While Pilates exercises are great for strengthening your core muscles, the method’s holistic approach also delivers a balanced total-body workout that pays off with amazing results. “The beauty of Pilates is that it’s such an integrated program, you feel every movement, everywhere,” says Stott Pilates Master Trainer John Garey, M.A. To pump up and round out the 15 Minutes to a Bikini Body workout (on the preceding poster), Garey recommends adding these three upper-body exercises for shapelier arms, sexier shoulders and a stronger back. Stay focused on stabilizing the torso and pelvis through each of these moves and follow the four “Pilates Form Pointers” found on the poster, and you’ll not only be ready to bare it all in a bikini, but you’ll look strong and sculpted in just about any sleeveless style the weather demands.


Do these exercises at least 2 or 3 times a week as part of a regular total-body Pilates program and/or your regular workout plan. If performed alone, warm up first with large, slow arm circles, wrist circles and figure eights, followed by 6-8 push-ups on a wall. To finish, stretch each muscle group worked, holding each stretch without bouncing for 8-10 seconds.


  1. Breaststroke

Lie facedown, legs extended and together, elbows bent with forearms and hands resting on mat slightly more than shoulder-width apart. contract abs to drop pubic bone and hips to mat. Inhale to prepare, then exhale, reaching arms forward and raising upper body above mat while lengthening spine, keeping rib cage closed [A]. Inhale; circle arms out to sides and down toward toes, palms facing thighs [B]. Exhale, bringing arms and torso back to start position.

Repeat for 5-8 reps.

  1. Back Rowing Prep/Curl

Sit erect, legs extended in front of you, slightly bent if necessary. Place flex band around balls of your feet; gently point toes to hold band in place, one end in each hand. Extend arms toward feet, palms up, upper arms parallel to each other. Contract abs to maintain position without rounding upper back or tucking tailbone under; visualize shoulder blades sliding down your back [A]. Inhale to prepare; maintain arm and shoulder position and bend elbows, bringing knuckles toward sky [B]. Inhale and return to start position.

Repeat for 8-10 reps.

  1. Pilates Push-Up

Stand erect, feet together. Roll torso down toward mat, knees slightly bent or straight, placing hands on mat slightly more than shoulder-width apart [A]. Walk hands forward until shoulders align over wrists and body is in a plank position in a straight line from head to ankles [B]. Inhale for 3 pulse counts as you release body down toward the mat, pending elbows in a push-up position [C]. Press back up to push-up start position in one exhale, walk hands toward feet and roll up.

Repeat for 3-5 reps.

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