Here's a real-life scenario that we've all experienced: You're shopping for that perfect dress and lo and behold, there it is! That perfect strapless dress. You try it on, twirl around in front of the dressing room mirror and it looks great … until you turn to the side and see the dreaded "bra fat bulge."
But here's the good news: There are exercises you can do to tighten and tone the muscles in that area. By simply adding a few focused Pilates moves to your regular workout, you'll be strutting your strapless stuff sans jacket in no time.
Set yourself up in an area with a mat. If you've got a pair of two- or three-pound weights, great; if not, you can use two cans of soup instead.
1. Pulling Straps With Weights (10 reps)
Setup: Lie flat on your stomach, legs together and arms outstretched to each side in a "T" formation.
Action: Hold your weights with your arms reaching straight out. Hover your arms about an inch above the mat. Draw your arms back toward your hips as you lengthen and lift your head and chest up off the mat. Bring your arms back to the side as you lower back down.
Tips: Use visualization to help engage your muscles properly on this move. Imagine cracking a walnut between your shoulder blades. This will help draw your shoulders together and really activate and tone the traps and lats.
2. Serratus Push-Ups (12-15 reps)
Setup: Position your body in a forearm plank. Arms are shoulder-distance apart and parallel like the numeral eleven.
Action: Dip your chest down an inch toward the ground, then press your chest back up.
Tips: Think about pulling your arms in toward your body with a bit of pressure to keep the shoulders from rising. Deeply scoop the abdominals in toward the spine so the core is controlling the movement.
3. Up and Downs (10 reps per side)
Setup: Stay in forearm plank position, keeping your abdominals deeply scooped in toward your spine.
Action: Place one hand down flat on the ground where that elbow was. Place the other hand down flat where that elbow was -- basically, you're pushing up to flat-palm plank one arm at a time. Lower back down to one forearm then the other. Do this as quickly as you can 10 times, then start by placing the other hand down first for another 10 reps.
4. Side Bend (10 reps per side)
Setup: Lie propped up on one side (like a mermaid). Knees are softly bent with the top arm draped over the top leg, Your other hand is anchored flat to the mat.
Action: Lift your hips as you straighten your legs, reaching the top arm out and over your head. Lower back down to the starting position.
Tips: Really lift those bottom ribs up high to help cinch and tighten the obliques and corset muscles, as well as your target zones in the arm and back.
5. Leg Pull-Down Combo (8 reps)
Setup: Start in a flat-palm plank, hands directly under the shoulders. Lift one foot a few inches off the mat to hover, toes softly pointed.
Action: Rock your body weight forward an inch and back an inch, keeping your body in a strong plank throughout. Repeat 3 times then switch to the other foot. Repeat on both sides, 8 times.
Tips: Think about dragging your shoulders down your back so all the muscles in the "bra-fat zone" engage and activate. Deepen the abdominals so the lower back doesn't sink or arch. Keep the neck long and in line with the spine.
Add these moves into your daily routine and remember: Consistency is key! Pilates exercises chisel, sculpt and elongate the muscles, so put the hard work in and within a few weeks, you should feel that area tightening up. Confidence is the most beautiful thing a person can wear, so block time out for yourself to feel, embody and own the inner goddess that you are!
Pilates instructor Andrea Speir is the star of the top-selling DVDs, "Trim, Tighten and Tone" (2014) and "Perfect Pilates Body" (2013). Speir Pilates, her first studio, is located in Santa Monica, California and fused classical Pilates with modern cardio and intense circuit training. Connect with Andrea on her website and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.