Now that I have you here, just a quick note that the top 10 exercises I recommend for summer are also the top 10 exercises I recommend in general. Sorry, not sorry 🙂
It takes TIME to see change in the body. It takes time to build muscle. It takes time to lose fat. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to take your dollars.
The best thing you can do if you need a “quick fix” to feel better in a bikini, is to change your mindset and dispel pressure/ideal that society puts on us to not have cellulite ever or stomach rolls when we sit down.
If you’re like, “Okay, okay Katelyn I get it! There’s no quick fixes and mindset & body positivity/ neutrality is important. But what if I want to change my physique a little bit before hitting the pool?”
My answer would be to eat in a slight calorie deficit for 1-3 weeks while strength training 3-5 times per week. This will give you a slight change in body composition to help you feel a little more confident.
What are the top 10 exercises I would include in those 3-5 strength training sessions? Below are the top 10 exercises I would make sure to include in your workout routine whether it’s summer or not:
Say it with me: COMPOUND LIFTS WILL MAKE UP MOST OF MY WORKOUT! Compound lifts are exercises that use multiple muscles/muscle groups at the same time. Which is more important overall: calf raise (uses only the calf) or a deadlift (uses almost the entire body)
When done properly (with an engaged core and proper hip hinge) deadlifts are especially fantastic for your glutes, hamstrings, back, core and grip strength. You can do them with barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells or a moderately heavy object at home.
Pro Tip: Think of actively pushing way the floor with your feet/legs. This should feel more engaging for your lower body than trying to stand up by lifting/using your torso and arms.
Of course, I’m going to include the squat! It is right up there with the deadlift for amount of muscles engaged. There’s a million variations, so find one you are comfortable with and get strong AF at it.
Pro Tip: Pretend a band (or actually use one) is wrapped around your legs below the knee. Hold tension in the band the whole time by pushing into it slightly with your legs. You should feel more glute engagement this way it and it will help avoid knee valgus (knees caving inward).
3. Step Ups
This could really be any single leg lunge or split squat variation, but because climbing stairs is a valuable life skill I went with the step up. Step ups are an exercise that can be done with horrendous form, so pay attention to doing them right: keep your heel on the step surface the entire time, don’t use your supporting leg to push off the floor too much, lean the torso slightly forward and lock your hips out at the top.
Pro Tip: Lower down with control instead of plopping back to the floor. This uses a lot of glute and quad control.
4. Hip Thrusts
I don’t include the hip thrust on this list because it will make your butt look better. Strong glutes are really key for a strong body overall since they are our largest muscle group!
Pro Tip: Experiment with foot stance. Some people feel best with a narrower stance, some do better with wider. Everyone’s hips are a little different, so find what helps you feel the strongest and most glute activation.
5. Seated Rows
As much as I love pull ups, cable rows are more shoulder friendly and more easily accessible for everyone. They also allow greater recruitment of your lats which are your largest back muscle.
Pro Tip: While keeping your core engaged, to star the row let your arms reach all the way forward before pulling back to get the greatest range of motion.
6. Push Ups
I include push ups as a sneaky way to not need to also include the plank as an exercise on this list, because a push up (when done correctly) is essentially a moving plan. Can’t do a full push up yet? Try push ups on a smith machine bar, eccentric push ups or knee push ups!
Pro Tip: Think about squeezing your butt during a push up to engage your glutes and core.
7. Pallof Presses
This is probably an exercise you aren’t doing! Pallof presses are great because they work the core’s function of anti-rotation. You’ll be shocked at how challenging these can be! Start with a light resistance band. Hook the band around a pole/anchor point and stand a few feet away (the further away you are the harder it will be). Tuck your core by pushing your ribcage down and squeezing your butt HARD. Slowly push your arms straight away from your body until locked out then slowly bring back in.
Pro Tip: Adjust your stance to make it more difficult. Feet wide will make it easier and feet together will make it much harder.
8. Side Planks
I love side planks because basically everything that is off the floor is engaged. Since push ups are similar to regular planks, the side plank gets lots of core recruitment by also engaging the obliques and a little bonus glute. Try making it a little harder by floating your top leg for some of the time on each side.
Pro Tip: Don’t let your ribcage “flair out. Put your hand just above your belly button and pull your ribcage down/in like you are slightly bracing for a punch in the stomach.
9. Arnold Presses
Arnold presses have a special place in my heart because doing a bunch of them is what led to me first noticing some shoulder definition. This pressing variation is great because it involves all three parts of the deltoid muscle (front, middle and rear).
Pro Tip: Don’t go too fast. Keeping this movement slower and controlled will help keep your shoulders happy.
10. Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging leg raises are a great way to round out this list because they are amazing for the core and have a little bonus grip work. If your grip strength isn’t great it’s okay to only do a few reps at a time. You could also use ab straps or the roman chair at a gym to get a similar movement.
Pro Tip: Avoid using momentum as much as you can! Make your core do the work 🙂