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Workout Routines

Dealing with Love handles

Exercises to help you slim your silhouette

By Michele Stanten and Selene Yeager 

Q: Please help! No matter what I seem to do, I cannot get rid of my "love handles." I want to firm up my middle!

A: The "love handle" area along your sides above your waist is traditionally a tough area to target. Unless you play tennis, the internal and external obliques???the two muscle pairs that form your "love handles" and help you twist and turn???are largely unused in daily life. The following exercises will help you tighten your waist for a smooth silhouette. Do two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions (unless otherwise indicated) of each move 2 to 3 days a week, allowing one day of rest between workouts.

And remember, smart eating is essential, too. If you have a layer of fat in that region, as opposed to untoned muscles, all the oblique exercises in the world won't firm it up. You'll have to lose the extra weight as well.

Seated Knee Drop
Sit back on your hipbones and place your hands on the floor behind you for balance. Bend your knees and press your ankles together, and lower your legs to the right. Contract your abdominals and obliques and slowly pull your legs up and over to the left. Repeat from side to side for one minute. Be sure to use your muscles, not momentum, to do the work.

Side Crunch
Lie on your right side with your legs extended. Cross your right arm across your waist, and place your right hand on the left side. Bring your left fingertips behind your ear, with your elbow pointed toward the ceiling.

Contract your obliques and lift your shoulders off the floor while raising your left leg about a foot off the floor. Hold for 2 seconds, and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for a full set and switch sides.

Seated Torso Twist
Sit on the floor with your back straight, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart. Extend your arms straight in front of you, and place your hands together, palms and fingers touching. Contract your abdominal muscles and lower your torso about 45 degrees, keeping your back straight.

With your back straight and abs taut, rotate your torso toward the right as far as comfortably possible. Be sure to move your upper body in unison; don't lead with your arms. You should be looking in the same direction that your hands are pointing throughout the move. Pause, return to center and repeat to the opposite side.

Side Plank
Lie face down on the floor with your upper body propped on your forearms with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Roll your body over to the right side, supporting your torso on your right forearm, raising your hips and stacking your feet so your body forms a straight plank. Put your left hand on your hip. Hold 5 to 10 seconds. Then switch sides.

Lie face up on the floor, legs extended, hands loosely behind your head. Slowly lift your torso off the floor and bring your left elbow across your body, while bending your right knee and lifting your leg toward your chest as far as comfortably possible. Hold, then lower back to start. Repeat, alternating sides. You should be twisting your torso, not your neck.

Standing Crossover
Stand with your feet a few inches apart. Bend your arms and hold them out to the sides, so they form right angles with your hands toward the ceiling, palms facing forward.

Contract your abs and pull your right knee and left elbow toward one another. Pause, and return to start. Complete a set then switch sides.

Michele Stanten is a certified group fitness instructor and lifestyle counselor in the areas of weight control and stress management. Selene Yeager is an ACE-certified trainer and a contributing fitness editor to Prevention.

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