Look beyond the barbells and bench presses. This month's hero shares ways you can build muscle from head to toe, burn more calories, and feel stronger each day.

By Kimberly Holland
May 01, 2014
Photo: Winnie Au

Strength training does so much more than just help you look better. It makes daily activities easier and supports your entire system. But being strong is not just about building bulging biceps and triceps—or, as this month's hero calls them, "the mirror muscles"—and you might only need a yoga mat to get there.

"Yoga and Pilates help you get stronger all over, not just in your arms," says Kristin McGee, celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor. "Both practices are great for building strength because they work the entire body—front, back, side, top to bottom."

McGee has been teaching yoga and Pilates for 17 years. In addition to hosting classes each week, she has created excercise DVDs and leads sessions at various health events across the country, including this month at our Fit Foodie Race in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

"Challenge your approach of thinking that strength is only about your arms. Instead, think of strength training as a way to build support throughout your body so you can properly support yourself, your posture, and your daily activities," she says.

After her son was born last fall, McGee says, her passion for yoga and Pilates helped her rebound and gave her a new appreciation for how both practices help in her daily life, even outside the gym. "When you focus on strength, you'll notice you have more longevity in your workouts, your body won't ache for days after a good workout, and you can do things like pick up your baby without hurting your back," she says. "Your muscles are your building blocks, and your core is your foundation. When your foundation is strong, your whole body is strong."


  • Strike a pose. "Sun salutations and warrior poses are great strength-builders. Try three between meetings or while your kid is napping." If you're unfamiliar, find step-by-step instructions for these poses here.
  • Fuel your moves. "Your body needs nutrients to properly build muscle. The ideal way to get them is in a pre-workout snack. You want a balance of healthy carbs, fat, and protein. Combine real foods, like a banana with almond butter or an apple with a slice of cheddar cheese. Eat at least an hour before you start your session so your body has time to digest the food. After your workout, grab another protein-packed snack. Post-workout is a crucial time for rebuilding and growing the muscles."
  • Focus on form. "Listen to your body. Do fewer reps with better form, even in a yoga class. I see some people trying to push out one more sun salutation, and their form is bad. They're tired. Don't do another rep because you feel like you have to muscle it out. Sometimes less is more."