“I hear it every day from my female clients: ‘I want to get rid of my muffin top; I hate my flapping triceps,’” says our resident fitness expert, Stacy Irvine. “They come into the studio disgruntled because they’re not seeing the results they want. But I tell them it’s better to focus on the positives.” So what does this mean exactly? Strengthen and work on the areas where you’re “almost there.” This will allow you to see (and celebrate!) small changes in your body and get the compliments rolling in. This boost in your confidence is sure to keep you working out longer and harder, and before you know it, you’ll have the fit and healthy body you want. These three easy exercises will get you started toward total body fitness, one step at a time. (Just remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your abs won’t be, either.)
If you want to improve your hamstrings
Lean legs with toned calves make you look taller and slimmer.
Do: Heel Raises
1. Start by balancing on two feet with your heels hanging over the edge of a step or a stable surface that is slightly elevated.
2. Slowly lower your heels down as far as you can, keeping your legs straight.
3. Then, raise up slowly on your toes as high as possible, squeezing all the muscles in your legs and glutes.
4. Once you have lifted to the top position, lower back down and repeat. Complete 20 to 30 repetitions with two feet and then switch to one foot. Work up to 30 reps on each foot.
Do: Hamstring Ball Curls
1. Start by lying on your back with your legs straight out and your ankles on a ball. (Large resistance balls work best because they give you a larger range of motion.)
2. To begin, simply lift your hips up, then bend your knees. The ball should curl in under your feet.
3. To curl the ball back out, lead with your heels and straighten your legs. Repeat this move 20 times, always lifting your hips as high as you can. Work your way up to 40 repetitions, then try one leg at a time.
If you want to strengthen your upper body
Beautiful, shapely shoulders make your hips appear narrow.
Do: Scaption Shoulder Raises
1. Hold a light weight in each hand. Bring your arms straight out in front of you with elbows relaxed. Hands should be in line with your hips with thumbs pointed to the ceiling.
2. Then, slowly raise your arms out to the side and hold for two seconds.
3. Next, lower your arms back to the start position. Repeat 20 times, working up to 30. When you’re ready, use a heavier weight and take your reps back down to 20.
Do: Close-Hand Push-Ups
1. Lie on your stomach with hands beside your lower rib cage.
2. Push up with your hands so your body lifts off the floor.
3. When your elbows are straight (but not locked), slowly lower back down. Elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Complete 10 repetitions and work your way up to 20. For proper technique, push your shoulders down and away from your ears.
Modification: Do this move on your knees, then graduate to the straight-leg position.
If you want to build your core
Good posture will give you the appearance of a smaller waist.
Do: Abdominal Curl Ups
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your hands behind your head. Take a deep breath in.
2. As you breathe out, curl your shoulders as high as possible. Don’t pull on your neck or head, and keep your chin lifted at all times. All of the muscle work should be felt in your abs.
3. Hold this position at the top and take a deep breath in, then exhale and lower down to start position. Repeat this sequence for 20 repetitions and work up to 30. This exercise should be done slowly with emphasis on proper breathing.
Do: Dryland Swim
1. Lie on your stomach with your hands out in front of you. Always think about lengthening.
2. Slowly lift your chest and legs off the floor to balance your hips.
3. Then, slowly reach your opposite hand and foot up. Repeat on the other side. Complete 40 repetitions.
A version of this article appeared in our October 2013 issue with the headline “Right on target,” pp. 44-47.
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