Local trainers provide shape-up strategies for every dress and body type.
by Mark Nardone
Every bride-to-be wants to look her very best on her wedding day. No matter what style gown you choose, it will reveal a little something somewhere, especially trendy styles such as those with cut out backs and sides. If a fitness regimen is part of your daily life, you’re well on your way. If not, there is plenty you can do to tone up in time.
But before you get started, there are a couple things you should keep in mind. First, sculpting specific body parts is fine, “But the most important thing is overall fitness and making fitness part of your lifestyle,” says trainer Abbie Chowansky, owner of Focus Fitness in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
Second, no matter what your gown reveals, nothing makes a bride look more beautiful than the way she carries herself, so it’s important to focus on posture. “That’s what really makes you shine,” says trainer Sara Gillespie, owner of Empowered Yoga in Glenn Mills, Pennsylvania, and in Greenville and Newark, Delaware.
Just the same, you’ll be showing some shoulder, some back and maybe a little leg. Here are some exercises you can do—on the floor, with your own weights at home or in a fitness center—to look your best in your dream gown.
(The frequency of your workouts and the number of repetitions and sets will depend on your current condition, so consult a qualified trainer if you can. Consult a trustworthy fitness website such as acefitness.org for complete descriptions of the exercises.)
Square, boat and scoop necks tend toward the modest, but those sweetheart styles and trendy plunging Vs will reveal some décolletage.
Your exercises: To tone the trapezius muscles of your neck, trainer Adam Howard, owner of Body Shop Fitness Center in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, recommends variations of the shrug (holding dumbbells or a barbell while shrugging and-or rolling your shoulders) and upright rows. Julie Wender, owner of Shore Barre in Bethany Beach, Delaware, recommends push-ups for toning the muscles that support the breasts.
Your straps (or lack thereof)
No matter if your gown is strapless, nearly strapless, one-shouldered or an off-the-shoulder bodice, your shoulders, arms and upper back will be bare. Beading, pearls or baguettes on the straps will call extra attention to those areas.
Your exercises: “You’ll want to square those shoulders, which often start to round or hunch a bit from working in front of a computer all day,” says Wender. To firm the deltoid muscles, West recommends dumbbell side raises, variations of the military press and front raises with dumbbells. To tone the biceps of your arms, try dumbbell bicep curls, hammer curls and single-arm isolation curls. For your triceps, do bench dips, seated tricep extensions and rope extensions. Wender throws a few push-ups into her barre routines. (If you’re wearing a capped sleeve, the eyes of your guests will be drawn straight to your triceps.)
The back of your gown
Crossed straps, deep-V backs, slit backs and cut out styles like keyhole backs and sheer-paneled sides are all popular. Embellishments including ribbon laces call extra attention to your back. You’ll want to strengthen and align so you’ll stand tall.
Your exercises: Rear dumbbell flies, upright rows and shrugs all work the deltoids, rhomboids and lateral muscles of your upper back, Howard says. Strengthen the erector spinae of your lower back with low-back extensions, hip bridges and Romanian dead lifts (lifting a barbell off the floor using your back, legs extended except for a slight bend in the knees).
Floor-length gowns won’t show much, but shorter styles—mini, tea and cocktail lengths—will. Working your legs not only makes them look great, it improves posture, which is especially important if you’re wearing a high collar, column-style gown or a sheath.
Your exercises: Howard recommends body-weight squats, barbell squats, step-ups, speed skaters and various lunges (stationary, Bavarian and walking). Strengthening your hamstrings and the gluteus muscles of your butt ties directly into your lower back, which means—you guessed it—better posture. Working the quads will give your thighs a tapered look, Wender says.
Your gown’s waistline style brings shape and balance to its overall design, so a toned waist means a more upright carriage.
Your exercises: Wender points out that strengthening the back also requires strengthening the core abdominal muscles, such as the big abs and your obliques. She recommends various planks, which not only improve posture, but also sculpt the waist. “It all helps give that nice V shape to the back so there’s a taper to the waist,” she says. Howard also recommends Russian twists, gliders, crunches and V-ups.
When to get started: The more time you have to work, the better, Chowansky says. To increase overall fitness, she recommends beginning an exercise regimen 12-18 months before your wedding day. And though all trainers stress that there are no shortcuts to fitness, Wender says anyone can see noticeable differences in as little as six weeks.
Strength is the key: You want to sculpt those muscles everyone will see, but you also want to build lean muscle mass, which burns fat, Gillespie says. Just be careful: Changing your body too much too quickly will require modifying a gown that may have already been altered.
Opposites are important: Wender’s barre routines stress 360-degree exercise from head to toe. That means working out opposing muscles groups together. If you do tricep extensions, balance with bicep curls, low-back extensions with dead lifts. Put another way, if you pull with your arms or legs, make sure you do pushing exercises, too. Doing work that targets not-easily-reached muscles improves appearance overall.
Mix it up: Between your gown-specific workouts, do something different. Working on power, endurance and flexibility is also important. High-intensity interval training will rev your metabolism, Gillespie says, which means more efficient burning of fat. Chowansky suggests doing power yoga in a heated room, which also speeds fat burning. Come your wedding day, your guests will see your beautifully sculpted muscles better.
Keep it up: “Consistency trumps intensity,” Gillespie says. For best results, be faithful to your routine. Chowansky recommends aiming high. Commit to three or four workouts a week. You’re going to miss some, but without hampering your goals. “Life gets in the way,” she says.
Eat the way you know you should: “Physique starts in the kitchen,” Gillespie says. Good food: lean proteins, especially grass-fed red meats and other natural meats; quality fats from sources like salmon, nuts, avocados and olive oils; and whole grains—but not too much. Foods to avoid: sugar, white flours, vegetable oils and anything processed.
Be good to yourself: Don’t stress about making time for your workouts. Instead, use your workout time to manage the stress of planning. Come your wedding day, you’ll look amazing—and you’ll feel even better.