Get a Strong Back and Trimmer Tummy – By Summer

It’s never too early to start thinking about the beach! And if this is the summer you want to look (and feel) your bathing suit best, now’s the time to work the muscles in your back as well as your tummy. Your back muscles and your abdominal muscles (called the core muscles) tend to weaken as you get older. Doing exercises to strengthen these muscles can help prevent back pain and, as an added bonus, having a strong back means that you’ll have a strong neck and shoulders, be more flexible, and less injury-prone.

Having a strong core also improves your posture, helps trim your silhouette, and gives you that added confidence on the beach.

Luckily, you don’t need pricey equipment to get results. All that’s required for these exercises is a bench or chair without arms, a mat or thick towel, and an exercise ball. Be sure to check in with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, particularly if you have back issues. If you can't do all of the repetitions and sets suggested, begin more slowly and do what you can without straining. Getting started now will help you get your core in shape by summer!

Candy Cane

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet comfortably apart. Press your feet firmly into the floor, creating a slight lifting sensation, and contract your glutes (clench your butt). Pull your belly button in toward your spine throughout the exercise. Feel the top of your head float toward the ceiling as you elongate your neck. Align your chest directly over your pelvis. Pull your shoulder blades down, keeping your arms at your sides.
  2. Bend to one side, lifting your rib cage up and over an imaginary ball.
  3. Return to the center, then bend to the opposite side. Do 3 sets of 8 repetitions.

Swizzle Stick Circles

  1. Lie face down with both legs straight and your elbows bent at your sides, as if you’re preparing to do a push-up. Prop yourself up with your elbows directly below your shoulders, palms down and your hands extended forward. Bring your feet together, tucking your toes under, and then squeeze your legs together. Feel a contraction in your inner thighs.
  2. Press into your elbows, pull your abdominals in strongly, and lift your body off the floor. Keep your body in as straight a line as you can—don’t let your butt drop, and don’t lift it way up.
  3. Press one foot strongly into the floor and lift the opposite leg up as high as you can while keeping your pelvis level. Circle the lifted leg slowly without moving your pelvis. The circles can be very small—what’s important is that you move with control and keep the leg straight. Do 8 circles in one direction, then reverse direction, do 8 circles, and lower the leg down. Switch legs. Do 3 sets of 8 repetitions in each direction.

Plank

  1. Lie face down on a yoga mat with your legs straight and your elbows bent at your sides, as if preparing to do a push-up. Prop yourself up with your elbows directly below your shoulders, palms down and your hands extended forward.
  2. Bring your feet together, tucking your toes under, and then squeeze your legs together. Feel a contraction in your inner thighs. Press into your elbows, pull your abdominals in strongly, and lift your body off the floor.
  3. Keep your body in as straight a line as you can—don’t let your butt drop, and don’t lift it way up. Hold the position for as long as you can! Do 3 sets, holding each for at least 30 seconds.

Corkscrew Legs

  1. To begin, lie down on a yoga mat (or a towel) face up with your arms pressed into the floor and your chest relaxed. Bend your knees and place an exercise ball between your legs, squeezing it with the lower half of your legs and the sides of your feet.
  2. Pull your abdominals in and up as you lift the ball off the floor. Once your torso and thighs form a 90-degree angle, straighten your knees to form an “L” shape.
  3. Continuing to hold your legs straight while squeezing the ball tightly, circle your legs in a slow, controlled manner. Complete 8 repetitions in one direction and then switch direction and d 8 more circles. Do 3 sets of 8 repetitions in each direction.

Bend and Extend

  1. To begin, lie down on a yoga mat (or a towel) face up with your arms pressed into the floor and your chest relaxed. Bend your knees and place an exercise ball between your legs, squeezing it with the lower half of your legs and the sides of your feet.
  2. Pull your abdominals in and up as you lift the ball off the floor. Once your torso and thighs form a 90-degree angle, straighten your knees to form an “L” shape.
  3. Continuing to squeeze the ball tightly, slowly bend and extend your legs without letting the ball touch the floor. One repetition is one bend and extend motion. Do 3 sets of 8 repetitions.

Beach Bicycle

  1. To begin, lie on your back on a mat with your arms at your sides, your knees bent, and your feet pressed firmly into the floor. Press your shoulder blades into the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles by exhaling strongly.
  2. While keeping your abdominals engaged, bring both knees up, with your thighs at a 90-degree angle to your hips and your shins at a 90-degree angle to your thighs. Extend your right leg out straight toward the ceiling, keeping your left leg bent.
  3. As if you are riding a bicycle, bring your right leg back to a bent position and your left leg straight out toward the ceiling. Feel your abdominals helping to hold your legs in the air throughout the movement. Continue alternating legs in a fluid motion as you complete the repetitions. Do 3 sets of 8 repetitions for each leg. (Each rep is one time around, as on a bike.)

 

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