In just a few minutes a week, these six research-backed exercises will tighten and tone your trouble spots: Grab a set of dumbbells (beginners can use three- to five-pound ones) and complete six to 15 repetitions of each exercise unless the instructions indicate otherwise. Do two or three sets of each move, but if you’re really pressed for time, one set is OK. Follow the entire routine two or three times a week on nonconsecutive days.
Have your upper arms, stomach and butt all started drifting south? Chalk up that droopiness to the loss of muscle mass that can begin in sedentary women as young as 25. “The muscle you lose is replaced with fat,” says Caroline Apovian, MD, associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center. And because fat is not supported by muscle, it hangs off your body. Another sag promoter is the declining elasticity of your skin. Sounds hopeless—but there’s an easy way to turn back the clock: strength-training exercises. By building up your muscles, you can regain your youthful tone, says Brad Schoenfeld, lecturer in exercise science at Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, and author of Women’s Home Workout Bible.
Which exercises do the job most quickly? Click next for our picks—six that have been found effective by the nonprofit American Council on Exercise and several universities. The result: an efficient routine that in less than 15 minutes targets the most important muscles.
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Fat Bulges Under Bra Strap
Target muscles: Middle back
Best move: One-arm dumbbell row
How to do it: Stand with left leg forward, knee bent, right leg back a foot or two. Place left hand on left thigh for support. Grasp dumbbell in right hand with palm facing body; let arm hang by side. Keeping elbow close to body, pull dumbbell upward and back until it touches your hip. Return to start and repeat; switch sides.
Jiggly Upper Arms
Target muscles: Triceps, the muscle on the back of upper arms
Best move: Kickback
How to do it: Stand with left leg forward, slightly bent, right foot back a foot or two. Place left hand on left thigh and lean forward, transferring most of upper-body weight to left side. Hold dumbbell in right hand. Position right upper arm close to torso. Bend elbow 90 degrees. Keeping upper arm still, straighten elbow until arm is fully extended. Release to start position and repeat; switch sides.
Target muscles: Core, the front and back of torso
Best move: Front plank
How to do it: Get on floor on elbows and knees, elbows directly under shoulders. Contracting your core, lift knees so body forms one long line from head to toe. (If this is too difficult, stay on knees.) Keep neck in line with spine and hold 10 seconds. Release and repeat five times.
Target muscles: Chest
Best move: Dumbbell chest press
How to do it: Lie face up on floor, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Hold dumbbell in each hand, and with palms facing away from face, bend elbows to 90-degree angles and place them even with shoulders. Press both weights directly over chest, moving them toward each other so sides of weights gently touch. Release to start and repeat.
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Target muscles: Glutes, the big muscles in the derriere
Best move: Stiff-legged dead lift
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Holding weights, let arms hang in front of body, palms facing body. Keeping knees straight and back neutral, slowly bend forward at hips and lower dumbbells until you feel a hamstring stretch. As you lower, push butt back; keep gaze on wall in front of you. Release to start, contracting glute muscles, and repeat.
Target muscles: Quadriceps
Best move: Goblet squat
How to do it: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, toes turned out. Using both hands, hold dumbbell vertically in front of you at chest level, close to body. Keeping knees aligned over ankles, lower body toward floor until thighs are parallel to floor. Then rise back up to the start position.
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