobic capacity. (Watch out, Lance Armstrong!) The only catch? Tightness in the back of the legs requires extra stretching sessions off your wheels.