Whip That Bra Line into Shape! 8 Ways to Train your Lats and Obliques

Whether we’ve heard them or used them ourselves, derogatory phrases like bra muffinbra bulgeback fat and quad boob have all been used to describe that extra something-something women seem to develop around our bra line. Namely, the muscles in this area include the lats (latissimus dorsi, that sort of “back panel” under your shoulders) and the obliques (the corresponding set of muscles on the front and side).

If you want to fine tune and tone this area of your body, there are some pretty straight forward ways to tackle that bulge behind your bra. “Strength training will shape and firm, but the ‘flab’ that accumulates there will only diminish with clean eating,” explained Kelly Turner, a certified personal trainer. “It’s abdominal fat, just like belly fat, so all the risk factors and spot reduction truths still apply.”

And she makes a valid point… spot reduction is always tricky. Whether it’s the bra line, tummy, or calves, it all requires a holistic approach. It’s more than just one magic move to trim one area of the body!

Side Plank

That said, if you’ve got the clean eating part down, there are a few moves Kelly recommends that you incorporate into your overall training plan. These will target those lats and obliques and help you work toward this particular goal.

8 Ways to Train your Lats and Obliques

  • All pulling motions in all angles with the arms.
  • Learn to love the lat pull-down machine, or set out to master the pull-up.
  • The assisted pull-up machine is great if you can’t finish one on your own (yet!).
  • Loop a resistance band around a pull-up bar and put one foot through like a stirrup.
  • Side planks with hip lifts will hit from arm pit to hip bone.
  • Woodchoppers with a resistance band or cable machine.
  • Side planks on your hands instead of forearms, to really engage the arms.
  • Twisting yoga moves where you have to hold the position — revolved side angle or triangle, or half lord of the fishes poses.

4 Things Women are Doing Wrong in the Gym

It’s a man’s world and women are just trying to get by in it. That’s how it feels most of the time, especially when that world is the gym. It’s a predominantly male environment that has been build and designed almost entirely around their bodies and needs. So it’s no wonder that few women bother to show up, and that the ones who do don’t necessarily garner the results their after.

The solution is relatively easy and has been under our noses all along … It’s time to start working out like a girl, dang it!

Hush your fears, own your presence at the gym, and insist on workouts designed for that of a woman. When you do, those results you’ve been working so hard for will show themselves, and you won’t be able to get enough.

4 things women are doing wrong in the gym

#1: You Don’t Even Show Up! 

You’ve at least peeked inside the weight room, right? A mere 17 percent of women actually go in and work out; it’s an abysmally low number of women strength training. That number looks so much worse when you consider the wealth of health benefits waiting for you on the other side of those machines and you’re just throwing them away. In Holly Perkins’ new book Lift to Get Lean, she says you only need a minimum of two days a week of strength training to reap its vast benefits.

#2: You’re Intimidated

It’s not your fault though. “The biggest problem with the current landscape of women’s fitness is that men have dictated the rules of the gym,” Perkins wrote. Women don’t feel like they belong in that “bro”-centric environment, when the reality is women need to be there even more than men do. “You should feel confident about that,” she said. Learn how to use the machines (especially to suit your body and your goals) and walk in that weight room like you own the place. It won’t take you long to see the results and wish you’d shaken the fear so much sooner.

#3: You’re Not Strategic

“Women aren’t strategic or focused in their technique or execution of the moves the way men are,” explained Perkins, who says the few women who are in the weight room do so aimlessly and without purpose. However, when you have a strategy and work a program that tells you how many reps to do, how much time to spend, and when to rest, then you can effectively execute and benefit from a strength training regimen. Then you’ll see results, and when that happens, you’re more likely to stick to it!

#4: Your Technique is Way Off

Dude, you’re working out like a man! Not only has the environment in the gym been built around a man, but the methods for using the machines and even the set-up of those machines has been done so with a man’s body in mind. Most male trainers will tell their female clients to do a squat with their toes pointed straight ahead, which is difficult for a woman. Perkins tells her female clients to point their toes out toward 11 and 1. Now do that same squat; suddenly your hips and your pelvis are aligned in a way that your body can actually perform. “For every one-inch shift in direction in your body, there’s a change in your muscles,” she explained.

Real Sports for Women: Give Pole Dancing a Spin for a Total Body Workout

You probably hear pole dancing and immediately go to some dark and seedy place. Don’t. Sure, it’s one sport with a split personality, but its story is so much bigger than that.

