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Best exercises to increase muscle definition

You hit the gym because you want to stay healthy and in shape, but also because you want to see results, right? Well, results are exactly what you'll get when you incorporate these eight muscle-toning exercises into your everyday fitness routine. Each routine targets a different set of muscles, helping you build, define and tone your entire body.

Overhead triceps lift

Slim and tone your triceps -- the muscles in the back of your arm -- by doing a simple overhead triceps extension. Either standing or sitting, choose a weight that's heavy enough to add tension, but not too heavy to strain your muscles, and lift it over your head in one hand. Slowly bend your elbow and pull the weight down behind your head, then extend your arm back to the beginning position. Do three sets of 10 to 15 extensions on each arm.

Incline walking

Getting your glutes in shape couldn't be easier -- all you have to do is make a simple change to your everyday walking or running routine. By adding an incline to your workout, whether it's up a hill outdoors or on a treadmill in a gym, you can tighten and tone your glutes in no time. You'll also burn up to 150 calories in just 20 minutes, and even more if you're running.

Stability ball crunches

Define your "six-pack" abdominal muscles when you throw a stability ball into your routine. Stability balls engage not just your ab muscles, but also your obliques and back muscles, giving you a total-torso workout. Lie on a stability ball (as shown in the picture), cross your arms over your chest or behind your head, and raise your chest upward for an ab crunch. Make sure to keep your breathing steady, and avoid straining your neck. Do three sets of 30 crunches.

Weighted lunges

Not only does this exercise build arm strength, but it's also a great way to target and tone your quads -- the muscles in the front of your thighs, right above your knees. Grab two moderately heavy weights and stand with your feet slightly apart. Step forward with one leg, lunging until your back knee almost touches the ground. Return to the starting position, then repeat on the other leg. Try three sets of 10 on each leg.

Dumbbell lifts

To engage, build and define your shoulder muscles -- also known as the deltoids -- grab a set of dumbbells and place one in each hand. While either sitting or standing with your arms hanging loosely at your side, slowly lift your arms to the side until they're parallel to the floor. Lower them to your sides with control, then lift again, this time raising your arms in front of you until they're parallel with the floor. Return to starting position, and do three sets of 10.

Stability ball push-ups

It's time to pull out that stability ball again, but this time, you'll be using it to engage your chest, arm and shoulder muscles -- all while working your core, too. Start in a normal push-up position, but place the stability ball so that your thighs are resting on it. Bend your arms and slowly lower your body until your arms make a 90-degree angle, then return to the starting position. Do three sets of 10.

Calf raises

Getting killer calves is easier than you might think, and it doesn't require any extra equipment. Simply stand facing a wall and start with feet shoulder-width apart. Lightly resting your hands against the wall, slowly raise your body so that you're standing on your toes, then lower and repeat for three sets of 20. To make things more challenging, do one leg at a time or stand on a raised surface so your heels never touch the ground.

Leg overs

To work your obliques -- the muscles on the side of your abdomen -- lie flat on your back with your legs straight up in the air and your arms out to your side. Keeping your legs extended and your shoulders on the ground, slowly lower your legs to the right, engaging your obliques until your legs almost touch the ground. Raise your legs back to their starting position, then repeat on the left side. Do three sets of 10 on each side.

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About the Author

Mary Avant has worked for several international, national and regional magazines and received a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has written on everything from fashion and health to business and food, and she specializes in women's style, fashion and beauty.