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Best Exercises for a Beach Body

With spring in the air, summer's right around the corner. That means it's time to get off the couch and get ready for bikini season! But why the horrified look? Lots of women dread the thought of putting on a swimsuit after a long winter. If you haven't been working out, you're probably self-conscious about showing your body. Even when you're in good shape, you feel better about some spots than others. But don't fret: By performing the following exercises three days a week, and doing some aerobic exercise -- such as walking, hiking, or cycling -- on the other days, you can build a beach-bound body in just eight weeks:

Winter body woe: My arms are jiggly!

Arm-slimming exercise #1: Push-ups
Use an inflatable exercise ball to seriously work the upper body. Lay face down on the floor, positioning a 55-centimeter ball beneath your thighs. Get into push-up position, hands under shoulders and elbows bent. Raise, and then lower body until your nose almost reaches the floor, keeping your spine in one straight line, then push back up. (12-15 reps)

This exercise tones the triceps at the back of the upper arms. Sit or stand, working one arm at a time. Hold a five-pound dumbbell behind your head, bent elbow pointing toward the sky and beside your ear, palm facing your head. Extend the weight straight up, keeping upper arm in line with body. Bend elbow and slowly lower weight back down to shoulder. (12-15 times each arm)

Winter body woe: My bottom is unbearable!

Bum-busting exercise #1:
Traveling lunges
Teale Dotson, a personal trainer at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, recommends this bum-buffing exercise. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and take a big step forward with your right leg, making sure your knee stops above your ankle and doesn't bend more than 90 degrees. Foot planted, shift your weight onto your right leg and bring your left foot beside the right. Alternate lead legs. (10-12 reps each leg)

Bum-busting exercise #2: Lateral hops
Bust your bottom with explosive movements. Pick two points on the floor about two feet apart to serve as markers (floor tiles or pieces of tape will work). Stand at one marker, with your arms at your sides, knees slightly bent. Hop sideways, to land at the second marker. Jump back again quickly. (Set of five to 10)

Winter body woe: My midriff is miserable!

Tummy-tucking exercise #1: Reverse crunches.
The secret to a sleek stomach is toned abdominals. Lie on your back, knees bent, with an inflatable exercise ball between your ankles. Contract your abs, point your legs skyward and lift your hips an inch. Reach skyward with your arms and take the ball from between your ankles, then slowly lower your hips. Repeat, this time putting the ball back between your ankles. (10-12 reps)

Tummy-tucking exercise #2: Roll up, roll down. Adapted from Pilates, this exercise uses an elastic band. Sit up tall with your legs extended in front of you, knees together. Position the band so its middle section is across the soles of your feet. Wrap the ends around each hand enough to create tension in the band with arms extended. Contract your abdominals and pull your torso down toward your hips. Keeping both your abs and the band taut, roll very slowly backward until your shoulder blades touch the floor. Return to starting position. (10-12 reps)

Winter body woe: My thighs are thunderous!

Thigh-toning exercise #1: Plie squats.
This move is borrowed from ballerinas. Stand up straight, feet apart a few inches wider than your shoulders, toes pointed out at a 45-degree angle. Keep your head up, knees slightly bent, hips and lower back relaxed. Move hips and buttocks back and down, as if sitting in a chair, until thighs are parallel to floor. Hold for a few seconds, then return to starting position. (Repeat 12-15 times)

Thigh-toning exercise #2: Crescent kicks.
Straight from the boxing ring, this move will tone your gams. Start in fighter's stance, left foot a few inches in front of the right (and bearing most of the weight), knees and elbows bent and hands in front of face. Lift your right leg and kick it around in a half-circle, from left to right, keeping your foot flexed and toes toward the ceiling. (15-20 reps each leg)

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