Listen, if you’re in that “my workout is so boring” rut then this will certainly snap your attention awake. Pole dancing as a sport is downright fun, quite challenging, and will tone your tush in ways you didn’t know possible. In larger cities across the country, standalone pole classes exist in their own studios and some dance studios even put pole on the schedule. Think of these like you would a one-hour yoga class where you kind of let it all hang out — and you bring chafing powder instead of a mat.

“I took a class in Portland once and felt so ridiculous,” remembers Brandi Koskie. “I approached that pole with all the grace of a two-by-four.” That feeling doesn’t last forever though. Other women in her class were attending once or twice a week in place of other studio- or group fitness classes. They were as reserved at the start and quickly loosened up in more ways than one. Fifteen minutes into this intense class, she was sweating, stopping for water breaks, and feeling the burn.

Do you need a better invitation to get on the pole?

You can burn nearly 500 calories during a one-hour pole dancing fitness class, wherein you will crawl, climb, shake, spin, slide, and dance. It’s a functional approach to fitness that requires upper body, lower body and core strength.

“Pole dancing is definitely not for the faint of heart, quips Dempsey Marks, a personal trainer and yoga teacher at DempseyFit.com, about this calorie-burning, strength-building total body workout.

Because your body is moving the entire time, Marks says your heart rate stays elevated which contributes to the calorie burn. As well, she explained that pole offers an intense resistance workout. “You must suspend your weight and control your body in ways that other more traditional forms of exercise don’t ask of you.  Pole dancing also builds flexibility and mobility in your muscles and joints,” she explained.

She went on to say that this requires every muscle in your body — including the core — to be engaged just to climb the pole! “Pole dancers are performing maneuvers that require amazing amounts of strength and body control.”

If you’re serious about your new pole dancing hobby, you’ll need to cross-train like any other athlete. Marks recommends focusing on the core outside of the pole, which will give you more control on the pole, require less straining of the arms and legs, and open up more maneuvers that you can perform. Low-impact yoga and Pilates will contribute greatly to core strength and overall flexibility.

When you take on the sport of pole dancing, you have to leave your inhibitions at the door, but trust that there will be plenty of giggles in your first few classes. The payoff is well worth it!

Note: For pole dancing, we suggest the ENELL SPORT bra (versus the LITE) as there is a higher neckline and it will keep everything in place when gravity tries to do otherwise!

Would you ever try pole dancing/fitness?

Real Sports for Women: Roller Derby Opens the Rink to Every Body

There’s a beautiful thing happening… women are starting to love their bodies. On the whole, women are embracing the skin they’re in and the many different shapes and sizes in which they live. It’s a powerful movement that extends to the roller derby rink.

Real Sports for Women: Roller Derby Opens the Rink to Every Body

Within this environment, there’s no pressure to be perfect, live up to manufactured standards, or be anyone other than your own true self. “You can really just be yourself and kick some ass,” remarked Sarah Mathews about roller derby. She skates on a team in Vermont, something she was encouraged to do after moving back east from Kansas.

The sport has a reputation for being a beacon or haven for women who may not have such a strong body image or sense of self. It doesn’t take long to change that though. Sarah thinks that’s the case because “it’s such a non-judgmental environment.”

It’s also a sport of choice for many women who wouldn’t consider themselves athletes at all. Sarah says she’d never played any sports at all, a self-described “orchestra nerd.” But after an invitation to “fresh meat” night for newbies, “I’ve never looked back.”

That ability to make women feel strong, challenge themselves, and give them a platform from which they can dominate a situation are some of roller derby’s biggest assets to its participants. “I definitely feel more assertive” Sarah says of herself since starting. “It’s given me a confidence that I didn’t really know was in me. I’m pretty introverted and passive, but when I’m on the track I turn into a beast!”

Roller derby has been called the official sport of feminism, and Melanie Martins backed that up in an interview with The Plaid Zebra. “The body positivity piece that derby encompasses is like no other sport: Tall, short, skinny, fat … Whatever you are or are not, all bodies are good bodies in roller derby,” she said.

While you could argue that the confidence these skaters take away from the rink is one of its best attributes, it offers one heck of a lot when it comes to fitness, too. And that, for some, is the draw to roller derby. There is so much going on in the body when you’re on the track! [Roller derby] is the total package,” commented Pamela Hernandez, an ACSM certified personal trainer and ACE health coach at Thrive Personal Fitness.

