Sunday, February 21

Top 5 Buff Bride Moves

I love writing about anything wedding-related and sharing ideas with fellow brides-to-be, but my biggest passion is physical fitness. I’m one of those girls who is able to convince herself she loves being in the gym (because let’s be honest, who wouldn’t rather be eating a tub of ice cream on the couch if it didn’t affect how you looked?) and I attribute my positive self-coaching during workouts to the 12 years I spent as a competitive gymnast. I love physical challenges so much that I voluntarily joined Officer Candidate School in the Marine Corps when I was in college! Enduring several months of officer-training boot camp taught me valuable discipline and equipped me with amazing confidence that I could do anything I set my mind to. Now I’m studying to be a personal trainer and find myself in the gym twice a day, 5 days a week – and that’s on top of a full time job, volunteer work every weekend, planning a wedding, fun leisure time,and spending time with my family! My point is, no excuse is a valid reason to not be in the best shape in your life on your wedding day. Stop expecting some miracle diet or quick-fix to make you look and feel your best – it doesn’t exist!! Stop saying you don’t have time – I get up before work for cardio and head straight to the gym after work for weight lifting. If I can fit it in twice a day, I know you can spare even just one workout at least three days a week. It might seem like hard work to expend effort in the gym or avoid the constant temptation brought on by society – I’m a sucker for McDonald’s too, trust me – and honestly, it isn’t easy. But it’s also not nearly as hard as you’re making it. All you need is knowledge and the belief in yourself that you CAN be in your best body by your BIG day. But, you can’t wait until a week before, or even a month before to get started on sculpting that beautiful body in hiding. Why add the extra stress of wondering if you will look fabulous in your dress when you have too many other things to worry about?!
Beach Yoga Tree Pose
(That’s me! Daytona Beach, September 2009)
Start eating healthier and working out NOW and I guarantee you will make things easier on yourself and be more gorgeous than you even imagined when you walk down that aisle.  Read on for my TOP 5 moves that will get you toned and sexy so that your groom will be absolutely swooning. Let’s get started!

Legs – Weighted Walking Lunges
These are excellent booty-rounders and are great for toning your thighs.
You’ll need 2 dumbbells and unobstructed walking space to complete this exercise. Start by standing with your feet together and holding one dumbbell in each hand. Step forward with the first leg with your heel first, then ball of your foot. Lower your body by flexing your front knee until the knee of your back leg is almost in contact with floor.  Be careful not to let your knee actually touch the floor! Stand up onto your forward leg with the assistance of your back leg. Then lunge forward with opposite leg and repeat by alternating lunge with opposite legs. Start by doing 5 on each leg (ten total walking lunges without stopping) until you are able to work up to doing fifteen lunges on each leg (thirty total without stopping). Repeat this same exercise three times to complete the three full sets per day. This counts as one exercise. For optimal results, add in two additional leg exercises of your choice. Tip: If you notice you are able to complete 16 repetitions (32 nonstop lunges) with minimal effort, it is time to move onto heavier dumbbell weights. ALWAYS use the same amount of weight in each hand to keep muscles working in a balanced manner. If you are not able to do at least 5 lunges (10 without stopping), you will need to use lighter dumbbells in each hand.

Back – One Arm Row with Dumbbell
If your dress shows off a little back, make sure you do this exercise to sculpt sexy muscles that are sure to impress all your guests.
You’ll need a sturdy chair and a single dumbbell for this exercise. Start by standing next to the chair, which you will use for support. Put your left hand on the seat of the chair while you bend over and to lift the dumbbell from the floor with your right hand. Pull the weight up and back in the motion you would use to start a lawn mower. Pull your elbow up and back as far as is comfortable, and you should feel the muscles flex in your back as you pull the weight further back. Maintaining control of the dumbbell, slowly lower the weight back to starting position. Repeat with the same arm 6-10 times, then do the same on the other arm. Do this 3 times on each arm to complete one full back exercise. Choose two additional back exercises to finished your weight-lifting workout for that day. Tip: If you notice you are able to complete 16 repetitions with minimal effort, it is time to move onto a heavier dumbbell weight. If you are not able to do at least 6 repetitions with a single dumbbell, you will need to use a lighter weight.

