A Quick Leg, Cardio, and Agility Workout From Celebrity Trainer Simone De La Rue

Question: What do you get when you combine lots of squats with explosive jumps? Answer: A great cardio, agility, and total-body strengthening workout.

That’s the gist of a three-part bodyweight series that celebrity trainer and Body by Simone fitness method founder Simone De La Rue posted on Instagram this week. De La Rue, trainer to Jennifer Garner, Emmy Rossum, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, among others, shared the leg-centric series with a caption explaining its simplicity and appeal.

"The inspiration [of the series] was simply to show that you can put a specific, targeted muscle group workout together, with minimal or no equipment, wherever you may be in the world…even in paradise," De La Rue tells SELF, alluding to the video's picturesque beachside setting.

You can check out the workout via @bodybysimone here (be sure to swipe right to see all three moves):

“This is a good full-body, functional workout,” Stephanie Mansour, Chicago-based certified personal trainer, tells SELF. “It combines lower-body strength training with core work and cardio.”

On the strengthening front, the series works nearly every muscle in your lower half—plus some in your core.

If you do all three moves—jump squats with toe taps, slo-mo squat jumps, and plyometric knee drives—you’ll target nearly every major muscle in your lower half, including your gluteus maximus (the biggest muscle in your butt), hamstrings, quads, calves, and hip adductors (inner thighs), says Mansour. You’ll also work two big components of your core, including your rectus abdominis (what you think of when you think "abs") and transverse abdominis (the deepest ab muscle that wraps around your sides and spine), she adds.

The second move in particular—the slo-mo squat jumps—is an especially challenging strength exercise, Mark DiSalvo, NYC-based certified strength and conditioning specialist, tells SELF. That’s because it involves slowly moving through the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement, which has you actively resisting gravity to a greater degree than if you were to do a squat at regular speed. This means your muscles have to work harder to maintain proper positioning. Then, by holding at the bottom portion of the movement, you’re essentially killing all of the momentum that you generated in the eccentric portion of the movement. That means you have to generate new energy to propel yourself up, which is no easy feat. “This is a really hard plyometric drill,” says DiSalvo.

This slow, controlled movement also helps you perfect your form, and the isometric hold encourages the habit of working your muscles through their full range of motion, says De La Rue. "In this case [you're working on] depth."

It’s also great cardio and agility work.

De La Rue may make this circuit look effortless (she is a professional, after all), but don’t be fooled: These moves are hard, and they will get your heart rate going, says Mansour. While you’re getting in your cardio, you’ll also be working on agility.

“This series is very much agility focused and it’s not something people train much,” says DiSalvo. Agility is important in many sports (like track and field, soccer, and basketball, for example), and it’s also an important component of your overall coordination and balance. Smart agility work, like the moves in this series, which require you to change your position quickly and efficiently, can help round out your fitness program, he explains.

Lastly, the explosive elements of these moves teaches your body how to generate power and energy on command, which is another important skill in fitness, especially for athletes, adds Mansour.

These three moves are especially effective when done in sequence.

"I like this particular sequence as the first move, [the jump squats with toe taps], is explosive, which I like to put at the start of a workout if possible as you won’t get the biggest benefit if the muscles are already fatigued," explains De La Rue. "The second part, [the slow-mo squat jumps], is strength/conditioning and it finishes nicely with a little dance element, [the plyometric knee drives], which is my signature, so I see it as ending on a fun part…as well as sneakily getting the heart rate up."

Although the moves all concentrate on the lower body, they each have a slightly different strength focus, says Mansour. The first move will fully fatigue your inner thighs, the second move will fully fatigue your quads, and the third move will fully fatigue the back of your legs, says Mansour. When done together, they’ll fatigue pretty much your entire lower half.

Here’s how to do the three-part series.

Jump Squats With Toe Taps

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Push your hips and butt back and bend your knees to lower down into a squat. Clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
  • From here, jump up into the air as high as you can, squeezing your inner thighs as you jump and bringing your feet together to touch mid-air. Swing your arms apart and out as you jump to help power the movement.
  • Land back on the floor, keeping your knees soft, and return to starting position.
  • This is 1 rep. Do 8 reps.
  • Rest for a minute and then repeat two more times, resting one minute in between each set, for 3 sets total.

On the squats, think about pressing your knees out—don’t let them buckle in—and try to keep your knees over your ankles as much as possible, says De La Rue. Also, during the top of your squats (when you're nearing a standing position again), keep your shoulders back, core engaged, and power through your hips by thrusting them forward, she adds. Lastly, adjust your stance as needed to "find what works for you," says De La Rue. "Some [squat stances] are very narrow, some wider. Everyone’s body is different." Play around as needed to find a comfortable and effective positioning for you.

Stay mindful as you jump, advises Mansour, so that you land in the same position in which you started. “You don’t want to have to pause to check your alignment," she says.

Slo-Mo Squat Jumps

  • Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Over the course of 5 seconds, slowly push your hips and butt back and bend your knees to lower down into a squat. Clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
  • Hold the bottom of the movement for five seconds, then jump up as high as you can, swinging your arms apart and out as you jump to help power the movement.
  • Land back on the floor, keeping your knees soft, and sink back into the squat position for one second before standing up to reset yourself.
  • This is 1 rep. Do 5 reps.
  • Rest for a minute, then do another 5 reps for 2 total sets.

Make sure you’ve mastered the basic squat before attempting this move, says DiSalvo. Keep in mind De La Rue's squat tips mentioned above. If holding the bottom of the squatting position for 5 seconds is too much, it’s okay to shorten it, DiSalvo adds.

Plyometric Knee Drives

  • Start in a split stance position (with one foot about a foot and a half in front of the other) with your front knee bent slightly and your opposite arm bent in front of your chest, like a sprinter.
  • Drive your back knee up toward your chest and explode off the front leg, using your arms to help propel you off the floor.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • This is 1 rep. Do 8 reps on each leg.
  • Rest for a minute and then repeat 8 reps on each leg two more times, resting 1 minute in between each set, for 3 total sets.

This move works muscles on both the front and back of your lower half, including the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves, says Mansour. By pulling your knee in toward your chest, you’re also working your abdominal muscles.

As you jump, point the toe of the leg that’s closest to the ground, squeeze your butt, and straighten that leg as much as possible. By doing this, you’ll work the muscles on the back of that leg, from your glutes down to your calf, explains Mansour.

Because this move requires hip flexion and extension, if your hips are especially tight, consider warming them up beforehand by doing several Downward Facing Dogs to Upward Facing Dogs, recommends DiSalvo. It’s a good idea to warm up before tackling plyometric moves in general, he adds. You can do this with simple moves, like Downward Facing Dog to Upward Facing Dog, basic squats, and single-leg swings.

With all of the moves in this series, go slow, recommends DiSalvo. If you feel wobbly or otherwise unstable during any of the jumping movements, reduce your speed and/or how deep you sink into the squats, he says. Also, if you have any ankle, knee, or hip injuries or pain, this may not be the best series for you, so check with your doc before giving it a go.

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