The sport demands strength, stability, power, and speed, which is why Pamela agrees this is one sport that demands everything from you but gives it all back. How does it engage every muscle in your body? “Power and endurance in the muscles of the lower body are so crucial. Like sprinters, the glutes need to be strong for the power. Your jumps are like weighted tuck jumps, so strong quads and calves are extremely important, too. A strong core helps maintain balance on wheels. You need exercises for core stability (like planks) as well as rotary stability (like birddogs),” she explained.

The range of cross-training these women do reads like the programs brochure at a local gym. Roller derby girls pursue everything from interval training and hiking to CrossFit and weight training, not to mention yoga, plyometrics, swimming, running, and basic cardio. Pamela backs this up, saying that yoga is key for muscle endurance and core stability, while CrossFit contributes to explosiveness and power. In other words, they’re very active; this isn’t just a toss away hobby. You don’t have to show up physically fit, but the demands of the sport — endurance and strength especially — will convince you to find a workout regimen that you love.

Most teams practice a few nights a week for bouts. Sarah, a non-athlete at the start, says it’s encouraged her to take up cardio, weight lifting, and yoga. Now, multiply that across the nearly 500 roller derby teams worldwide and it adds up to a lot of women exercising who may not have otherwise!

Pamela does advise, though, that you take it easy a couple days a week. “With practice, bouts, and outside workouts you must schedule days for active recovery to avoid overtraining and prevent injury.”

Real Sports for Women: Try Rowing for a Total Body Workout

The sport of rowing is nothing new, but it hasn’t gotten much mainstream love in quite some time. That was until Claire Underwood on House of Cards put a rowing machine in the basement for her husband Frank. She’s an avid runner, using the sport to escape her twisted reality and keep in fighting shape, but Frank, well, he likes video games. He humors her and tags along on a run occasionally, but not often enough for Claire’s liking.

Real Sports for Women: Try Rowing for a Total Body Workout

So now, at the end of a particularly manipulative day, you’ll see the next POTUS retreat to the basement for an explosive workout.

No really, it may look like you’re just sitting there, but rowing is an incredibly beneficial workout. “Rowing is definitely a full body exercise. “It’s a lot of arms, back, legs, core, and glutes,” Enell learned from Mary Whipple, a two-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. rowing team.

Not only can you achieve a total body workout by rowing, but you can also tackle cardio. “Rowing on the Concept II rowing machine is pure cardio while developing muscle strength,” she said. This is the machine most gyms have, and she recommends it for a good beginner rowing workout.

If time is a burden, always working against your fitness goals, then this sport is an ideal solution.

Rowing has grown in popularity in the last year or so thanks in part to the rise of CrossFit and House of Cards’ domination of American TVs. The results are not only keeping everyone in shape, but it’s cooling off the spin cycle boom.

“Spinning isn’t dead, but it has been put on notice,” Jay Blahnik, a southern California trainer and group-fitness adviser, told Details magazine.

Rowing is better at strengthening the upper back than spinning “because it forces you to straighten and open up your body, whereas in Spin classes you sit hunched over in the same position you tend to sit in at your desk, so you’re not activating those muscles, thereby weakening them,” explained Shape Magazine.

Mary explained that while rowing you’re mostly working the quads, glutes, core, lats (latissimus dorsi, the broadest muscle in the back), and deltoids. You’re not, however, specifically working your shoulders. She told us that’s a big misconception about rowing.

In fact, Mary told us if you’re rowing properly, you’ll primarily tone your legs and core. “Your back will get defined, but the goal is not to use your arms that much, just for follow through.” That’s because when you row, you draw all of your power through the legs.

Mary and her fellow rowers do a lot to cross-train for their sport. “Rowers on the Women’s National Team use the rowing machine to increase their cardio to perform better on the water,” she said. As stated before, the sport is “pure cardio” and provides a “serious burn.”

Cross-training also includes a focus on weights, doing work like squats, leg presses, RDLs (Romanian deadlifts), and hamstring curls. And she says there’s a lot core work too, fine tuning and developing those tiny stabilizing muscles through the core, ribs, and obliques. This ensures the rower has the strength to perform, but more importantly avoid injury.

And don’t forget your Enell! “Good support is just as important in a rowing class as it is in running or Spin class,” reminded Enell Ambassador Jennifer Sader. “Because your whole body is engaged, your whole body will be moving. You need to bring the rowing handle under your chest, which will be easier if your chest isn’t bouncing all over the place.”

Maybe binge-watching Netflix shows wouldn’t be so bad if you could do it from the seat of a rowing machine?