Feel strong and confident in any silhouette.
These days, it’s simply a reality that many brides-to-be log hours in the gym ahead of their weddings. And while there may be some outward changes that occur as a result of getting a sweat on, the most important benefits are all about what’s on the inside. “When you truly feel your best, you will radiate,” explains Chelsey Bennett, a Master Instructor at Burn 60 who works with brides in preparation for their wedding days. “We all smile a little brighter and glow a little more when we are at the top of our game. A strong, healthy, and confident bride will truly make for a day you will never forget.”
If you’re not sure where to begin, take a cue from your dress—yes, really. By honing in on body parts you love and want to highlight, you can find a natural starting point for your pre-wedding workouts. As you get more comfortable and sure of yourself in the gym, you can add more movements. Ahead, find five moves hand-selected for the most popular wedding dress styles.
The Style: Strapless
Focus Area: Shoulders
The Move: Straight Arm Lateral Raises
How to Do It + Why It Works: According to Bennett, you can perform these standing or sitting with any amount of weight you feel comfortable with; it doesn’t take much to feel the burn. “With the dumbbells in hand by your sides, keep your core engaged and slowly lift the weights with straight arms up along your sides until they are in line with your shoulders. You’ll want to create a ‘T’ with your body. Take your time, and slowly lower the weights back down to your sides,” she recommends. “Aim for two sets of 10 to 12 reps, and remember it doesn’t take much weight to make these effective.”
The Style: Mermaid-Style Skirt
Focus Area: Glutes
The Move: Donkey Kicks
How to Do It + Why It Works: A body-conscious skirt highlights a toned lower half, so working your backside can be especially worthwhile if you’ve opted for this style. If you’ve ever taken a barre class, you might already be familiar with this move. “Start on the floor on your hands and knees, with your abdominal muscles engaged and a flat back,” Bennett instructs. “Lift one leg up behind you while keeping your knee bent, and raise your leg as high as you can with your flexed foot and parallel to the ceiling. Hold at the top for 3 seconds while squeezing the glute, and slowly lower back down to your starting position. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps on each side.”
To kick things up a notch, try performing this movement with a Smith machine at the gym for some added resistance. “Donkey kicks are effective with or without weight because they not only engage the glutes, but also work all the areas nearby that really keep your butt lifted. There are many variations of donkey kicks you can do too to keep the booty guessing!”
The Style: Low/Open Back
Focus Area: Lower Back
The Move: Back Extensions
How to Do It + Why It Works: “A toned lower back is very attractive, especially in a dress that will really show it off,” Bennett notes. “Back extensions are an exercise you can do at home or in the gym to keep the muscles around the spine strong and healthy. I choose to use a stability ball, but you can always do these lying on the floor or on a back extension machine in the gym.” To perform the movement, lie face down with your stomach on a stability ball. “With your legs wide and feet on the floor, clasp your hands behind your head. Keeping your back straight, lower your head and torso over the ball. Use your lower back muscles to lift your upper body back up.” Think of it like crunches you’d do for your abs, but for your back. Do three sets of 10 to 15 reps, and be sure to stretch your lower back in child’s pose when you’re done.
The Style: Corset Bodice
Focus Area: Core
The Move: Hanging Knee Tucks
How to Do It + Why It Works: A corset-style top emphasizes your midsection, so it makes sense to focus on core work. This is Bennett’s favorite core exercise because you can adjust the difficulty based on your level. “The slower and more controlled you go, the more you will feel it burn those abs! Start by hanging on a pull-up bar with palms facing out, using a box to step up if you need help reaching the bar. Pull your shoulder blades down your back to keep your shoulders away from your ears.” As you exhale, pull your abs to your spine and raise your knees to your chest. Lower your legs down slowly and return to the starting position. “Keep your abs engaged to prevent your legs from swinging behind you,” Bennett recommends. “Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps. And once you get that killer core, bump up the challenge to straight leg raises.”
The Style: Off-The-Shoulder
Focus Area: Upper Back
The Move: Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown
How to Do It + Why It Works: An off-the-shoulder dress will showcase your upper back, which is also functionally an important place to be strong. “The lat pulldown will work all of the major back muscles, and you can really play around with this exercise just by changing the grip positioning of your hands,” Bennett says. “Sit down on a pull-down machine and hold the bar with the palms facing forward and hands a little bit wider than your shoulders. Start with both arms fully extended, exhale and bring the bar down until it touches your upper chest by drawing the shoulders and the upper arms down and back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, and slowly raise the bar back to the starting position when your arms are fully extended and the lats are fully stretched. Start with three sets of 12, and slowly increase the weight over time as your sets become easier.”