The Battle of the Bulge is an historical event that took place in Europe toward the end of World War II, but in recent decades the title has been widely applied to America's losing war against obesity. For women, exercises that tone the underlying muscle can provide powerful artillery against a bulge at the bra line.
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The unforgiving nature of spandex is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to female undergarments. While holding the body in place beneath its snug expanse, a combination of untoned muscles and unwanted fat tends to spill over the edges wherever the bra's coverage leaves off. Cardio and an improved diet can take care of the fat; resistance training can tone the underlying muscle. The latissimus dorsi underlies back fat, while the pectoral and seratus anterior muscles lie beneath fat on the front and sides. Perform one to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions of each exercise, using a challenging weight.
The largest muscle of the back, the latissimus dorsi spans from the seventh thoracic vertebrae to the base of the spine, wraps around the bottom four ribs and attaches at the top of the humerus, creating a triangular wall of muscle that covers the middle back atop which your bra sits. To tone the lats, do a lat pulldown using a cable machine -- with the pulley set at the highest notch -- and a wide bar attachment. Sit erect on a bench and grip the bar about shoulder-width. Exhale as you pull back and down, drawing the bar or to your chest and pulling the shoulder blades together. Inhale and slowly return to your start position, stretching at the top.
The pectoralis major is attached along the sternum and collarbone, and spans the upper chest to insert at the humerus, lying beneath your breasts and under the bra straps at the front of your body. Do push-ups to tone the pecs. Lie face-down on the floor, wrists beneath the shoulders, palms down. Draw your navel in toward your spine. Exhale and extend your elbows, keeping the knees on the floor as you lift your upper body. Do not allow the hips to sag or tent. Inhale and slowly lower halfway, then repeat. If you are out of shape, begin with wall push-ups and gradually advance to knee and then full-body push-ups.
The serratus anterior picks up where the latissimus dorsi leaves off, covering the upper nine ribs at the side of the chest. Toning the serratus helps reduce the bulge above and below the band of your bra on the sides of your ribs and under your arms. To work the serratus, do an incline dumbbell bench press. Set an adjustable workout bench at a 45-degree angle. Holding dumbbells end-to-end above your chest, inhale and bend your elbows, slowly lowering the dumbbells toward the armpits, stopping when the upper arms are parallel to the floor. As you exhale and extend the elbows, focus on separating the shoulder blades and broadening the back, allowing dumbbells to "kiss" above the chest.