As summer approaches, lots of people are starting to think about getting in shape and sporting a swimsuit. But let's be clear: Your body is always "beach ready." All it takes is slathering on sunscreen and plopping your buns on a stretch of sand, and voila! you have a beach body.
Still, if you want to get fitter and stronger before it's time for fun in the sun, you can build strength and muscle (and lose weight if that's your goal) between now and summer.
To gain lean muscle and lose fat safely in two to three months, the smartest strategy is doing a combination of HIIT cardio intervals and strength training, Kemma Cunningham, ACE-certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Life Time, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Here's why: Strength training builds muscle (which burns more calories than fat) and HIIT forces your body to burn fat for fuel resulting in an "afterburn effect," which keeps your metabolism fired up even after your workout is over, Cunningham says.
Try This 30-Minute Cardio Interval and Strength Workout
Designed by Cunningham, this full-body 30-minute workout incorporates core work and compound strength movements that hit multiple muscle groups simultaneously (read: efficiently) along with cardio bursts to increase your heart rate and scorch calories. You only need a mat and a pair of dumbbells.
For the best results, do this routine four to five days each week for the next two to three months. "As the weeks progress, add heavier weights and increase your speed during the cardio intervals to improve performance, endurance and strength," Cunningham says.
"And because this is also a functional workout, you will see improvement in your daily activities as well," she says. That's what we call a win-win.
Do: each exercise for 45 seconds, resting for 15 seconds between moves. Repeat the whole circuit for a total of 3 rounds, with a 60-second rest between rounds.
Move 1: Squat to Overhead Press
- Stand tall with abs tight, feet shoulder-width apart. Lift the weights to your shoulders with palms facing outward.
- Push your hips back and lower into a squat, keeping your chest upright and your weight in your heels (you should be able to wiggle your toes).
- At the bottom, push through your heels and squeeze your glutes to stand.
- Press the dumbbells overhead so that your arms are fully extended as you come out of the squat position.
“The squat to overhead press packs a powerful punch by engaging the upper and lower body as well as the core,” Cunningham says.
Move 2: 180 Jump
- Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart.
- Bend your knees and lower into a squat.
- Push through your heels and explode up, jumping as you turn your body 180 degrees in the air, so that you land facing the opposite side.
- Land with soft knees, then repeat in the other direction.
“This plyometric exercise tones your lower body while increasing core strength and improving agility,” Cunningham says.
Move 3: V-Up
- Lie flat on your mat with your arms overhead and legs extended.
- Brace your core and simultaneously lift your upper body and legs (keeping your knees straight) until your body forms a V shape. Reach for your toes at the top.
- Keep your back straight and lower to the starting position in a slow, controlled movement.
This sit-up variation strengthens your abs and improves core stability, Cunningham says.
Move 4: Forward Lunge Hammer Curl
- Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
- Step forward with your left foot, splitting your stance, and lower into a lunge. Be mindful not to extend your front knee over your toe.
- In your lunge, do a hammer curl by bending the elbows and lifting the weights upward, squeezing your biceps and keeping your elbows tightly tucked into your sides.
- Lower the weights as you simultaneously push through your front foot to return to standing.
- Continue lunging, alternating sides while executing the biceps curl with every rep.
Great for beginners as well as experienced lifters, this full-body exercise hits several muscle groups at once, Cunningham says.
Move 5: Star Jump
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Lower into a squat, bending the knees to roughly 90 degrees and keeping a flat back.
- Drive through your legs to jump up.
- Spread your legs and arms away from your body to form a star shape in the air.
- As you land, bend your knees to immediately lower into the next rep.
“Star jumps are a great cardiovascular exercise that burn fat, improve aerobic capacity and strengthen your heart,” Cunningham says.
Move 6: Forearm Plank
- Start in a high plank, then lower onto your forearms, one arm at a time. Place your palms down.
- Make sure that your elbows are directly under your shoulders, firm your shoulder blades into your back and push your heels back.
- Avoid arching your lower back, pull in your bellybutton to engage your core and squeeze your glutes.
- Keep the neck in line with the spine by looking at your fingertips.
The forearm plank not only strengthens the core and shoulders but also improves body awareness, Cunningham says.