Posted On Sep 27, 2016
Take your body’s trouble spots into your own hands with the help of these four highly effective, age-defying sculpt sensations.
BY Angela Arsenault
What do you do when you stand in front of a mirror naked? Do you instinctively cover up your delicate areas? Or do you relish the opportunity to be you, in all your beautiful, natural glory? I’m willing to bet that you’ll eventually start taking stock of what’s going on in that reflection. If you’re like me, you’ll suck in your belly and show yourself that you can still find the abdominals underneath that pesky, post-pregnancy pouch. You’ll remark how different your arms look these days; that they’ve lost their definition and should never be pressed flat against the body lest they be mistaken for someone’s thigh. Your focus will shift down toward your own thighs—and that mound of flesh above them—and thoughts will turn to cruel gravity.
I do this, even though I know that judging myself so harshly is one of the most counterproductive behaviors a human being can practice. Silver lining: the bulk of these body issues are well within my control. The power to transform my body is mine, just as the ability to revolutionize yours is within you. With this in mind, I came up with a list of five common trouble spots, and sought out some interesting, innovative and—wait for it—enjoyable fitness modalities to address each. These four exercises (one of them is a two-fer) all stand on their own as highly effective, balanced body workouts, but provide a little extra love where it’s needed.
EXERCISE: Aerial Silks
TARGET AREA: Flabby Upper Arms
Many women struggle to find the perfect workout for their arms—one that shapes and strengthens the biceps and triceps without creating too much bulk. We tend to prefer the Jennifer Aniston look to the female bodybuilding champ, no? To that end, why not work out your arms with grace and style on aerial silks? Long considered the domain of circus performers, silks were brought into the spotlight after a stunning performance by Pink at the 2010 Grammy Awards. Nolan McKew, who teaches the apparatus to intrepid students at Trapeze School New York, came to silks with a ballet background and was surprised by what his time in the air was managing to do for his arms.
“I’d always been lifting weights and picking up my partner for whatever piece I’d be dancing, but of course, I’d never be lifting somebody of my own weight,” McKew says. With silks, he found that “lifting my own weight and understanding my own body’s pull, as far as gravity goes, and working against that, really tones up your arms.” McKew says the triceps, in particular, benefit from a lot of the moves you might learn, such as the Iron Cross. “After you’ve climbed the silks, you can separate them, reach through, wrap your arms around, and then you can actually support yourself by pushing down through the silks,” he explains.
Once you’ve gotten that far, it might be relatively easy to isolate the triceps region with tiny elbow movements or tiny shoulder shrugs— “those little things that burn so good… isolations that really develop strength and tone up that area.” McKew’s other top recommendation: Bring tights! “Fun tights are the best, actually,” he says.
DO IT AT HOME
While you won’t necessarily be able to achieve the adrenaline rush of working out in the rafters, aerial trainer Nolan McKew says installing a pull-up bar in your house can work your arms in a similar manner. In addition to regular pull-ups, McKew suggests doing leg raises with straight legs while hanging from the bar. “That focuses on your lower abs which can also be really useful when you do get on the silks,” he says.
EXERCISE: Da Vinci BodyBoard
TARGET AREA: Core/Abdominals
Another perpetually tricky area of the body for many people is the abdominal. That blasted belly! Luckily for all, Pilates instructor Floery Mahoney created the Da Vinci BodyBoard, a sleek, beautiful piece of Baltic birch with tension bands and straps attached at both ends and running along both sides. This design provides an opposing tension workout that forces your core to pull your body together from the inside.
Mahoney explains: “When you have the tension at both ends of your body and you start to move into the crunch position, the two halves are stuck until the core engages to pull the two pieces together.” The abdominals continue to get a workout when you move on to legs or upper body exercises— once again because of the opposing tension tugging on your wrists and ankles. “You’re still engaging the core because it has to hold the whole body together while you’re doing different movements,” Mahoney says. The effect is downright transformative. “People cannot believe how quickly it changes their body,” Mahoney says of the Da Vinci BodyBoard.
THE BOTTOM LINE BALANCE
Whether you’re swinging from silks or doing squats on your tippy toes while gripping onto a ballet barre, there’s one word that should be at the forefront of your brain: balance. It’s an oft-elusive mental state, but can objectively and easily become reality in our physical sphere. Striving for a balanced workout will naturally even out, tone, and otherwise treat your trouble spots as you blaze a trail to your best body. l fitness
DO IT AT HOME Floery Mahoney’s core-strengthening creation was born out of her own desire to find an athome workout that could help her reach new levels of abdominal toning. She used straps to attach tension bands to her ankles and hands, then tied the other end of the bands to furniture positioned by her head and feet. The result: an opposing tension system that forces the core to work without relying on the other major muscle groups.
TARGET AREA: Love Handles Keeping our focus on the abdominal area, we come to the term of endearment for excess fat: the love handles. The muscles underneath those hard-to-lose handles are called the oblique muscles, and strengthening them can smooth out your waistline. Master trainer Jacqui Becker explains that Hoopnotica, a company dedicated to reintroducing “the element of play into physical fitness,” offers two levels of programming suitable for anyone keen on reshaping their mid-section in a joyous way.
“Hoopnotica Fit” is perfect for beginners because the class is structured in a way where the hoop doubles as a cardio and a resistance tool,” says Becker, noting the class can also meet the needs of seniors or people with injuries.
The next level, Hoopnotica Flow, is where you should go for “the best party tricks you’ll ever learn in your life,” according to Becker. This class teaches complex movements that incorporate all the parts of the body into dynamic variations of moves. All the while, you’re unwittingly burning more than 400 calories an hour, according to a study by the American Council on Exercise, and working your obliques. “Hulahooping is like riding a horse,” says Becker, “it doesn’t look like a lot is going on from the outside, but the next day you’re feeling muscles you never knew existed.”
Fitness hoops are generally one to two pounds, providing the perfect amount of resistance. The balance that’s required as you shift from front to back and side to side calls all of the major muscles groups into action, which helps make hooping a true full-body workout.
DO IT AT HOME
Hula-hooping has always been available to us at home, but it’s only recently that this 50s fad has gained traction as a fitness modality. Weighted hoops can be purchased online through Hoopnotica.com and many other retailers. A search on YouTube will bring up a variety of instructional clips.
TARGET AREA: Thighs and Glutes We’ve finally arrived at “the bottom.” The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle group in the body, which inevitably affects the shape of one’s thighs. No modality I’ve found works as effectively as BarSculpt. BarSculpt is the vision of dancer and Pilates instructor Leslie Hamm, and taught by certified fitness instructors across the country (barsculpt.com).
It’s a 55-minute class of interval training and non-cardio, that maneuvers around a ballet barre, small hand weights, and the floor. But for me, BarSculpt is also a fight to perservere and a struggle to push through shaking muscles. Hamm says that quaking muscles, signaling muscle fatigue, is a good sign. “If we can get you to the point where you don’t want to do any more thigh work, then hopefully the thigh muscles will effectively shut down so that you’ll know if you’re using them to do abs work.”
You’ll know because it will hurt. But before long, you’ll start to see a difference and feel it when your skinny jeans finally fit again.
DO IT AT HOME Use light hand weights, a small ball or bolster, and a yoga mat. A strong, sturdy chair or counter can support you through the seat and legwork.