Huffpost Healthy Living
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Ben Greenfield Headshot

Summer Shape-Up: How to Look Good in a T-Shirt

Posted: Updated:

With summer rolling in, your sleeves are going to be rolling up. This means bare arms, more neck, and possibly even a little waist is going to show. So today, you'll get five steps to ensure that you look good in your t-shirt this summer!

Step 1: Bringing Sexy Back

It's easy to focus on just the parts of your upper body that you immediately see when you step in front of the mirror: your shoulders, your chest, your abs, and the front of the arms. But to cut an impressive figure, you also need to pay attention to what you don't see as much -- namely, your back.

The most important part of your back to target is the part that makes those t-shirt sleeves look good -- namely, the back of your arms (aka, your triceps). Here are three fantastic exercises to define your triceps (do these at least once a week):

  1. Narrow Grip Pushups: Do a pushup in the regular or knee push-up position, but keep your hands closer together and ensure that your elbows brush your ribcage as you drop to the ground and come back up.
  2. Triceps Pushdowns: Look for a cable with a rope or bar attached to it. Hold the handle, then start with your arms bent at 90 degrees and extend them down towards the floor until they're completely straight.
  3. Dips: Hold a dip bar or put your hands on a bench behind you. You then lower yourself as far as you can -- or until your elbows are at about 90 degrees -- then push yourself back up.

Step 2: Look for the "V"

Your chest, shoulders, and arms might be t-shirt ready, but you'll still look dumpy if you're sporting muffin tops or a beer belly. If you really want a tight tummy, you need to incorporate exercises that create a "belt" of muscle around your entire mid-section. This belt serves to draw in your waist and keep your stomach flat.

To work your entire mid-section and get a nice tapered "V" in your waist, you need to include the following four movements:

  1. Abdominal flexion: This will tighten the "rectus abdomonis," or sheet of muscle tissue that goes directly down the front of your stomach (try crunches).
  2. Rotation: This works the internal and external oblique muscles that are located along the sides of your stomach (try waist twists).
  3. Waist extension: This will work your lower back muscles to improve posture and keep your stomach tight (try bridges).
  4. Planking exercises: These will allow you to firm and tone the sides of your waist, directly above your hips.

Try to put together exercises from each of these categories into a circuit, which you repeat three to four times through with minimal rest. Try a crunch variation to a twisting variation to a low back extension to a plank. For a sample workout, click here. And check out video tutorials here.

Step 3: Think About Your Neck

Even if the rest of your body looks good, it can be unflattering if you have a skinny neck that sticks up out of your t-shirt. To ensure you have a nice-looking neck, you should target your trapezius, or "traps."

The traps are responsible for the motion of shrugging your shoulders, which means you should include these type of exercises at least once a week in a workout: dumbbell shoulder shrugs, dumbbell or barbell deadlifts, farmer's walks, or walking lunges.

When you do these exercises, imagine the tops of your shoulders touching the bottom of your earlobes, which will help you to keep your traps contracted.

Step 4: Shoulder Squeeze

Shoulders that are slouched or slumped forward may look OK from the front, but give you an unattractive curve from the side -- and if you sit at your computer for long periods of time, ride a bike in a hunched-over position, swim often, or have a combination of tight chest muscles and weak shoulder muscles (which is very common), then this may be an issue for you.

So if you want to look good in a t-shirt, include exercises that make you squeeze your shoulders back, such as seated rows, standing rows, pull-ups, pull-downs, and super-slow push-ups.

When you perform these exercises, keep your shoulder blades pulled back, your abs tight, and your back straight.

Step 5: Choose Your T-Shirt Wisely

Finally, make sure to wear the right t-shirt. Many people wear t-shirts that are too large, or made of material such as polyester, a cotton/polyester blend, or synthetic nylon, none of which hug your body in a way that brings out the figure you're working hard to develop.

So when you get a t-shirt, look for the words "fitted" or "fit" or "slim." This is a good indication that it will form-fit your body in a flattering way.

If you can't find a fitted t-shirt that you like, try to choose a t-shirt that is a high-quality cotton, such as 100 percent combed ring-spun cotton or knitted fine cotton. This type of material is less likely to have a "pleated" appearance or hang loosely, and more likely to form-fit your body.

Finally, if you need a quick t-shirt workout that incorporates the concepts in this article, try this on for size:

  • 10 Narrow Grip Push-Ups
  • 10 Seated Rows
  • 10 Side Plank Rotations
  • 10 Walking Lunges
  • 10 Dumbbell Deadlifts

Complete the circuit above three to five times through with minimal rest between exercises, then go find the right t-shirt for your new physique!

Missed It? You can still participate in the 30-Day Summer Shape Up:

For more by Ben Greenfield, click here.

For more on fitness and exercise, click here.