Spring is here. The world is thawing, the winter winds are giving way to warm spring breezes, and animals are coming out of hibernation—including you! Unfortunately, it’s tough not to have gained a few pounds during the holiday season, and so many people find themselves dreading the rapidly-approaching summer. After all, who wants to wear a bathing suit or barely-there tank top when you feel pudgy and out of shape?
Fortunately, there are a few essential exercises you can use to get in shape, even in the few short months preceding summer. Let’s take a look at these, how to perform them, and what they can do for you.
If you want to drop pounds, there is absolutely no better way to do so than aerobic activity. This type of exercise isn’t meant to test your strength—it’s meant to burn those calories and increase endurance, and it’s going to be your main fat-burning spring activity
To effectively burn fat, you need to get your heart rate into the fat burning zone that is appropriate for your age and gender. To measure your heart rate, check your pulse at the neck or wrist, and count the number of heartbeats which occur over a 60 second period.
To find your fat burning zone, subtract your age from 220. This gives you your maximum heart rate, which you should never attempt to push yourself past. But for our purposes, we’re not going to even come close—your fat burning zone is 60 percent of your maximum. So, for example, if you’re 40 years old, you would subtract 40 from 220 to get 180—this is your max heart rate. 60 percent of 180 is 108. So you’d need to maintain a heart rate of 108 in order to optimally burn fat.
You’re going to want to maintain this heart rate for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week, through whatever aerobic exercise you like best, whether that’s jogging, cycling, kickboxing, or using an elliptical trainer at the gym.
And don’t worry if you can’t quite make it for that long in the beginning! Just exercise for as long as you can, adding to the length of your workout each week. You’ll soon find yourself gaining endurance and losing fat!
The squat is the ultimate weight-based exercise, and will give you great-looking legs and a strong, stable core. Plus, developing all of the many muscle groups activated during squats will help you burn calories more quickly.
First things first—when you perform the weight training exercises on this list, you’re going to aim for 12 repetitions. This simply means you’ll be lifting your weight 12 times. You should choose a weight that’s heavy enough that you can barely do the last repetition.
When you lift, you should slowly breathe out in order to avoid passing out. Each repetition should be slow and controlled—try to count to 3 as you lift the weight, and counting to 3 once again as you lower it.
To perform a squat, you’re going to need a weight bar and a few weights—you can find these most easily at your local gym. Try squatting only the bar’s weight until you learn proper form, and slowly increase the weight.
Proper form is essential. Standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, place the bar on your upper back and grip it tight.
Now, descend by squatting down as if you are sitting into a chair behind you. Keep your knees in line with your feet and keep going down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Don’t allow your knees to extend past your toes.
Once you reach this parallel position, hold it for a moment, and slowly raise back up. Repeat. You’re done!
Take a look at this video to see a proper squat in action, and then get to the gym and start doing this incredible exercise 2-3 times a week!
Yep—push-ups are still one of the best and most accessible exercises you can do. If you’re looking to get in shape for the summer, push-ups will help give tone your chest, shoulders, and arms so that you can look your best on the beach.
To perform a proper push-up, start in the plank position with your body straight and your hands shoulder-width apart.
Now, lower your body to the ground, keeping your eyes up, until your chest is close to the floor. Then, remembering to exhale, raise yourself back up to your starting position.
That’s it. Easy! But if you need some additional help, check out this video to learn proper push-up form.
Mountain climbers are a tough exercise. They fire up nearly every one of your muscle groups, burning fat and toning muscle in nearly every area you can think of.
In other words, they’re a perfect exercise to get you that summer body now.
To perform mountain climbers, begin in the plank position, much as you would with push-ups. But instead of lowering yourself, you’re going to bring up one knee to your chest, quickly lowering it as you raise the other. Keep going—it’s going to feel as if you’re, well, climbing a mountain in place.
This is a hard one at first, but stick with it. If you need to see an example of mountain climbers in action, take a look at this video.
Abdominal crunches are another easy, yet incredibly effective exercise, and are well-worth your time. Who wouldn’t want a stunning stomach by the pool this summer, after all?
To perform a proper crunch, think small movements. A crunch is not a sit up, but a small movement of the abdominal muscles.
Begin by laying flat on your back with your knees bent. Your heels should be only a few inches from your buttocks.
With your hands at your temples and your elbows extended out from your body, bring your shoulder blades off the floor, rising up until you feel intense pressure in your abdominal muscles. Hold here for 2 seconds, and lower yourself back into the starting position. Repeat until failure.
For additional help, check out this video on crunches.
The dumbbell row targets your upper back, an essential area if you’re going to be clad only in a bathing suit.
To perform this weight training exercise, you’re going to need a pair of appropriately-weighted dumbbells. Holding on to them tightly, you’re going to bend at the hips—not the back—and lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor. Allow the weights to hang at arm’s length once you do this.
Now, pull your shoulders back, and hold them in this position. Then, pull the weights up to the sides of your ribs, squeezing your shoulder blades toward your spine. Repeat 10-12 times for a stellar upper back.
Take a look at this video to see the proper form for the dumbbell row.
Alternating Deltoid Raise
As clothing items like tank tops reign, your shoulders are one of the first things people are going to start seeing this summer. Good thing alternating deltoid raises can make them look beautiful!
To perform this shoulder exercise, hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides. Now, keeping your elbows slightly bent, slowly raise the weights directly in front of you, up to shoulder-height, avoiding swinging.
Now, return the weights to your sides, and on the next repetition, raise the weights straight out to your right and left, again, stopping at shoulder height.
Continue alternating until you’ve done 10-12 repetitions.
If you still have questions, check out this video on the alternating deltoid raise for help.
Look Good, Inside and Out
These 7 essential exercises will get you ready for summer in no time, sculpting essential areas of the body for maximum attractiveness. But beyond this, they also strengthen your core, make you less prone to injury, and help make your heart and cardiovascular system healthy.
So don’t skip the physical fitness routine—get ready for summer, inside and out. Your body will thank you.