Every woman especially African women is familiar with those tricky trouble zones that take a little extra work to tighten and tone (lower abs, anyone?). After a lot of exercise trial and error, I’ve finally found a solid set of moves that help me shape up and feel confident in a swimsuit, my favorite skinny jeans, or a sexy cocktail dress.
Read on for the top 10 exercises that I find work wonders for my stomach, inner thighs, booty, and shoulders plus tips on how to add them into your workout routine.
I love this exercise because it lifts and tones the glutes and activates my entire core (which helps prevent back pain).
How to do it: Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand on your left foot. Lift your right foot behind you and bend your knee so your right lower leg is parallel to the floor.
Bend forward at your hips, and slowly lower your body as far as you can. Pause, then push your body back to the starting position. As you come up, think about using your glutes to push your hips forward instead of lifting from your back. Keep core engaged and chest up during the entire movement.
This exercise is my secret weapon to help tighten and shrink my waistline. It works the deep abdominal muscles (obliques, transverse abdominus) that many abs exercises don’t reach.
How to do it: Lie on your left side with your knees straight. Prop your upper body up on your left elbow and forearm. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Turn around so that you’re lying on your right side and repeat.
I’m a huge fan of this classic exercise because it works the entire body, burning a significant amount of calories, as well as tightens my chest muscles to keep things perky in your bikini.
How to do it: Get down on all fours and place your hands on the floor so that they’re slightly wider than and in line with your shoulders, feet close together. Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor and then push yourself back to the starting position. Make sure to keep your hips lifted and your core braced the entire time.
Second Position Plies
This ballet move sculpts the inner thighs as well as tones the gluteus minimus (side of butt) for lean legs like a dancer.
How to do it: Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Lower your body down by bending your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Bring arms overhead and shoulders down and back. Pause, then slowly push yourself back up to the starting position.
Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your routine to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time, as opposed to long, slow endurance exercise.
How to do it: Choose any piece of cardio equipment (elliptical, jump rope, treadmill, bike, etc) and repeat the following pattern 10 times total:
3 minutes at 50 percent of your maximum effort
20 seconds at 75 percent of your maximum effort
10 seconds at your absolute maximum effort
This is my favorite exercise for toning the back of shoulders and triceps. I use light weights and perform a high number of reps (25+) for this exercise.
How to do it: Come into a lunge position, with your back heel on the ground. Lean over your front bent knee as your lift your arm straight up by your side, top of the weight facing the ceiling. Lift and lower the 2-3 pound weight about an inch (30 times each side).
This exercise targets the muscles of your glutes and hamstrings to create leaner, stronger legs, and a tighter, lifted rear. Stepups also work your quadriceps since they require you to straighten your knee against resistance.
How to do it: Stand in front of a bench or step and place your left foot firmly on the step. Press your left foot into the step and push your body up until your left leg is straight. Lower your body back down until your right foot touches the floor and repeat.
Keep your chest up and core engaged the entire time. Keep your weight balanced evenly, not leaning too far forward or too far back.
Bridges are not only the perfect exercise for a perfectly rounded rear, but they will also help keep your back healthy and pain free.
How to do it: Lie faceup on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Raise your hips so your body forms as straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause in the up position, then lower your body back to the starting position.
Plank with Arm Raise
Adding an arm raise to an already excellent exercise like the plank improves posture and core strength, which makes me feel better, look taller, and feel more confident.
How to do it: Start to get into a pushup position, but bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of on your hands. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Brace your core and maintain your hip placement as you lift your right arm straight out in front of you. Draw your shoulder blades down and back as you lift your arms. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and then switch arms.
There are so many physical and mental benefits to yoga. Inversion postures are great for helping to reduce the appearance of cellulite. I do a shoulder stand or put my legs up the wall for 5 minutes every night before I go to bed.
How to do it: Lie down on your back and lift your legs and hips off the ground, bringing your legs up over your head until your toes touch the floor behind you. Place your hands behind your back and extend legs straight in the air, creating a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
Keep your neck relaxed as your hold the shoulder stand. Try to hold it for at least one minute and then slowly come out of it.
How to Use These Moves
1. Total-Body Workout
For a quick, total-body tone up, pick five of the moves and do 3 sets of each exercise 10 times (unless otherwise noted below). Move as fast as possible between moves for maximum calorie burn.
The next day, do the other five exercises. You can incorporate a few sets of cardio intervals into the total-body training session or do it separately for a longer period of time.
2. Target Your Trouble Zone
If you want to tighten up one specific area, pick the exercises that focus on those places and incorporate them into your daily routine. Just remember to continue challenging your body by gradually increasing the weight or number of reps as you get stronger.