The ultimate you-can-do-it Bikini Body plan

With chilly temps outside, bikini season may seem a long way off, but by getting a head start, you’ll give yourself ample time to make the kind of changes you really want (and your odds of succeeding go up too). Stick with our program for the next five months and the only cover-up you’ll need this summer is SPF 30.


Do the following moves three times a week (but not on back-to-back days). Start each workout with a 6-minute cardio warm-up: Clock 2 minutes at an easy pace, 2 minutes at moderate, and 2 minutes at hard (you should be breathing heavily). Then perform 2 sets of 10 to 12 reps of each exercise, resting for 45 seconds between sets.

YOU’LL NEED a pair of 3- and 5- or 8-pound dumbbells, a resistance band, a stability ball, and a 5-pound weighted ball. Your muscles should feel challenged by the last few reps in every set. If they don’t, check your form (make sure you’re not cheating) or switch to heavier weights.


Works shoulders, lower back, butt, and hamstrings

Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms at sides, and lift right foot behind you. Keeping left knee slightly bent and back straight, bend forward at hips until torso is almost parallel to ground and arms are extended under shoulders, palms facing each other [A]. Rise up as you raise arms out to shoulder height [B]. Hinge forward again and repeat. Switch legs to complete set.


Works legs, back, and biceps

Place the center of a resistance band under right foot and grasp both ends of the band in right hand next to right calf. Lunge back with left foot, lean forward from hips about 45 degrees (so torso is aligned with back leg), and place left hand on hip [A]. Draw right hand toward rib cage [B], lower to start position, and repeat. Switch sides to complete set.


Works chest, abs, and shoulders

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie with the center of your back on a stability ball. Raise hands slightly above shoulders with palms facing forward and elbows pointing down. Place feet shoulder-width apart, aligned under knees, and lift hips so your body is aligned from head to knees [A]. Press arms up as you curl upper body off ball as high as you can [B]. Lower and repeat.


Works triceps, shoulders, and legs

Raise left leg behind you, loop the center of a resistance band around left ankle, and hold an end of the band in each hand. Raise arms next to ears, elbows bent and pointing up, hands behind head with palms facing each other [A]. Keeping abs tight and right leg still, straighten arms overhead [B]. Bend elbows again and repeat. Switch legs for second set.


Works legs, butt, and shoulders

Tie a resistance band into a loop about the size of your head and place it around ankles. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart so there’s no slack in band. Hold a medicine ball with both hands in front of chest, elbows bent, and lower into a squat [A]. Holding ball still, maintain squat and hop about 3 to 6 inches off the ground [B]; repeat.


Works legs and butt

Stand with feet wide, toes turned out 45 degrees. Hold an end of a resistance band in each hand overhead, elbows bent about 90 degrees at shoulder height and forearms up in goal post position (band should be parallel to ground). Squat [A] and keep hips square as you turn your upper body to the right (arms and chest move as one unit) [B] then left to complete 1 rep. Straighten legs and repeat.


Works legs, butt, and biceps

Stand with feet wide, toes turned out, and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of hips, palms facing forward. Squat low [A]. Stay in squat and curl weights up as you bring arms forward slightly so weights rise to chin level [B]. Lower weights and repeat, maintaining squat.


Works abs

Secure the center of a resistance band around a sturdy object at about hip level (when standing) and lie facing away from anchor point with your midback centered on a stability ball. Hold an end of the band in each hand next to your hips, palms facing down and feet about shoulder-width apart [A]. Keeping arms straight, crunch up and lift shoulder blades off ball as you reach arms forward, parallel to ground [B]. Lower and repeat.


The first rule for getting bikini svelte? Eat! Swearing off carbs or fat for the next five months will do nothing except make you cranky–and more likely to binge. Use these strategies to stay on track.

** Don’t drastically reduce calories. When it comes to cutting back, more isn’t always better. Most active women need at least 1,600 calories a day to stave off hunger, keep their metabolism revved, and prevent muscle loss, says Shape advisory board member Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and the author of The Good Mood Diet. Eliminating just 100 calories from your diet every day for the next five months will help you lose close to five pounds. Cut 200 (an amount you’ll hardly miss) and you could drop 10 pounds.

** Bulk up your servings. Reach for filling, fiber-rich fruits, veggies, and whole grains. They require you to chew, chew, chew, says Leslie Bonci, R.D., director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. You’ll be forced to eat more slowly, giving your brain time to register that you’re full.

** Eat protein at every meal. Like fiber, protein takes a while to digest, so it will keep you feeling satisfied longer, says Kleiner. Aim for about 1 ounce of a protein-rich food at breakfast, 1 ounce for your midmorning snack, 3 ounces at lunch, 1 ounce for your afternoon snack, and 4 ounces at dinner, she says. And be sure to stick to, sources like lean red meat, fish, poultry, non- and lowfat dairy products, eggs, tofu, and beans.

** Satisfy your cravings. Reserve about 10 percent of your daily calories for treats, Bonci says. If you’re eating 1,600 calories a day, that’s 160 calories, or about six Hershey’s Kisses or a McDonald’s reduced-fat vanilla ice cream cone.


Your muscles aren’t the only thing that need strengthening when you commit to a new workout program. These tips will help you be mentally strong as well.

** Plan ahead. Every evening, take a few minutes to map out your meals and workouts for the next 24 hours. Figure out what you’re going to eat and when and where you’re going to exercise–and be as specific as possible. If you’ll be heading off to work in the morning, pack a healthy lunch and snacks and organize your gym bag. Once a week, make a shopping list and hit the grocery store to stock up on nutritious nibbles. Cruising the aisles without a list can make it easy to toss foods with empty calories into your cart.

** Practice journaling. Tracking your food intake and workouts can greatly improve your chances of success by keeping you accountable and focused on your goals. In a notebook, record every morsel that passes your lips, including how much you ate and your hunger level before and after (ideally, you shouldn’t be ravenous when you finally eat or stuffed to the gills when you finish). Log your workouts too, and at the end of each week, look back to see where you can do better–and give yourself credit for all you’ve accomplished!

** Get in the habit. Do at least two things to get closer to your goal each day, advises Robert Rhode, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the University of Arizona Medical School in Tucson. Even if you don’t have time for a full workout, take a 10-minute walk around the block. Or if you’re ordering takeout, search the menu for a healthy salad or vegetarian dish. As Rhode points out: “Rather than thinking, ‘I can do it,’ you want to take steps that allow you to say, ‘I am doing it!'”


BLAST MORE CALORIES This month, aim to do at least 100 minutes of cardio a week (divide it up however you see fit; you might do one 40-minute and two 30-minute sessions or five 20-minute workouts). Plan to spend 80 minutes of that time at a rate of perceived exertion (RPE*) of 5 to 6, or at 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, or MHR (220 – your age = MHR). Spend the remaining 20 minutes at an RPE of 7 to 8, or 80 to 85 percent of your MHR. Do any form of cardio you want–the elliptical, stair climbing, running, walking, biking, etc.

This month’s action plan

Pick a start date and get going!

** Make over your kitchen. If your shelves are currently filled with cookies, chips, and other diet bombs, stash them out of sight–or better yet, get rid of them entirely. Then hit the store to stock up on healthy foods like fresh fruits and veggies, lowfat yogurt, lean meats, whole grains, oatmeal, and nuts.

** Purchase equipment. If you’ll be doing our Bikini Body workouts at home, you’ll need some equipment. You can find it all at any sporting goods store, or online at

** Start your food and workout journals

** Rally the troops. Tell your loved ones about your exciting new goal, and ask for their full support and help in keeping temptation at bay.

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