5 Exercise Moves That Will Boost Your Self-Esteem

There's no swag like "I just nailed a hardcore move" swag 💪🏽


Wanita Nicol |

Everyone has those days when you feel down about your body or just, you know, yourself. Maybe you tried to impress the family with a roast for the first time and you’re still trying to get the smell of charred bird out of the curtains. Or perhaps you tried on a pair of jeans you’ve always loved, but today you just felt lumpy and frumpish.

Instant Self-Esteem Lift

Whatever got you down, exercise can boost your self-esteem. Seriously, hear us out… The endorphins (happy brain chemicals) that get released when you work out act as an instant mood boost. No matter how down in the dumps you were walking into the gym, you’ll feel lighter and happier when you leave. That’s just biochemistry. But it’s only the beginning. Psychologically, the sense of satisfaction you get from mastering a tough, strength-based move is guaranteed to make you feel like a rock star. There are few things more satisfying than achieving something you thought was impossible…and when you combine that with the visceral sensation of feeling your muscles working, success is just so much sweeter.

Meet Your Moves

The exercises below are taken from , a comprehensive healthy weight-loss programme for brides-to-be and their bridesmaids. They’re all big, multi-joint movements that each recruit a number of muscle groups. That’s what makes them so efficient for burning fat and building muscle tone. It’s also why doing them makes you feel so good afterwards. Even if you can’t do the move perfectly yet, working towards it and seeing your progress over time will shift your focus to what your body can do, rather than how it looks. And that’s a short cut to sky-high self-esteem.

Lose centimetres and get fit in 12 weeks:

1/ Renegade Rows

Why they’re great: This challenging move requires upper-body strength and core control – two areas where many desk-bound women are lacking. Practising this move will make you much more capable in everyday life, as your arms, shoulders, back and core get stronger.

Do them well: Get into the top of a push-up with your hands holding dumbbells and positioned directly under your shoulders. Your feet should be fairly wide apart for stability.  Squeeze your bum and tummy and push through your shoulders so you feel strong and stable. Now pull one weight up to your side and place it back down. Repeat on the other side and continue alternating. Do 5 each side. Too easy? Add a push-up once you’ve done a rep on each side.

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Easier variations: Use light weights; do the move on your knees; lose the weights altogether and just pull one arm, then the other to your side.

2/ No-Knees Push-up

Why it’s great: Like the renegade rows above, this strengthens your core and upper body. It’s especially good for strengthening your chest and the backs of your arms (triceps). It’s also a move many people (guys included) struggle to do well. So if you’re on the gym floor, banging out a set of these, you’re going to feel pretty badass.

Do it well: Get into the top of a push-up with your hands directly under your shoulders. Look at a spot a little in front of you so your head doesn’t hang down and squeeze your bum and tummy. Keeping your body straight, lower down until your chest grazes the floor, then push back up. Keep your elbows tucked in towards your body, not sticking out to the sides. Do 8-10.

Easier variations: Place your hands on a box, bench or table; lean against the wall. Try to avoid dropping to your knees as this won’t build the core strength you’re looking for, although it’s still a good isolation strength move for your upper body.

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3/ Bench Hops

Why they’re great: Getting this move right is actually a little scary because you need to lean your weight forward, which feels wildly reckless in the moment. So when you get it right, you feel that thrill of having conquered a fear. It’s also great explosive cardio and good for strengthening your shoulders and hitting your core from different angles.

Do them well: Hold onto a bench with your legs on one side. Lean your weight forward slightly so it’s directly over your arms (in other words, don’t lean back). Now, jump both feet together over to the other side of the bench, landing softly. Continue jumping back forth. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds.

Easier variations: Use a lower step; lose the step and perform the move in a push-up position on the floor – jump your feet towards one hand, back to centre, then towards the other hand.

4/ Squat To Shoulder Press

Why it’s good: This is a compound exercise that combines a lower-body move and an upper-body move into one total-body toner. It will strengthen your bum, thighs and shoulders. More importantly though, lifting weights over your head makes you feel strong. But if you’re not used to lifting or working your upper-body, it can feel more like a struggle than badass. Incorporating the squat at the bottom allows you to drive the power from your legs and bum – areas where women are typically stronger – to create the momentum you need to get those weights up.

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Do it well: Stand with feet about shoulder width apart, a pair of dumbbells at your shoulders. Keeping your tummy tight and bum squeezed, stick your bum out and sit back until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground. From here, drive through your legs to stand, simultaneously pushing the weights overhead. Lower the weights back to shoulder height and go again. Do 12.

Easier variations: Use lighter weights; use a single medicine ball instead of the dumbbells; put a bench behind you and squat until your bum grazes the bench, then push back up to standing.

5/ Burpees

Why they’re great: These guys give you total-body toning and a dose of explosive cardio in one. You feel like your heart’s going to jump out of your chest when you’re doing them, but afterwards you have that rush of having gone through an ordeal and made it to the other side. Also, you will be flying high on endorphins.

Do them well: Stand tall with feet about shoulder width apart. Squeeze your bum, squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you, shoulder width apart. Lean your weight onto your hands and jump your legs back, landing in the top of a push-up position with your tummy and bum tight and back flat. Jump your feet back in towards your hands and jump straight up, landing in your start position. Once you have all the components down, try to string them together into one continuous movement. Do as many as you can in 30 seconds. Too easy? Do one push-up to the floor while you’re in push-up position.

Easier variations: Step your legs into push-up position and back instead of jumping them in and out; lose the vertical jump at the top.

, the trainer behind Shedding For The Wedding’s fat-burning workout plan, is a master trainer at the exclusive Virgin Active Collection, where her clients include celebrities and some of SA’s top sport stars. Want in on that star magic? today!

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