Your waist is usually the first area to expand when you put on a few extra pounds. Fat accumulates to form the unsightly belly bulge and "love handles" that can be uncomfortable when they hang over your jeans. If you're ready to shrink your waist and fit back into your "skinny" jeans, combine a healthy diet with regular cardio and waist-whittling exercises.
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The torso twist targets the oblique muscles that make up the sides of your waist. Sit tall on a chair or a bench with your back straight and your belly button pulled into your spine. Hold a weight or another object in your hands with your arms extended straight in front of your chest. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, contract your obliques to slowly twist to the right. Pause, then return to the center. Repeat the twist to the left. Be sure to move only your torso, keeping your hips still. Complete two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions per side.
The oblique twist requires core, back and shoulder stabilization while dynamically working your abdominal muscles. Begin on the floor in a push-up position with your legs extended straight behind you and slightly apart. Your hands should be positioned directly under your shoulders with your arms fully extended. Stabilize your core and, keeping your body in a straight line, transfer your weight to your left leg. Bend your right leg and bring your knee across your body and drive it toward your left shoulder. You should feel a "crunch" in your right oblique. Return your right leg to the starting position and then repeat the twist with your left leg. Perform the exercise with controlled movements so as not to injure your back. Complete three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions per side.
The "windshield wiper" provides a gentle way to target the oblique muscles. Lie on your back with your legs up and knees bent so that your shins are parallel with the floor. Spread your arms straight out at your sides to add stabilization for your upper body. Pull your belly button into your spine and contract your core. With control, lower your legs to the left without moving your upper body. Slowly return your legs to the center and then lower them to the right. Slow and controlled movements are key for this exercise. Complete three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions per side.
Fingers-to-Heel Oblique Touches
Fingers-to-heel touches work the bulk of the abdominal muscles while intensely targeting the obliques. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your arms straight at your sides. Pull your belly button into your spine and contract your core. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor and reach with your right hand to touch your right heel. This movement will produce a "crunch" in your side. Return to the starting position and then bend to touch your left heel with your left hand. Continue from side-to-side until you complete 20 repetitions. Perform two to three sets of this exercise.
The waist whittler is a Pilates exercise that strengthens your oblique muscles. Lie on your left side and use your left hand to support your head. Place your right arm across your body and use your hand to steady your body. With your hips and feet stacked, pull your belly button into your spine and stabilize your core. Keeping your legs together, use your obliques to slowly lift them eight to 12 inches off the floor. Hold this position for a count of four and then, with control, lower them back to the floor. Complete eight repetitions and then switch to the other side.