Everyone's got 'em: stubborn trouble zones that seem to stick around no matter what you do. Luckily, we've got the plan that will help you get rid of them for good. It's all about challenging yourself — and your muscles. "Even the best exercises will stop producing results once they become too easy," says Grace De Simone, national group fitness director for Plus One Fitness, based in New York City. "To see real change, you need to increase intensity and add variety on a regular basis."
De Simone's program presents options for every fitness level. Choose the basic move for each problem area (abs, arms, chest, thighs, butt) if you're a beginner; challenge yourself with the intermediate or advanced exercises when you can easily do two sets of 12 to 15 reps. Do these moves two or three times a week, along with 30 to 60 minutes of cardio on most days, and in four to six weeks you'll see inches melt away and sleek, sexy muscles emerge!
Basic move: Side ab slide
- Prop yourself up on your left side with forearm on ground, palm down, fingers pointing forward.
- Keep legs straight and hips stacked.
- Extend right arm against right side.
- Bend at the waist and slide right hand down toward the top of right knee.
Intermediate: Side balance
- Begin in the same position as in the side ab slide.
- Lift your body off the ground so you're balanced on your left forearm and left foot.
- Raise your right leg to hip level or higher and extend your right arm up, palm facing forward.
- Hold here for 30 to 60 seconds.
Advanced: Elbow to hip
- Begin in the side-ab-slide position and raise both legs, balancing on left hip and forearm; place your right hand behind your head, elbow bent to side.
- Bend your knees up and in toward your chest, touching knees to right elbow if possible.
Basic move: Open-handed kickback
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
- Hold a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other; bend forward from hips about 45 degrees.
- Bend elbows 90 degrees.
- Straighten arms behind you, rotating forearms to turn palms upward.
- At top of move, open your hands so the weights are resting on your palms.
- Hold for 3 counts; close hands and return to start.
Intermediate: Tree position kick-back
- Hold a weight in your right hand, palm facing in, left hand at left side.
- Place left foot against right thigh as high as is comfortable; contract abs and bend forward slightly.
- Bend right elbow 90 degrees, then straighten arm behind you.
- Complete reps; switch legs and repeat with left arm.
Advanced: Extend and squeeze
- Place left foot against right thigh as above.
- Holding one end of a weight in both hands, extend arms overhead.
- Bend elbows to lower weight behind head.
- Complete 12 reps, then hold arms in bent position.
- Squeeze elbows together 8 to 12 times.
Basic move: Bump squat
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and hold on to the edge of a table.
- Lift your heels off the ground and squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Return to starting position, squeezing your glutes and pushing your hips forward as you rise up.
Intermediate: Skater twist squat
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at sides. Step left leg one stride back, crossing it behind right leg; bend knees and extend left arm forward and right arm back. Return to start; repeat on opposite sides.
Advanced: Jump squat
- Come into a squat with thighs parallel to the ground, knees aligned over toes.
- Straighten legs and jump up explosively, extending arms straight up.
- Land softly on your toes, then roll onto the ball of your foot and heel; squat down to begin next rep.
Basic move: Side lunge
- Stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Lunge a comfortable stride to the left, bending left knee until left thigh is parallel to ground; keep right leg straight while extending arms overhead.
- Push off with your left heel to return to starting position.
Intermediate: Side lunge with arm sweep
- Do a side lunge, but as you step to the left, touch your hands toward your left foot; sweep your arms up and over your right shoulder as you return to standing position.
Advanced: Side lunge to balance
- Stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Lunge a comfortable stride to the right, bending right knee until thigh is parallel to ground.
- Return to starting position, lifting right knee to hip level.
- Hold for 3 counts; lower and repeat.
- Complete all reps to right; switch sides.
Basic move: One-legged push-up
- Come into push-up position with knees on the ground.
- Extend your left leg behind you to form a straight line from your head to your heel.
- Bend arms until elbows are level with shoulders; push up and return to starting position.
Intermediate: Modified push-up tap
- From kneeling push-up, bend arms so elbows are level with shoulders.
- As you push up, reach left hand across chest and tap right shoulder.
- Return your hand to the ground and go back to the starting position.
- Repeat with your right hand.
- For a challenge, do the move in full push-up position.
Advanced: Balance push-up
- Come into one-legged push-up position with left knee on ground; extend left arm out to the side and slightly behind body at shoulder level.
- Balancing on left knee and right palm, lower chest toward the floor.
- Complete reps and repeat on the opposite side.