Before you unveil your bikini body at the beach, get it in top shape with moves that will sculpt, strengthen, and show off your curves -- not to mention boost your metabolism and your confidence. Follow these steps to make the most of your summer strength-training routine.
No matter what muscles you want to define or what body part you want to shape up, your hard work won't show if it's buried under extra layers of fat. That's why any good toning program starts with cardio: 30 to 60 minutes, 3 to 4 days a week, of moderate- to high-intensity exercise -- biking, swimming, running or brisk walking, fast-paced Vinyasa yoga, or aerobics all fit the bill.
On days you don't do cardio, pair your strength-training with a 30-minute routine designed to improve blood flow and heart health. Gentle poses that stretch and compress the rib cage and torso can give you some of the same benefits as high-intensity exercise -- without high-intensity exertion and sweating.
Don't go into a workout thirsty: A 2007 study from the University of Connecticut found that athletes with less-than-normal levels of body water performed poorly on certain strength-training moves. You don't need to drink after each set, but keep a water bottle on hand in case you start to feel parched.
Consider eating a small postworkout snack that pairs protein and carbs, too, such as whole-grain toast with peanut or almond butter. It can help your muscles recover by nourishing damaged tissue (skip it, though, if you're trying to lose weight).
You don't have to stick with the same routine every week -- in fact, you can stave off boredom by switching it up and trying new activities. But setting a general workout schedule can help you stick with your goals and remind you to make exercise a part of your day, every day.
A recent study found that sedentary college students who set aside time to brainstorm specific ways to get moving exercised more than those who simply focused on why they should exercise. Following our general guidelines -- 3 to 4 days of cardio plus 3 to 4 days of strength-training -- use your Best-Body Road Map to plan out a typical week of exercise.