If you’re anything like me, summer solstice heralds the return of super-fun activities like backyard BBQs, long bike rides, farmers' market strolls and camping trips. Every summer, I relish shedding my bulky winter coat, buying a few tubes of (natural, nontoxic) sunscreen and spending as much time outdoors as possible.
But despite my anticipation, I always feel taken off-guard when summer arrives, digging my swimsuit out from the depths of my closet. Has it always been that small, I wonder, glancing at my bright stomach, which has seen zero sunlight the entire winter. Um, and about that daily chocolate habit I picked up sometime between November and February …
It's time for a tone up.
For help, I turned to expert toner-upper Kiesha Ramey-Presner, VP of Teacher Development at the Bar Method, for tips on how to tone hard-to-target muscle groups. This exercise technique is designed to strengthen and elongate muscles through precise positioning and lighter weights.
Here, find expert tips from Kiesha on how to get your body fit for summer.
Bear your arms all summer long by targeting your triceps, the trio of muscles that run from your elbow to your shoulder. “Although your triceps represent the largest muscle group in your arm, they're often the weakest. Strengthening them has the potential to yield big results,” says Ramey-Presner. “In Bar Method, we do reverse pushups to target the muscle and create a leaner, more sculpted arm.”
What to do:
1. Sit on the floor with your hands underneath your shoulders and facing forward, with your fingertips rotated just slightly out for comfort and alignment.
2. Position your feet forward of your knees, parallel to one another and no wider than hip-width. Lift your seat, and without moving your feet, shift your torso back so that you feel a physical connection between your rib cage and upper arms.
3. Tuck your seat up and forward of your wrists, so that it clears the floor easily.
4. Bend your elbows about an inch in range directly behind you and re-straighten your arms. Repeat 20 times, 3 to 5 days per week.
Need to move a picnic table for your family’s July 4th feast? Protect your back and lift with your legs. This quadriceps-building exercise will help.
What to do:
1. Stand half-an-arm's length from a standard height kitchen or desk chair (without wheels!), facing the back of it. Place your feet parallel and hip-width apart, and rest your hands lightly on top of the chair back.
2. Raise your heels a few inches so that you are on the balls of your feet. Bend your knees so that you drop a third of the way down from where you were standing, and maintain a straight spine with relaxed glutes.
3. Hold this for 20 seconds. Rise 1 inch back up and lower; repeat 10 times. Hold again for 20 seconds. Repeat the movement, but more quickly, 20 times to finish. The exercise should total no more than a couple of minutes. Repeat 3 to 5 days per week.
“This low-curl exercise targets your hardest-to-reach deep abs and rectus abdominis—your six-pack,” says Ramey-Presner.
What to do:
1. Place a mat down on a carpeted floor (cushion will provide more comfort). Prop yourself up on your elbows, and sit towards the front end of the mat. Place your feet parallel and hip-width apart flat on the floor.
2. Squeeze your glutes and press your low back down onto the mat. Raise your elbows and hold the backs of your thighs with your hands, with your elbows bent out to the sides. As you do this, draw your ribs towards your thighs until your body forms a natural “C”-curve.
3. Exhale and draw your navel down, so that you feel your abs working. For more challenge, let go of your thighs. Hold your body still for 10 to 20 breaths. Then reset by holding back on to your thighs. Complete 3 to 5 sets; repeat 3 to 5 times per week.