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Nobody’s perfect, but many women would like to get as close as humanly possible. To help you achieve body-image nirvana, we identified some of the most problematic areas and worked with leading experts to create prescriptions to correct those minor flaws. Add some of these fix-it programs to your weekly routine and you’ll be one step closer to becoming the gym goddess you deserve to be.
If your posture is more Quasimodo than Queen Elizabeth, there’s a pretty big imbalance between your front- and back-side musculature. “Your chest and front delts are tight and your back is weak and overstretched,” states Kim Lyons, NASM certified trainer, former “Biggest Loser” trainer and owner of Bionic Body Studio (bionicbody.com) in Hermosa Beach, Calif. “Sitting at a desk and a computer all day has a lot to do with this imbalanced posture, since you’re always hunched over and looking down.” During the day, consciously try to sit up tall and pull your shoulders down and back, and do these re-balancing moves to help you straighten up and fly right.
Lacrosse Ball Chest Roll
1 Set x 1-2 Minutes (each side)
Stand at the open corner of a wall near its edge and place the lacrosse ball between the wall and your upper pec/front delt area. Lean against the ball and roll it around slowly, moving your arm forward and back, up and down to hit all the fibers in your chest and front delt for one to two minutes. Repeat on the other side.
Tip: Using a lacrosse (or similar high-density) ball will greatly improve shoulder mobility.
Wide-Grip Barbell Row
3 Sets x 10-15 Reps
Start: Stand holding a barbell with a palms-down grip, hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your knees slightly bent and shoulders back, hinge forward at your hips while maintaining a flat back.
Move: Drive your elbows up and back, pulling the bar to your upper abdomen. Hold in the top position for a count, then extend your arms.
Tip: Muscle your shoulders back into better alignment with wide-grip rows and lat pulldowns, which target the upper, outer lats.
Side Boob Fat
Ah, that dreaded extra flesh that makes you think twice about wearing a tank top or strapless dress. “The aging process, hormones, past pregnancies and even genetics can play a role in the appearance of the unwanted side boob,” says Kelly Lockyer, ISSA certified trainer and WBFF fitness pro in Branford, Conn. Of course, overall fat loss and cardio work will help shrink this area, but to firm up the muscles underneath while you trim down with cardio, give this strength Rx a spin.
Incline Dumbbell Flye
3 Sets x 12-15 Reps
Start: Lie faceup on an incline bench and hold a set of dumbbells over your chest, palms in, arms perpendicular to the floor. Bend your elbows slightly and lock your shoulders in place.
Move: Open your arms out to the sides and lower the weights until they reach shoulder height. Keeping the same arm angle, squeeze your chest and bring the dumbbells back together over your sternum.
Tip: The use of an incline allows you to focus on the upper fibers of the pectoral muscles.
3 Sets x 10-15 Slow Reps
Start: Get into plank position with your elbows underneath your shoulders, and your head, hips and heels in line.
Move: Slowly lift your hips and extend at the shoulders to form an inverted V. Hold one breath, then slowly return to the start.
Tip: Keep your navel drawn in and focus on your breathing for this yoga-inspired move.
Sometimes you’re simply built how you’re built — thanks, mom and dad — but there are a few ways to cure a curve-less or blocky midriff. “Pilates focuses on lengthening and strengthening the core muscles as you rotate, which is key to cinching your waist,” says Juliet Kaska, Master Pilates Trainer and owner of JK Zen Fitness (jkzenfitness.com) in West Hollywood, Calif. You can also change your silhouette by building your middle delts. “The broader your shoulders, the narrower your waist and hips appear,” says Lyons. Add these two moves to your routine to corset your waist, no strings attached.
Modified Bicycle Crunch
3 Sets x 15 Reps (each side)
Start: Lie faceup on the floor with your hands behind your head for support and your legs in tabletop (knees bent 90 degrees, lifted over your hips). Keep your pelvis neutral, and lift your head and shoulders off the floor.
Move: Exhale and rotate your upper torso to the right as you extend your right leg, reaching your toes toward the opposite wall. Pause, then inhale as you slowly draw your knee back to tabletop, rotate back through the middle and repeat on the other side. Keep your elbows wide, your neck long and your chin lifted throughout.
Tip: Unlike traditional bicycle crunches, the key here is to extend your leg away from the opposite elbow, which better engages the obliques.
Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise
3 Sets x 12-15 Reps
Start: Sit on a bench with a short back and hold dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing in and your elbows slightly bent.
Move: Lift your arms up and out to your sides, raising the weights to shoulder height while keeping your elbows slightly bent. Lower slowly to the start and repeat immediately without using momentum.
Tip: Lift your elbows slightly above shoulder level to engage your middle delts through a longer, stronger range of motion.
Back Fat/Muffin Top
Until mom jeans come back into vogue (please, fashion gods, don’t let that come to pass), women will bemoan the overspill of their midsections over low, hip-hugging waistbands. “Genetics, age and overall nutrition contribute to back fat and muffin tops,” says Lockyer. “The bad news is you can’t spot-reduce, but maintaining a diet rich in lean proteins, healthy fats and green vegetables can help reduce overall bodyfat.” Lockyer also recommends high-intensity cardio to melt away extra pounds; to firm the muscles beneath the muffin, Lyons prescribes these core-centric moves.
Burn off Back Fat
This HIIT running program uses a 1:2 work:rest ratio for use on a track or treadmill*. Warm up with a light jog and do some dynamic stretching such as leg swings and knee hugs to loosen your hips, quads, glutes and calves. Then get to work with this 20-minute program that builds in intensity with each subsequent interval. Do this program up to three times a week for best results.
*Note: If you’re not a runner, take the intensity percentages and apply them to other cardio modalities such as elliptical machines, bicycles, rollerblades or even swimming.
Tip: On your sprints, work up to a near-max effort to reap a higher metabolic return.
Side Plank and Lift
3 Sets x 10 Reps (each side)
Start: Lie on your side with your elbow underneath your shoulder, and lift your hips so your spine is aligned and your body forms a straight line from head to heels.
Move: Hold for one breath, then lift your hips 4 to 5 inches and hold for one breath, then return to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: A whittled waistline with just 4 to 5 inches of movement? Yes, please.
Is your badonka-donk going south? Then it’s time to work your gluteus medius, the smaller gluteal muscle located in the top half of your buttocks that gives your rear view a perky profile. “A great way to make the gluteus medius work harder is with one-legged exercises like the single-leg romanian deadlift,” says Lyons. “You’re forced to balance while also doing an exercise, which engages it more.” Kaska recommends working in a feet-turned-out position, such as with plié squats, to target this tricky area.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
3 Sets x 12 Reps (each side)
Start: Stand with your feet together and knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in your left hand. Extend your right leg behind you so your toes lightly brush the floor, and reach your right arm out to the side for balance.
Move: With a flat back, hinge forward at the hips, lowering your torso and keeping the weight close to your left leg as you simultaneously raise your right leg until your body is parallel to the floor. Slowly rise to the start and repeat. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Keeping your knee slightly bent allows engagement of the hamstring at both the knee and the hip (read: glutes).
3 Sets x 20 Reps (each side)
Start: Lie on your side with your hips and legs stacked, knees bent 90 degrees in front of you. Rest your head in your hand for support and place your other hand on the floor in front of you for balance.
Move: Keeping your toes touching, rotate your top hip in the socket and open your leg like a clamshell. Keep your hips aligned and your body still but not tight. Return to the start and repeat. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: Want a greater burn? You can increase resistance by simply placing your free hand on the outside of your working thigh.
Shapeless lower stems are another thing you can blame on your parents. “One of the first misconceptions is that it has to do with leg fat, but in actuality it is due to genetics,” says Lockyer of the dreaded cankle. While you can’t fight Mother Nature, you can trick the eye to gaze northward by building your calves with these two moves, and making your ankles look smaller in comparison.
Standing Calf Raise
3 Sets x 20 Reps (each side)
Start: Stand on a stair or box and hold a heavy weight in your left hand. Shift your left foot so your heel hangs off the edge, and lift your right leg behind you so all your weight is on your left foot.
Move: Rise all the way up onto your toes and hold for one breath, then slowly lower to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Pogo Hop (not shown)
3 Sets x 50 Reps
Start: Stand with your feet together, knees slightly bent, arms at your sides.
Move: Lean forward slightly and hop on the balls of your feet as you move slowly forward for 50 reps. Rest 15 seconds, then repeat twice more.
Tip: Get a deep stretch, then explode up to get the most out of each rep. Pause for a few seconds if you fail before 20.