Whether you plan to don the itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny polka dot bikini or the modest one-piece, a tight waist and toned legs and arms aren’t, unfortunately, just a diet away. To slim down and sculpt sexy muscles, you’ve got to exercise – the right way. We talked with fitness professional Daniel Reynen, president of WeBeFit Personal Training in Key West, Florida, and author of The Diet Is Dead, to get the skinny on the best fitness tips and exercises to shape up for summer.
Cardio alone is not the answer to summer fitness
You're slaving on the elliptical for six hours every week yet you aren't seeing any significant body-shaping results from your sweaty labor. What gives? You need to do less, but smarter, cardio and start strength training.
Reynen recommends strength training at least two days a week and performing heart-rate-based interval training three times a week. "When you're strength training, make sure to work your entire body," the fitness professional says. "Don't just work the muscles you can see or are good at using."
Poor eating habits derail the best of fitness intentions
Do you go green with envy looking at those lean, muscular women who work out less than you do, yet look like they live at the gym? Reynen says it comes down to what you're eating. "When my clients aren't seeing results from their exercise program it's almost a guarantee they have lousy eating habits – they skip meals, they eat and drink empty calories, and many use exercise as a way to justify or excuse poor habits," he explains.
Diets don't lead to long-term results
You may be thinking that, in addition to your daily calorie-shredding workout, a diet will help you achieve an enviable beach body. Though healthy eating and regular exercise are keys to getting in shape, Reynen warns that specific diets don't last. He says, "Traditional diets tell you what they want you to eat, not what you enjoy or have available. It works for a little while, but then real life kicks in and you're back to the same things you've always done."
Eat what you need
In Reynen's book The Diet Is Dead, you learn what you should eat based on your individual needs and preferences -- not some menu of foods that Reynen wants you to eat. "Then you learn how to make changes, slowly over time, so they become a habit. Small changes over time yield big results," the fitness professional adds.
The summer fitness workout plan
Skip the dieting and over-exercising and try Reynen's summer fitness workout plan, which includes heart-rate-based intervals and strength training.
Reynen says, "Research found that 45 minutes a week of intervals burn more than six hours of steady-state cardio. Intervals are also one of the few cardio exercises that build muscle as well!" He also suggests starting with five minutes of intervals and building up to 15 minutes as your fitness improves.
Cardio: Heart-rate-based intervals up to 15 minutes (3 times per week)
Warm up: Dynamic stretching and light cardio for 5 to 10 minutes.
Interval: Sprint, bike, row, jump rope or work out on an elliptical machine to bring your heart rate up to 90 percent of your VO2 max. Keep it in the 90 to 95 percent range for at least 15 seconds, and up to 4 minutes, if possible.
Active recovery: Wait until your heart rate drops to 70 percent of your VO2 max.
Repeat the cycle of bringing your heart rate to 90 percent, maintaining it for 15 seconds to 4 minutes, then stopping until your heart rate drops to 70 percent.
Calculate your VO2 max >>
Strength training workout (2 times per week)
Alternate your rep range and exercise combinations every three to four weeks for the best results.
- Foot-elevated hip lifts for your butt and back of the legs
- Rear foot-elevated split squats for your thighs and butt.
- Planks, side planks and rollouts for your abs.
- Do pushups off a counter or bench if you are not strong enough to do them on the floor. Don't bother with bent-knee pushups because they don't teach you how to stabilize your core.
- Inverted rows with a TRX for your back (or back rows with dumbbells or a band)
- Lateral raises for your shoulders, supinating biceps curls and prone triceps extensions for your arms.
More summer fitness tips and workouts
Summer fitness tips
5 Summer-ready abs exercises
Shape up with summer sports