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20 Minutes to Fit!
There’s no postponing it: Swimsuit season is upon us. But this year, let’s make a communal vow not to beat ourselves up in front of the mirror for not already having the perfect bikini body. There’s still time to commit to a simple weekly exercise plan to help you look better — and feel better — when you show some skin.
While the following circuits are fun quick fixes for summer, it’s important to remember bodies are most beautiful when treated like temples year-round!
For those interested in expanding a regular yoga practice into a core-strengthening, swimsuit-savvy circuit, certified personal trainer and yoga instructor Richelle Morgan, who owns Bodysculpt Fitness & Yoga and runs boot camps right off the beaches of Tulum, Mexico, recommends a yoga-based 20-minute routine.
“Incorporating these exercises into your current workout schedule two to three times a week will help increase your lean muscle mass, improve your energy levels, build a strong core and send your booty north instead of south,” she says.
Start with two sets of 12 repetitions back-to-back with a little break in between.
Sit squat: With a chair behind you, stand with feet hip-width apart. Engage core and begin to sit back into chair, leading with the butt. Squat all the way until you touch the chair and return to start position, keeping a soft bend in the knees at the top.
Wall sit: Stand with feet hip width apart and walk forward until your back is secure against the wall with your thighs at 90 degrees, parallel to the floor. Engage shoulder blades and press them into the wall. Hold for 30 seconds and return to start.
Heel squat: Roll up a yoga mat and place on floor behind you. Step onto mat with feet positioned the width of the mat. Cross arms in front of lifted chest and slide shoulders down your back. Engage your abs and start to lower, leading with the butt as though you are sitting back into a chair. Lower all the way down until you are in a full squat. Pause to make sure your knees are not pushing forward. Leading with the butt and keeping chest lifted, come back to start.
Downward dog walkouts: Position yourself into Downward Dog on your mat. Walk your hands as close as you can to your feet and pause. Walk your hands back to start position and shift into plank. Pause and on an exhale and press back to downward dog. Walk your feet to your hands and pause. Walk your feet back out and repeat from beginning.
Plank: Come onto all fours aligning wrists under shoulders. Step feet back until your body comes into a long line. Lift the hips and tuck the tailbone. Engage the shoulders down the back and look forward about a foot. Reach right arm forward to tap ground. Repeat with left.
Tricep push-up: From plank position, rotate your elbows so the insides face forward. Bending at the elbows and keeping them as close to your body as you can, lower body as close as you can to mat. Press back up to start position and repeat.
Shoulder press with yoga mat: Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees soft and tailbone tucked. Holding your rolled up mat at both ends, bring mat up to chest height with elbows bent out to sides. Press mat straight up and return to start position.
Front raise with yoga mat: Continue with same stance as above. Holding mat at both ends with palms facing in and arms extended, raise mat to chest height and pause. Keep a soft bend in the elbows so not to lock out joints. Return to start position and repeat.
Bicep curls with yoga mat: Continue with same stance as above. Holding mat at both ends with palms facing in and arms extended, tuck tops of arms into sides and slide elbows back so they align with the back waistline. Bending at the elbows, curl the mat to reach your chest. Lower and repeat.
Hamstring bridge: Lie on back with knees bent and feet flexed with heels about a foot away from your glutes. Make sure feet are hip-width apart. Extend arms down by sides. Contract abs, pressing shoulder blades into floor and keeping feet flexed. Lift hips up off the ground as high as you can. Return to start without touching all the way down and repeat. Challenge yourself by lifting all the way up and lowering only half way down and repeating.
- Abdominal toe taps: Lie on back with knees bent and toes on rolled up mat about a foot away from glutes. Place one hand behind head where you would have a ponytail and press your head into your hand (this will protect the neck). Raise shoulders off ground and contract abs into a crunch. At the same time, lift right foot off mat as though bringing your knee to meet your nose. Return to start and repeat on left side. Remember to exhale as you lift and crunch, inhale as you release. To advance this move, lift both feet off the mat at the same time as you lift your shoulders and head off the ground and return to start.
Using Pilates floor work, a series of exercise movements designed to make the trunk strong and flexible, is a great way to develop beach-ready definition quickly, according to Colleen Glenn, a 25-year Pilates veteran who teaches in Denver. “These exercises are the best choice for a 20-minute circuit done at least four times week in adjunct with a good cardio program.”
