The Slim-Down Shimmy
A new way to slim down your belly--in just 15 minutes.
by Mindy Berry
Does the sight of your tummy in the mirror make you hold your breath and suck it in? Unfortunately, the reflex is a common one: As women age, extra pounds tend to migrate to their middle, research shows. But you can get that flat-bellied look you crave if you commit to doing regular tummy-toning workouts, like this 15-minute routine created exclusively for Prevention by Melissa Michalak, a Middle Eastern dancer and creator of Bellycore, a belly dancing and Pilates class.
"Like Pilates, belly dancing focuses on strengthening your core," says Michalak. "But when you do it, your abdominals work even harder to isolate your hips from your ribs, resulting in a flatter stomach and more defined waist." And if you feel a little silly when you start shimmying in your living room, remember this: The reason these graceful moves have lasted for more than 2,000 years is that they work!
A. To engage abdominal muscles, stand tall with feet hip-width apart, shoulders relaxed, head directly above spine. Place a hand on lower belly, thumb in navel, and rest other arm at side. Inhale deeply so belly and rib cage expand. Pause.
B. Exhale completely so you feel waist narrow and belly flatten, and contract pelvic-floor muscles as if you were stopping the flow of urine. Repeat warm-up 5 times.
Stand tall with feet a few inches apart and knees slightly bent. Raise arms out to sides and relax shoulders. While holding abs in, rotate left hip forward and right hip back, keeping rib cage still. Then rotate right hip forward and left hip back. Continue rotating forward and back like a washing machine for 60 seconds. Tip: After your first workout, try to increase speed of shimmy.
Lie on back, bend right knee toward chest and grasp right thigh with both hands. Pull belly button toward spine without pressing spine to floor so you maintain a natural curve. Extend left leg at a 45-degree angle to floor, toes pointed. (If you have a bad back, slightly bend left knee instead of keeping it straight.) Curl head and shoulders off floor. Inhale and pause. Exhale and switch legs. Alternate legs for 10 to 15 reps.
Lie on back. Extend right leg toward ceiling, toes pointed. Pull belly button toward spine without pressing spine to floor so you maintain a natural curve. Curl head and shoulders off floor, grasping right thigh with both hands. Raise left leg 2 to 6 inches off floor, toes pointed. (If you have a bad back, keep left leg on floor and bend right leg so knee points toward ceiling.) Inhale and pause. Exhale and switch legs. Continue alternating legs for 10 to 15 reps.
A. Lie on back with legs straight, arms resting overhead. Inhale and raise arms directly over chest. Then tuck chin slightly and exhale as you curl head, shoulders, and back off floor one vertebra at a time, like picking up a strand of pearls.
B. Reach arms forward as you come to a sitting position. Inhale and pause. Exhale and slowly roll back to starting position. Do 10 reps. For extra toning, hold light hand weights (no more than 5 pounds). Skip the weights if you have back problems.
Stand tall with feet a few inches apart, hands hovering beside hips. While keeping abs tight and rib cage still, slide both hips to left, back, right, and then front, making a circle. Continue for 30 seconds, contracting abs tightly at end of each circle. Repeat, circling to right.
Sliding Snake Arms
Stand tall with feet almost hip-width apart, arms lifted out to sides. While keeping abs contracted and hips still, reach left arm to side, rolling shoulder up, and slide rib cage to left, letting right arm and shoulder dip. As you slide to right, roll left shoulder back and down, and reach right arm to side, rolling right shoulder up. Then slide rib cage back to left, rolling the right shoulder back and down. Imagine a string pulling shoulder and rib cage to the side so that they separate from hips. Continue side-to-side, making one smooth movement for 30 seconds.
Sliding Snake Arms is a key move that belly dancers use when performing in costume.
Sets and Sessions
Do the entire routine once, then repeat all but the warm-up move. The workout should take about 15 minutes.
Do these moves 5 days a week and you should begin to see a toned and trimmer belly in about a month.