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With her thousand-watt smile, graceful but strong physique and easy confidence, it’s hard to imagine Lori Harder as an overweight and insecure teen. Now 34, the Michigan native was actually in her early 20s before she decided to improve her outlook by bettering her body. Year after year she made slow but significant improvements, until at age 26 she entered her first physique competition. She since made history as the first woman to win Ms. Bikini America, Ms. Bikini Universe and Ms. Figure America in the same year.
Recently, Harder has put her competitive ambitions on hold to build her motivational speaking business and has tailored her training to fit her busier schedule. With fewer and shorter workouts on her docket, she somehow looks better than ever. Her secret? Intensity.
“When I started competing I was doing traditional bodybuilding splits,” she says. “But I started using compound movements and found that I could get away with three days a week if I really kicked butt when I was there. It’s a different look for me — longer and leaner — which works well for my taller frame, and I’ve kept it up.”
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Harder approaches her workout with a singular focus and pushes herself on every rep. She typically does seven to eight compound moves per session, hitting multiple muscles simultaneously. She also groups her exercises into supersets or giant sets, keeping the rest periods short, which makes the workout more metabolic.
“I mix it up every week, too, which helps me stay lean and toned,” she adds. “One week I’ll do heavy weight and low reps, and the next I’ll change it to high reps and lower weight. I get bored easily, so I change things up a lot!”
Try her total-body approach to switch things up, or mix this plan into your weekly program as a timesaving technique during those busy days.
Lori’s Shoulder Workout
Burpee Push-Up and Press
Setup: Stand holding a set of dumbbells at your sides with your feet about shoulder-width apart, shoulders back and knees soft (not shown).
Action: Crouch down and place the dumbbells on the floor between your feet. Balance on the dumbbells as you hop your feet behind you into the top of a push-up. Bend your elbows and lower your chest to the weights, keeping your elbows close to your sides. Extend your arms, hop your feet back underneath you and outside the weights. Explosively stand up and clean the weights to shoulder level before pressing them overhead, using a neutral grip. Lower them slowly to complete one repetition (not shown).
Tip: To make this move easier, take out the push-up; to make it harder, use a heavier weight or increase the pace.
Bosu Ball Plank Rear Delt Flye
Setup: Place a dumbbell next to the Bosu ball, then place both hands on the ball and extend your legs behind you, feet spaced wide. Find your balance on the ball with your right hand, then pick up the dumbbell in your left hand.
Action: Slowly extend your arm to the side while maintaining your plank position on top of the ball — abs tight, hips in line with your head and heels. When the weight comes level with your torso, pause a moment, then lower back to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Don’t let your lower back slouch. Squeeze your glutes, quads and abs to keep your spine straight and stable.
Barbell Squat Press
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder width-apart and a barbell resting across your front delts and clavicle. Hold it steady; no wobbling.
Action: Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat. Keep your chest lifted and your gaze up to keep from falling forward. When you’ve come as low as you can, drive through your heels and stand back to the start, using the momentum of your upward drive to help you extend your arms and push the barbell straight up overhead. Lower it back to the start to complete one rep.
Low Plank Front Raise
Setup: Place a set of dumbbells on their ends in front of you and get into a low plank with your elbows on the floor underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels in line. Grasp a weight in each hand with your palms neutral.
Action: Hold the plank as you alternately slowly extend your arms forward as far as you can.
Lunge and One-Arm Lateral Raise
Setup: Stand with your feet together and hold a dumbbell in your left hand. Take a large step forward with your right foot and let the dumbbell hang at your side. Place your opposite hand on your hip or extend it to the side for balance.
Action: Bend both knees to lower into a lunge while simultaneously lifting the dumbbell up and out to the side to shoulder height. Descend until your front knee makes a 90-degree angle with your shin perpendicular to the floor. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Squat With One-Arm Arnold Press
Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in one hand at shoulder height with your palm facing rearward and your elbow down. Place your other hand on your hip or extend it out to the side for balance (not shown).
Action: Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a deep squat, coming to parallel or slightly below. Drive through your heels to rise up, then press the dumbbell overhead, corkscrewing your hand so that your palm is facing forward at the top. Lower the dumbbell to complete one rep. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Squeeze your glutes and contract your abs before you begin the squat. Keeping your core tight will improve your midline stability, efficiency and overall safety.
Check out Lori’s Hardcore Playlist to listen to while you do her shoulder workout.