Target Your Abs, Thighs, and Butt
Cover models aside, most of us dread the thought of slipping on a bikini (especially at the beginning of the season). Well, get ready to kiss your swimsuit phobia goodbye. This workout, created by Los Angeles-based trainer Patrick Goudeau, tames your biggest trouble zones through a series of circuits. "Circuits are designed to strengthen muscles while adding a fat-burning cardio element in a very time-efficient manner," says Jan Schroeder, PhD, senior exercise physiologist for IDEA Health and Fitness Association. So even while you're performing the weight moves, your heart rate remains elevated to boost your overall fitness level.
The End Result: A head-turning trifecta of flat abs, firm butt, and sleek thighs in just four weeks.
Personalize Your Workout
Circuits can be intense, since you don't have a lot of time to catch your breath between moves. Modify the workout to suit your level. You'll need a set of dumbbells and a step bench. Do each exercise for one minute, except where indicated. Try just one 15-minute circuit to zap a particularly persnickety body part, or do all three and burn up to 450 calories.
- Use 5- to 8-pound dumbbells where noted.
- Skip the one-minute cardio burst after the first and last moves, doing just the two-minute interval after the second move.
- Use 8- to 15-pound dumbbells and choose the more challenging options where noted.
- Do the one-minute cardio burst after the first and last moves; include a two-minute interval after the second exercise.
- Warm up with a few minutes of low-impact cardio; cool down and stretch when you're done.
- Do each circuit twice.
- Do any or all of the circuits two or three times a week, but don't work the same trouble zone on consecutive days.
Circuit 1: Firm Your Butt
1. Straddle Squat
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand straddling a step positioned vertically (use two risers underneath each end) with toes and knees pointed forward (not shown).
- Bend knees 90 degrees, squatting down; keep chest lifted.
- Place weights on the ground outside your feet.
- Return to standing position, then squat down again to grab the weights; stand up and repeat for 1 minute.
Cardio Burst (intermediate/advanced only): Run as hard and as fast as you can in place for 1 minute, raising knees to hip height.
Tip: Get more out of lower-body moves by contracting your abs — you'll improve your balance and stability, so you can work harder.
2. Weighted Bridge
- Lie on bench with heels on the ground about hip-width apart.
- Hold one dumbbell in each hand with arms extended, thumbs pointed in toward middle of chest (not shown). Keep the weights parallel to your chest and lift hips into a high bridge, tightening glutes.
- Hold this position for 1 minute and alternate slow-motion punches over your chest.
Cardio Burst (everyone): Run in place for 2 minutes.
Tip: A beginner? Do just one complete circuit all the way through, then add another round as you get stronger.
3. Sit Squat
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, facing away from the end of the step; extend arms in front to chest height.
- Shift body weight back into heels and find your balance (not shown).
- Squat low until you're sitting on top of the step or hovering just above; squeeze glutes hard to stand back up. Repeat for 1 minute.
Advanced Option: Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
Cardio Burst (intermediate/advanced only): Run in place for 1 minute.
Circuit 2: Bikini-Ready Abs
1. Toe Taps
- Lie back on ground with arms at sides.
- Bend both knees 90 degrees over abdominals, feet lifted.
- Slowly lower one bent leg at a time to quietly tap your toes to the ground, then lift leg back to start.
- Alternate legs in slow motion for 1 minute. (If you feel lower-back pain, don't lower toes all the way down.)
Advanced Option: Do side-to-side bicycle crunches with hands supporting the head for an additional minute.
Cardio Burst (intermediate/advanced only): Mountain Climbers. Get into full push-up position, hips low and abs tight. Bring right leg toward chest, tapping foot on ground; switch legs quickly and repeat for 1 minute.
Tip: If you're struggling with the advanced options, choose the beginner moves. You'll see better results and lower your risk of injury.
2. Abdominal Hold
- Sit tall at edge of step with knees bent and toes touching ground in front of you, hands on step outside your hips with fingers pointing forward.
- Tighten abs and bring toes 2 to 4 inches off the ground.
- Lift butt off step. Hold for as long as you can (aim for 5 to 10 seconds); lower and repeat.
Beginners: Keep one foot on the ground to start.
Cardio Burst (everyone): Mountain Climbers; 2 minutes.
3. Half Boat
- Sit tall on ground with knees bent 90 degrees, arms extended at chest level with palms down.
- Lean back slightly, engaging your abs, then lift both knees to chest level while continuing to reach forward with arms.
- Hold here, breathing deeply, for 10 to 20 seconds; contract abs.
- Lower feet to ground for 1 or 2 counts and repeat. Do 4 or 5 more reps over the course of 1 minute.
Cardio Burst (intermediate/advanced only): Mountain Climbers; 1 minute.
Circuit 3: Jiggle-Free Thighs
1. Deep Side Lunge
- Stand with feet parallel and hip-width apart, holding one dumbbell horizontally between both hands at chest height, elbows bent.
- Take a slow but giant step (at least 2 feet) out to the right side.
- Keep both feet on the same line (not shown).
- Bend right knee 90 degrees, keeping knee aligned over second toe.
- Place dumbbell on ground by right foot and hold for 2 counts.
- Step back to start.
- Repeat side lunge to right, this time picking up the dumbbell.
- Continue deep side lunges for 1 minute, lowering weight and picking it up; switch sides and repeat.
Cardio Burst (intermediate/advanced only): Plyo Step Lunge. Stand on bench with arms at sides. Touch right toes to ground behind you, bringing arms overhead. Bring right foot up and lower arms, then quickly switch sides, hopping left foot down while raising arms. Continue, switching sides explosively, for 1 minute.
2. One-Legged Deadlift
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold dumbbells with palms facing up in front of thighs.
- Find your balance and bend right knee behind you (not shown).
- Lean forward, lowering torso parallel to ground while lifting right leg behind you.
- Keep left knee slightly bent, thigh contracted and back straight, bringing weights toward ground. (Beginner option: Rest weights on step.)
- Return to standing and repeat for 1 minute; switch sides and repeat.
Cardio Burst (everyone): Plyo Step Lunge; 2 minutes.
3. Balancing Hamstring/Biceps Curl
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel, holding weights at sides with palms up (not shown).
- Curl weights toward shoulders while lifting left heel toward your butt.
- Hold for 2 counts, squeezing heel toward glutes, then lower foot toward ground without touching; at the same time, lower arms to start.
- Repeat for 1 minute; switch sides.
Cardio Burst (intermediate/advanced only): Plyo Step Lunge; 1 minute.
Originally published in Fitness magazine, June 2006.