Twisting supine: Lie on back with knees bent and lift above the hips, and arms in a T-position with palms facing up. Slowly bring both knees to the right as far as you can. Tighten the abdominal muscles and bring your knees to the center. Slowly bring both knees to the right as far as you can. Go back and forth slowly for eight repetitions. After finishing the repetitions, hold the legs on each side for five to eight breaths.
Pilates 100: Lie on back (try to keep your lower back firmly on the floor through the exercise). Lift legs up about a foot from the floor. Lift your neck and upper back off the floor and lift your arms. Begin to pump your arms up and down while breathing in for a count of five, then breathing out for a count of five. Repeat for 10 repetitions. Bring your knees to your chest and wrap them in your arms to rest.
Prone leg-lifts: Lie on stomach with forehead on palms. Lift legs long and low. Beat legs together 20 times, sqeezing buttocks. Repeat three or four sets.
Swan neck rolls: Lie on mat face down. Legs can be together or shoulder-width apart. Place hands under shoulders. Engage your abdominals and lengthen through your spine while lifting your chest through your hands and keeping your arms next to your ribs. Allow your neck to slowly drop to the right side, then the left side. Slowly bring your chin to center and then down to your chest. Continue the neck roll a few times each side. Then switch directions. Lower your upper body and rest your forehead on the mat.
Side-lying leg series (optional: one pound leg weights): Lie on side and support head with hand. Lift top leg to the sky 10 times. Repeat for three repetitions. Repeat on alternate side. On original side, use top leg to kick out to front and then to back five times each. Repeat for three repetitions. Repeat on alternate side.
Plank: Press up to pushup position and hold for up to two minutes.
Pilates pushups with hamstring stretch: Hold elbows into rib case. Keep legs extended or come down to knees for three pushups. Walk hands back to feet to stretch the back and handstrings. Walk back out again for three pushups. Repeat one more time.
Wall sits: With back against a wall, bring thighs parallel to the floor with knees directly over feet. Hold for up to two minutes for three sets. Optional: use weights in arms and hold them in front of you as you hold the sit.
Certified personal trainer Kimberly Linton, who calls herself “DC’s toughest trainer,” believes in exercise and nutrition programs based on what women can do right now — not in the future. “Getting fit doesn’t mean you have to spend long hours in the gym and starve yourself,” she says. “It’s all about finding balance and setting realistic goals.” With some dumbbells, you can do two sets of this simple and straight-forward circuit anywhere in just 20 minutes — up to three times a week. As Linton displays from the photos, the exercises can truly be performed anywhere — even an empty parking lot.
Linton suggests completing the entire series twice in a workout for a real “bikini body blast.”
Plyo lunges: Start with leg forward in a lunge position, shoulders retracted back and navel drawn-in. Come down into the lunge and jump up, switching legs in mid air, landing on the opposite leg. Modify with alternating reverse lunges. (One minute)
- Jump squats: Start with feet more than shoulder width apart in a squat position. Squat down, bringing elbows towards knees and explode into the air, landing back in the squat. Modify by just squatting fast. (One minute)
Standing punches: Stand with feet shoulder width apart with fists clenched or holding 3lb weights. Draw-in your navel and come down into slight squat — start punching. (One minute)
Bicep curl and leg extension: Stand with palms facing up. Draw-in navel, curl biceps and extend leg. (30 seconds each side)
Lunge and shoulder scoop: Stand with light weights and palms facing in. Lunge to the left and scoop the weights across your chest as you keep your abs engaged. Return to start position and repeat on the right side. (One minute)
Standing leg and shoulder press: Stand on one foot, inhale with navel drawn-in, leg held up to hip height. Exhale and press leg forward while completing a shoulder press. Return to start. (30 seconds each leg)
Reverse fly in Chair Pose: Stand in the chair pose with palms facing each other. Draw-in navel and complete a flye. Return to start. (One minute)
- Kneeling tricep kick-backs: Start on your knees with a light weight close to your body at a 90-degree angle. Keep your navel drawn-in. Extend your arm back and return to start. (30 seconds each side)
- Chest press and kick-out: Lie on your back, arms in a 90-degree angle, palms facing out. Press the weights up above chest and push legs forward. (One minute)
Reach-throughs: Lie on your back with your arms forward and legs slightly apart. Keep your arms straight, sit-up and touch the floor between your legs. (One minute)
- Punch sit-ups: Lie on your back, knees slightly bent. Draw-in navel and perform a sit-up while punching. Modify with crunches. (30 seconds)
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