Summer is just around the corner, and that means sun, sand and—yikes—swimsuits!
As any trainer will tell you, getting into shape is about both diet and movement. If you are trying to lose weight, healthy eating is the first step. That means lots of lean protein, fruits and veggies in quantities that allow you to burn more calories than you consume.
When it comes to working out, experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week, along with 20 to 30 minutes of strength training two to three times a week.
In addition to the above, 24Life has compiled four essential movements that target all the key areas you need to look swimsuit-ready—from arms and legs to booty and belly. These “core four” movements are effective and easy to fit into your existing workout routine—so suit up and dive in!
Arm Yourself With Push-Ups
The push-up is a foundational, full-body exercise—meaning it works a variety of muscles in your body, including your core, chest and quads. Push-ups are an excellent way to help tone your chest muscles and are also the basis for a variety of other movements, such as inchworms and planks, making them important to understand and incorporate in your workouts.
More often than not, push-ups are done incorrectly, with sagging in the middle section and poor arm placement. Before you do your next push-up, check out what the proper form should look like with these tips in mind.
- Start with a strong straight line from neck to tailbone to feet, with your head and neck held in a neutral line.
- Engage your core and tuck your tailbone to position your hips.
- Adjust your arm position for leverage—how you place your hands will impact the technique and benefit of the push-up. It’s important to align your joints in order to give you strength and improve your shoulder strength and health. For beginners (and the basic push-up), find your hand placement by lying on your stomach and placing your hands up by your shoulders with the tips of your thumbs just touching your shoulders—modify from there.
- Place your forearms and upper arms in a clean vertical line with your shoulders above your wrists.
- If performing on the floor, place your palms flat, fingers pointing forward and align your hands next to your shoulders—if this is challenging for your wrists, angle your fingers out slightly. If using a dumbbell or a prop, maintain a straight line through your wrists and forearms up to your shoulders for integrity of your joints.
Get a Leg Up With Alternating Reverse Lunge to Double Hop
- Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than hip width, arms at your sides, chest up, core tight and knees soft.
- Step back with your right leg into a reverse lunge, both knees at 90 degrees as you send your arms straight up above your head.
- Return to stand, bringing your arms back down to your sides, then step back into a lunge with your left leg, sending your arms up.
- Return to stand with your arms at your sides, then squat down and drive up through your feet to jump, sending your arms straight up.
- Land softly in a squat, swinging your arms down and back, and then perform a second jump, sending your arms overhead.
Build a Better Booty With Squats
Squats are the most popular booty shapers because they put the most stress on the gluteus maximus, which is the largest muscle in your body. When done correctly, squats fire up the glutes as well as the hamstrings and quadriceps.
To squat correctly: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, feet turned out just slightly. Sit back on your heels and lower your butt as if sitting in a chair, making sure your knees are tracking toward your toes but not going past them. Focus the movement on your hips rather than your knees. Keep your back straight and squeeze your butt throughout the entire movement. Then stand back up, bringing your hips back under your shoulders.
Try these squat variations:
Air Squat — Squat with your arms lifted straight in front of you.
Goblet Squat — Squat while holding a weight in front of your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body.
Jump Squat — Squat, then jump, returning to a squat position.
Sumo Squat — Squat with your legs wider than your shoulders and your feet turned out 45 degrees.
Split Squat — With one foot about 3 feet in front of the other and the top of your back foot elevated on a surface at least 6 inches high, lower your weight directly between your feet without letting your front knee travel past your toes.
Perform squats slowly and with weight, if possible, to increase the time your muscles are under tension and to see the best results.
Belly Up With the Bicycle Crunch
The bicycle crunch has been a staple in the fitness community for many years. This movement requires not only core strength but also full-body synchronization and timing between upper and lower body.
Before you start, remember: Keep your chin out of your chest and keep your elbows back. Do not pull on your neck with your hands, keeping your gaze over your knees and not toward your stomach.
- Start by lying flat on your back, and bring your hands behind your head with both legs starting straight out slightly off the ground.
- Lift one leg up, driving your knee toward your chest as you bring in your opposite-side elbow toward that knee, lifting your upper back off the ground.
- Move reciprocally with your opposite knee to elbow, keeping your upper back off the ground for a desired amount of time or repetitions.
Make it easier: Keep your knees bent and tap your toes to the ground instead of extending your legs.
Make it harder: Place a mini-band around your midfoot, stretching out the band as you bicycle.
Photo credit: Ryan Christodoulou, Unsplash