When bikini season approaches, you may need to step up your workouts — but with a goal of working smarter, not harder. To get the greatest benefits from any exercise, focus on your form. Rather than going for maximum repetitions, slow down the movements and maximize your muscle control. Just five exercises can tone your legs, core and upper body. Combine them with regular cardiovascular conditioning for the best physical results.
1. Plank Pose
Unlike crunches, which isolate specific stomach muscles, planks work your entire core. That means that by practicing them regularly you can improve your posture as well as tone your back, abs, quads, obliques and deep core muscles. Orlando, Florida-based personal trainer Nick Parker lists planks among the all-time best bikini body exercises because they work so many muscles and help you develop a flatter stomach. Hold the plank on your toes and hands or forearms, forming a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. For an easier variation, drop to your knees. Build up to holding the pose for 60 seconds or longer.
2. Triangle Push-Ups
In 2011, the American Council on Exercise sponsored a study measuring triceps activity in several different exercises. The move that came out on top was the triangle push-up, which ACE physiologist Jessica Matthews specifically recommends for developing a bikini body. To do the triangle push-up, get in push-up position, but place your thumbs and forefingers together underneath your chest, forming a triangle shape. Press down and up slowly, keeping your elbows by your sides throughout the move.
3. Bulgarian Squat/Lunge
“Glamour” fitness writer Shaun Dreisbach suggests Bulgarian lunges to get in shape fast. Each repetition works your quads, hip flexors, glutes and calves. To do the move, stand a few feet in front of a chair. Extend one leg behind you to rest your foot on the chair. Slowly lower the leg on the chair, keeping your torso upright and not letting your front knee extend past your toes. Slowly raise back up to the starting position and repeat. To make the move more challenging, hold dumbbells in your hands.
Burpees are the best of both worlds. Not only do they jack up your heart rate, but they also work your shoulders, abs and legs. To make a set of burpees more challenging, jump off the floor briefly after you reach the standing stage of the exercise. Matthews also recommends a variation called the tuck jump. To do it, simply jump from plank to a tuck position, with your feet in between your hands. Jump back to the starting position and repeat.
5. Chair Dips
“Fitness Magazine” terms the chair dip a triple threat because it effectively works your triceps, upper back and abs. Use good form and work your muscles harder by dipping down to a 90-degree bend in your elbows with each rep. To make the move more challenging, straighten your legs and trail your heels on the floor. To make it easier, bend your knees and place both feet flat on the floor.