If pre-summer panic has not yet set in, it soon will. Months of being swaddled in multiple layers, leggings and tights means that your body’s first annual airing when the sun comes out is guaranteed to reveal pasty limbs and a general puffiness of tone. If a holiday looms within weeks, this can trigger paranoia at the prospect of having to bare all on the beach. Can anything be done to make amends in the limited time you have?
Thankfully, experts say that the answer is yes: a month is all you need to whip your bum, tum and thighs into shape. The latest beauty treatment innovations, coupled with targeted exercises, can whittle away the bumps, lumps and dimples quicker than ever before.
Of course, any additional activity — particularly walking, swimming and cycling — that you can do before the grand unveiling on the beach will accelerate your transformation, but otherwise, follow our guide to get your best bikini shape in four weeks flat.
When asked which body part they would most like to change, most women point to the one they are sitting on. Here’s how to achieve a pert and peachy posterior.
Best exercise Power lunges are tough, but in studies conducted at Wisconsin University they were found to engage gluteal muscles more effectively than any other exercise. Stand upright with feet hip-width apart and place your hands on your hips. Keep your gaze fixed ahead and take a step forward with your right foot, making sure that your knee is directly above your foot. Breathe in and lower your left knee towards the ground. As you breathe out, push back up to the start position. Repeat 10-15 times on each leg every other day for the first two weeks. In weeks three and four, do 20-25 repetitions every other day. Hold light hand weights for even greater effect (but not if you haven’t exercised much recently). Expect stronger and firmer buttocks by week 3-4.
Best professional treatment New to the UK this summer, the Indiba range of treatments uses regenerative radio frequencies to raise the temperature of internal tissues, which is said to break up cellulite and improve skin tone in the lower body. A therapist will assess the state of your buttocks before deciding which grade of treatment is appropriate, but a session lasts for 50 minutes.
Independent trials on 20 women at the Pinto Institute in Argentina showed that skin elasticity improved by a fifth and fat tissue was reduced in thickness by 14.5 per cent after eight weeks. There were significant differences in bottom pertness and tone after a month. Treatments cost from £100. For your nearest salon, visit indiba-care.co.uk or call 08454 680560.
DIY treatment Guinot’s newly launched Age Logic Cellulair Corps (£125.50 for 150ml; 0800 590094), designed to be applied daily in the run-up to a beach holiday, contains a cellular complex with 56 active ingredients to promote skin-cell renewal and an “anti-glycation” substance to make your buttocks look smoother. Apply morning and night for a month before you depart.
Best gadget The Power Plate vibrational platform is a celebrity favourite for bum-toning and if you can’t justify the £2,995 to install one at home, you can use the equipment for £5-£10 a session at centres nationwide. Some trials have shown that regular use of vibration training methods increases muscle strength by 20 to 30 per cent more than ordinary weight training — and, crucially, in 85 per cent less time. Do lunges and squats on the machine two to three times a week for a month to see noticeable improvements.
Overhang on a bikini has never been a sought-after look. Here’s how to ensure that your stomach is washboard-flat by the time you hit the beach.
Best exercise The plank was found to be among the best stomach- flattening exercises in a scientific review commissioned by the American Council on Exercise. Lie face-down on the floor, resting on the forearms, with palms flat on the ground at shoulder height. Push off the floor, raising up on the toes and resting on the elbows. Keep your back flat, in a straight line from head to heels. Tilt your pelvis and contract your abdominals to prevent your bottom from sticking up or sagging. If you find this too hard, try the modified version with knees on the ground until you build up strength. Hold for 20 seconds. Lower back to the start position and repeat three times. Do this every other day for a month, increasing the repetitions to four by week 3, and extending the duration to 30 seconds just before you head away. It will tone the entire middle area, whittling away the waist as well as flattening that tum.
Best treatment The Lava Shell Hot Tummy Massage uses warmed, recycled tiger-striped clam shells filled with minerals and salt water to massage away bloatedness. By gently rubbing the shells around the small and large intestine, the therapist helps to stimulate circulation and remove blockages. It feels wonderful and is a soothing way to get a flatter tum. From £15 for 15 minutes to £105 for 75 minutes. A home kit is available for £29.99. Ideally, you will need two treatments before hitting the beach or one a week if you have a kit at home.
DIY treatment Try using Lift O Firm Body, a contouring cream from QMS Medicosmetics, every day for a month. It contains a substance called synephrine, derived from bitter orange, that is said to stimulate fat-burning, as well as carnitin, lecithin and apricot and orange oils. It costs £66 for 200ml from Selfridges or qmsmedicosmetics.com .
Best gadget Jennifer Lopez is among those who use the TRX Suspension training device for a toned midriff. Attached to a wall or bar, the equipment has adjustable straps and stirrups for the feet, allowing you to hang in any position, including upside down. You can use it to perform more than 300 moves such as push-ups and knee tucks while partially suspended in the air, engaging the core stability muscles in your middle as you exercise. Use three to four times a week for 10-15 minutes a day. Costs £149.95 (including DVD and exercise book) from trx-fitness.com (0800 4585558). Classes available at David Lloyd Leisure, DW Sports, Fitness First, Virgin Active and Harbour Club gyms.
Four weeks of effort can help to reduce your saddlebags and tone your thighs so that you can toss away the sarong.
Best exercise Squats are the perfect move for thigh-toning. Start by standing with feet hip-width apart, preferably in front of a dining chair. Bend your knees slightly and hold your arms out in front of you. Breathe in and bend your knees farther until they are at 90-degree angles, as if you are sitting down. Make sure that your neck is not tense, lengthen your torso while retaining the spine’s S-shape, and keep your heels on the ground. Breathe out. Return to start position and repeat 20 times. Do this every other day (on the same day as the plank exercise), increasing the number of repetitions to 25 in week three and 30 in week four for well-toned thighs.
Best professional treatment Madonna recently bought the machine that is used to perform the EF Cellution treatment for toned thighs at a cost of £50,000. Using “ultrasonic energy” to break down connective fibre walls that trap fat beneath the skin, it removes lumps and bumps in 12 sessions over two to three weeks. So effective are the machines at boosting circulation that they are to be used by athletes preparing for the 2012 Olympics. Perfection doesn’t come cheap, though. The treatment costs £200 a session (efmedispa.com).
DIY treatment In August, Dr Nicholas Perricone, the leading anti-ageing skin specialist, launches his long-awaited cold plasma body lotion, shown in trials to reduce orange-peel appearance on the thighs by 82 per cent in eight weeks and to achieve significant improvements in four. If you can’t wait until then, try Rodial Body Sculpture, a potion containing marine substances, wheat protein and caffeine that is a favourite of Jennifer Aniston. It promises to reduce thigh circumference by 1cm in 30 days (£95; ).
Best gadget Slide Boards (£114) are a good way to tone the thighs with speed. The equipment, popular with skateboarders, surfers and ice-skaters, features an 8-10ft board with a slippery surface along which you slide your way through a series of exercises that work the inner and outer thigh muscles.