If you're not yet ready for swimsuit season, it's time to get on the ball.
This is a touchy subject. I know there are readers who haven't put a leg in a bathing suit since they were 13, and that was 40 years ago. I know there are readers who won't even try on a bathing suit - at least with the lights on - much less buy one, much less wear one in public.
But you've got a friend in the beach-body biz. Just park your butt on a fitball. Your bounceable buddy can help you look better in ways that have nothing to do with weight loss.
The magical ab-shaping, butt-blasting qualities of the fitball can firm, tone and strengthen what you've got.
The humble stability ball is the best $20 investment you can make in your future physique.
Exercises focus on the areas most people find most problematic: tums 'n' buns. They also happen to be the body parts that tend to fare the worst when bared.
You've heard that there are no quick fixes and no such thing as spot reducing and yada yada yada, but doing these exercises every other day for the next couple of months can help tighten and tone.
Crunches on the ball have been scientifically proven to fire more core muscles than any other abdominal exercise, which makes them the best.
And you deserve the best.
As always, warm up with a few minutes of cardio - jumping jacks, running in place, jump rope, whatever - before beginning. These moves are suitable for most exercisers, but please work within your range of motion at a level that makes you feel comfortable. Stop if you feel any strain or pain, and remember to breathe! You can find these and other great fitball exercises in "101 Ways to Work Out on the Ball," by Elizabeth Gillies and Denise Austin's "Sculpt Your Body With Balls and Bands."
¢ Works: Lower abs, other core muscles
¢ How to: Lie on the floor. Stretch your arms on the floor overhead and hold the ball on either side. Your legs should be extended straight up. Lower your legs halfway to the ground, keeping them straight. Keep your abs engaged and your back on the ground. Now exhale and roll back, bringing your legs overhead until the tops of your feet rest on the top of the ball. Exhale and roll down slowly, using the ball to brace your upper body. Repeat 4-6 times.
¢ Option: If you feel any strain in your back or neck, try not lowering your legs as far toward the floor or the ball.
¢ Works: Abdominals
¢ How to: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Place the ball between your hands and knees. Keep your arms shoulder-width apart and straight throughout the exercise. Slowly roll your head, neck and shoulders off the floor. Your back and tailbone should remain on the floor. Repeat 8-10 times.
Walking spinal roll
¢ Works: Abs and quads. Stretches your back.
¢ How to: Sit with your hips just below the top of the ball. Keep your hands on the ball as you walk your feet forward one step at a time until your back is lying on the ball. Walk back to sitting position. Repeat 2-5 times.
Diamond hip lifts
¢ Works: Abs, inner thighs, butt
¢ How to: Lie on your back with your legs on top of the ball and the soles of your feet together, knees open to the side. Lift your hips up and down off the floor, moving your body in one piece and maintaining the open diamond shape with your legs. Keep the front of your pelvis open and flat. Repeat 10 times, then hold your hips up and pulse 10 times.
¢ Option: If your inner thighs are tight, use this exercise as a stretch by remaining in the starting position.
Uncrunches on ball
¢ Works: Entire core
¢ How to: Lie with your back on the ball, arms stretched out behind you. Bring your hands behind your head, elbows pointing out to the sides. Come up to a straight-back position, keeping your abs engaged. Release to the starting position. Repeat 5-10 times.
¢ Option: You can add a twist that will work your obliques and whittle your waist. After the crunch, lift one knee to the opposite elbow, pressing your body into the ball. Alternate sides, doing 5-10 times on each leg.
¢ Works: Entire leg
¢ How to: Sit on the ball with your knees hip distance apart and the balls of your feet on the floor. Extend your arms overhead. Extend one leg, keeping it straight. Flex and point the lifted foot. Keep the heel of the other foot raised off the floor. Return to the starting position. Alternate legs, 8 times on each side.