Chest/Triceps – Push Ups
Another must if your gown is strapless or shows off your shoulders and collar bone.
For this exercise, you only need a mat or carpeted flooring. It’s easy to do this exercise incorrectly, so be sure to use good form to get the most out of your hard effort and to avoid serious injury. Start by lying face down on the ground with your hands out to the side (a little wider than shoulder width apart). With your arms slightly bent and knees on the ground, lower your torso while maintaining a straight back. Do NOT allow your back to arch and do NOT bend at the hips. Hold your head erect so that you are looking at the ground, keeping your spine neutral. Control breathing by exhaling on the way up and inhaling as you release back down to the ground. Repeat 5-10 times before resting. Do this exercise 3 times until you are able to do 10-reps with ease. Then challenge yourself even further by using your feet instead of your knees for a standard push-up.

Biceps – Dumbbell Curls
Show off those shapely guns with this simple way to get buff arms in no time!
You’ll need 2 dumbbells of equal weight for this exercise. Standing straight up, feet hip-width apart, hold the dumbbells in each hand in front of your thighs with your palms facing outward. Contracting the biceps, bend the arms and curl the weight up towards the shoulders. Keep your elbows at your waist and do not allow them to move with the motion. Only bring the weight as high as you can without moving your elbows. Maintaining control of the weight, slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting position, being mindful of not letting your arms straighten and lock completely as this will put strain on your elbow joints. Keep tension in the muscles for the duration of the exercise, which is 10 total reps. Rest for one minute. Repeat exercise 2 more times for a total of 3 sets. Tip: Work up to doing 16 repetitions, and once that gets too easy, try using heavier dumbbells.

Shoulders – Shoulder Press
Nothing is more impressive than sexy shoulders that rock your wedding gown.
You’ll need 2 dumbbells of equal weight for this exercise. Hold each dumbbell at shoulder height next to your shoulder, palms facing forward. Press the dumbbells straight up over your head, keeping arms to the sides or at a slight angle in front of you but NOT allowing them to go directly in front of you. Lower the weights back down to the starting position. Exhale and squeeze your abs as you lift the weights over your head, and inhale as you bring them back to shoulder height. This exercise is most effective when done slowly and smoothly. Tip: As you gain familiarity with this exercise, you may complete the repetitions standing on your feet; Just be certain you maintain a neutral spine to protect your lower back. You may also increase dumbbell weights as the exercise becomes easier.

Keep in mind that these exercises are just to get you started. You should incorporate at least three exercises for each body part once a week to really see results. Be sure to give your body ample rest too – the more it is worked, the more it needs recovery. Don’t work any single body part more than once per week. If you overwork your muscles they will get tired and possibly injured, and you will certainly get burned out. That’s why I recommend 1-2 body part exercise per day, which will only require 3-4 days each week. Pair each strength-training day with 20-30 minutes of intense cardio (this means using the elliptical, treadmill, or stationary bike set on a level that breaks a sweat and makes you breathe heavier for the duration of the exercise).
If you have a gym membership, I recommend you take advantage of group classes that involve step benches, fun dancing, or relaxing yoga. Don’t worry about being the “new” person – everyone in that class was new and inexperienced at some point! If you are on a tight budget or don’t have access to a gym, it’s easy to get a workout in at home, and you have the added convenience of a flexible workout schedule! Just pick up 3, 5, or even 10 lb weights (two of each, preferably) from any Wal Mart or Target. They are very inexpensive and great to have handy at your house when you’re under a time crunch. I am also a of cardio videos. My favorites ones? Total Workout in Ten and Ultimate Fat Burn by Women’s Health Magazine, or any from the Jillian Michaels Collection:

Women's Health Jillian Michaels

Understand that even 1,000 crunches a day will not give you six-pack abs. Still, ab work is important for building a strong core which is essential to completing other body-part exercises and avoiding injury when working out. I recommend contracting and squeezing your ab muscles during all of the weight-training exercises I mentioned above. If you still have the energy and motivation after doing your body-specific exercises then by all means, add some ball-crunches or do some weighted side bends to strengthen those obliques (the muscles the run alongside the abdominals, just above your hip bones). But remember, the only way to show off those hard muscles is by burning off the fat covering them, and this is only done through honest-effort cardio.
Remember to ALWAYS start with a five minute warm-up phase and a five minute cool down. During the warm up you might do some jumping jacks or start off on a low level on your favorite cardio machine. The cool down should consist of slow stretching that you hold for 30 seconds each and should be relaxing and comfortable. Be sure to experience each moment and be thankful for your mental strength and physical ability to appreciate your body and give it what it needs to be happy and healthy. After all – it’s yours, for better or for worse!

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