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Target Practice: Trouble Spot Toning Exercises

Ready, aim, fire! Zap your trouble spots with these no-gym-required sculpting moves, which tighten and trim where you need it most.

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Denise Crew
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How This Workout Works

Dedicated to dumbbells and crunching like crazy but still not seeing results where it counts? Drop the weights and ditch the sit-ups; we've found the perfect workout you can do anywhere to blast your biggest flab zones. "Each of these exercises tones a big-payoff muscle in ways your usual reps often miss," says Nadia Zaki, an instructor at Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York City, who compiled these eight effective firmers from her signature Inner Strength class to help you carve out cuts and curves better than ever before. Do the routine on three nonconsecutive days a week and watch problem areas go poof!

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Spider-Man Press-Up

Trouble Zone: Backs of arms
Why it hits the spot: By keeping your elbows closer to your ribs than in the typical push-up, you increase the workout for your triceps.

Targets: Chest, triceps, abs, obliques, butt, and hips

  • Start on ground in full push-up position, balancing on hands and feet with arms extended, body forming a straight line from head to heels. Make it easier: Do move on knees.
  • Bring bent right knee out to side at hip level as you bend elbows 90 degrees, keeping arms tucked close to ribs, so that right knee and elbow touch.
  • Press up and return to start.
  • Do 8 reps. Switch sides and repeat. Do 2 sets.

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Sunburst Slimmer

Trouble Zone: Backs of arms
Why it hits the spot: By keeping your elbows closer to your ribs than in the typical push-up, you increase the workout for your triceps.

Targets: Shoulders, chest, back, triceps, abs, and butt

  • Start on ground on all fours, then extend right leg behind you parallel to ground, toes pointed.
  • Bending elbows and keeping them close to ribs, glide torso forward to lower chin and chest toward ground while lifting right leg. Return to start.
  • Do 5 reps. Switch legs and repeat. Do 2 sets.

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Fallen Triangle

Trouble Zone: Belly
Why it hits the spot: Balancing in a full push-up pose and rotating to a side plank tones the deep abs, aka the transversus abdominis muscle, drawing your waistline in.

Targets: Shoulders, abs, obliques, and inner thighs

  • Start on ground in full push-up position, balancing on hands and feet with arms extended, body a straight line from head to heels.
  • Move into side plank, shifting body weight to left hand and rotating body to extend right arm directly up, palm forward, as you bring extended left leg under torso and to right. Pulse left leg up and down 1 inch, 5 times.
  • Return to start to complete 1 rep.
Do 3 reps. Switch sides; repeat. Do 2 sets.

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Tightening Tilt

Trouble Zone: Belly
Why it hits the spot: Here your obliques -- those other key center shapers, which run down your sides -- are targeted two ways: as you balance and as you bend.

Targets: Shoulders, abs, obliques, butt, and legs

  • Stand with heels together, toes turned out, arms by sides.
  • Bring bent right knee out to side at hip level, touching toes to left knee, as you raise extended arms out to sides at shoulder level, palms down.
  • Keeping upper body tall, hinge from hips 45 degrees to left so torso is on a diagonal; look toward left hand. Hold for 4 counts, then straighten torso.
  • Do 8 reps, balancing on left leg throughout. Switch sides and repeat. Do 2 sets.

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Swinger

Trouble Zone: Butt
Why it hits the spot: Because the glutes run diagonally, this move works them in their full range of motion: from, ahem, end to end.

Targets: Butt and hips

  • Start on ground on all fours; for extra counterbalancing support, prop left hand up on fingertips and bend left elbow slightly.
  • Extend right leg behind you at hip level, toes pointed; then, keeping hips still, bring it directly out to side.
  • Hold for 1 count; return to start.
  • Do 8 reps. Switch sides and repeat. Do 2 sets.

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Perky Pendulum

Trouble Zone: Butt
Why it hits the spot: In squats and other butt firmers, supporting muscles, such as the quads, are giving your booty a break. With your leg fully extended in midair, all the lift is coming from the glutes.

Targets: Back, butt, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet together, arms by sides.
  • Extend right arm (parallel to ground) and right leg (as high as you can) behind you, rotating body slightly so that right hip faces up, foot flexed; extend left arm diagonally up in front of you.
  • Slowly hinge at hips to tilt torso forward, keeping right leg lifted behind you and reaching left fingertips toward ground.
  • Return to start. Do 5 reps. Switch sides; repeat. Do 2 sets.

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Lookout Lunge

Trouble Zone: Thighs
Why it hits the spot: When you shift most of your body weight onto your front leg while folding your torso over it, the inner and outer thigh muscles of that leg take on a bigger load for a longer duration than in a traditional upright lunge.

Targets: Shoulders, back, butt, quads, and hamstrings

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart and extend arms overhead, palms facing each other.
  • Lunge forward with left leg, bending knee 90 degrees, right leg extended behind you.
  • Hinge forward from hips 45 degrees, keeping back flat, so that torso and arms point diagonally up.
  • Rotate palms out and lower arms to sides, then raise arms again, turning palms in.
  • Maintaining lunge, lower and raise arms 8 times. Switch legs and repeat. Do 2 sets.

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Honing Hinge

Trouble Zone: Thighs
Why it hits the spot: Turning your toes out in a plié shifts more of the focus to the inner thighs, and the forward bend challenges your legs to work that much harder to stabilize you.

Targets: Shoulders, back, butt, quads, and inner thighs

  • Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, arms by sides.
  • Lower into plié, knees bent 90 degrees, and extend arms overhead, palms forward. Make it easier: Keep hands on hips.
  • Slowly hinge forward from hips until torso is nearly parallel to ground, keeping back flat and stretching arms forward.
  • Slowly raise torso back to plié position, then return to start.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July/August 2011.

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