Sex important part of Mel B’s fitness regime

LONDON: The pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Roman Colosseum... all amazing feats of engineering. But now Fabulous has found a new Wonder of the World: Mel B's body. We'd heard rumours of the rippling six-pack; seen the grainy paparazzi pictures of taut arms and thighs that could easily crush a man to death, but in the interests of journalism - not to mention being downright nosey - we had to see it for ourselves. So when Mel agreed to take part in our exclusive shoot, we were on a flight to Las Vegas quicker than you can say "six-pack".

Standing in the hazy desert heat, looking like a fearsome character from Xena: Warrior Princess, Mel and The Body don't disappoint. The rippling abs, glistening in the sun, may not be to everyone's taste - some have sniped that she looks more bodybuilder than babe - but you can't fail to be impressed by the work that must have gone into sculpting them.

It seems the only person who's unimpressed by it all is Mel herself.

"Why has there been so much interest in my body? I don't know, ask everyone else," she says with a shrug of those powerful shoulders.

It's been reported that the secret behind the former Spice Girl's amazing body transformation is the training for her role in the burlesque spectacular Peepshow, on Vegas' famous Strip. But in truth, it's what she does off-stage that has resulted in those magnificent muscles. It's no surprise to learn that The Body is born out of Olympian-style workouts, sweat and, we expect, a few tears - not that she'll admit to it.

As Mel rattles off her exercise regime, it's enough to bring any woman out in a sweat - a cold one.

"I do 600 sit-ups four or five times a week," she explains enthusiastically. "I do them in sets of 10, changing position after each set. I can do 100 crunches in less than two minutes. I also hold the plank [a raised press-up position, where you support yourself on your forearms and toes and hold your body in a straight line] for 100 breaths."

Phew. But she's not done yet. "Before, I did overall training, but a few months ago I got more specific about my routine," she explains. "I'm on the treadmill for 30 minutes. I walk for two minutes, then sprint for three minutes, walk for two minutes and so on. Then for the other 30 minutes I'll work on my legs one day and then for the next session I'll use weights for my arms."

Mel's One Hour Gym Workout:

* Run on the treadmill for 25-30 minutes, alternating two minutes of walking and three minutes of sprinting, for up to thirty minutes.

* For the remaining 30 minutes of the workout, alternate work on your doing arms one day and your legs the next.

* I use weights on my arms. I do rows - three different types: bicep curls, arm circles and pull-backs. Do 15 repetitions of each using 8kg weights

* Legs: I do a mixture of classic squats and tighter squats - where you stand with legs further apart and just lightly bounce up and down.

This dedication points to a woman who is perhaps more body-obsessed than she would like to admit. Yet, when asked if she's on the verge of exercise addiction, she says a little too quickly: "No, not at all." Just don't ask her what would happen if, say, an ill-timed thrust in her workout left her with a twisted ankle. She shakes her head in horror: "I'd find a way of exercising my upper body. I couldn't not train. It just wouldn't happen."

Exercise, rather than diet, has always been Mel's means of transforming her body. As her Spice Girl band mates' figures went up and down (or down and down in the case of Posh), Mel's stayed virtually the same, her two pregnancies aside. It's a mantra she's followed from an early age.

She says: "I remember that my mum was constantly on a diet. 'Oh, I'll start my diet on Monday,' she'd say. Monday would come and go, and then it would be: 'I'll start my diet next Monday.'

"I got it into my head from a young age that dieting like that is self-torture. It's not at all healthy. How about you just eat well, have one day a week when you eat what you want, and train your body regularly? Isn't that all you need?"

Sure, Mel, but who has the time to do 600 crunches a day? "I always make time," she says. "I watch TV and do my abs. I chat on the phone even. I like to sweat. I feel I need to do it. Working out is my escapism - it's the time of the day when it's just me. There's no husband, no kids, no dog, just me and my iPod."

Intense, yes, but it certainly gets results. There's not an inch of fat to be seen as she contorts her body in the Nevada sunshine for our camera.

"How's it looking?" she shouts at the photographer in her still-thick Leeds accent. When he tells her she looks hot, she nods. No camera in the world could catch her bad side because, frankly, she doesn't have one.

Other celebrities asked to twist and turn in a skimpy swimsuit would demand to see the shots or insist on extreme retouching, but not Mel. She has a quick glance between set-ups and gleefully takes pictures of the computer screen to text to her husband, Hollywood producer Stephen Belafonte, 33. Unsurprisingly, he's a firm fan of Mel's body - his favourite part being her bottom. Unlike Mel herself, who still believes there's room for improvement.

"I think I'm good to go, but I don't think it's the best I've ever looked," she says, although when pushed she can't name a particular time when she looked better. "Some women are forever obsessing over their flaws. But you have to embrace your body. This is mine and I'm not going to get a different one, so I work with what I've got and enjoy it."

And with three daughters - Phoenix Chi, 10, who was fathered by her first husband, Jimmy Gulzar, Giselle, four, Stephen's daughter from his first marriage, and Angel, two, who she had with Eddie Murphy - is she conscious of passing on her positive body image to them?

"It's not something I worry about, but I've always felt good about my body - whether I've been 70lb heavier during my two pregnancies or like this. I think the girls have a healthy view. Phoenix likes her burgers and fries, but she enjoys tuna salads and chicken and vegetables as well," she says.

In fact, Mel plans her diet as meticulously as her workout routines. "You can't exercise and not eat healthily - it's pointless," she preaches.

So much so that Mel's enlisted the help of a company called Freshology to hand-deliver nutritionally balanced food to her twice a week. She arrives at the shoot clutching a plastic container that they sent her for breakfast - today, it's turkey bacon, scrambled egg whites and fruit - but she eats it for lunch after deeming the shoot catering of pasta, vegetables and chicken in a creamy sauce unhealthy "s**t".

"I never leave my body hungry," she says. "I eat every two to three hours."

But it isn't all fat-free, low-carb organics. "I crave KitKats and Crunchies, and once a week I have a day where I eat what I want, whether it's a burger or a tuna melt with cheese. You have to be realistic."

Despite the punishing workouts, Mel admits that, at 34, she's starting to feel her age. "When I turned 30 my metabolism slowed down," she reveals. "I started to feel sluggish so I made a point of going to the gym more often.

"I still drink alcohol, but if I have three glasses of wine now, I wake up feeling like a slug. At 25, I used to be able to get up at 8am and function."

Although her body is changing with the passing of each birthday, Mel insists surgery is not on the cards - yet. "I love my frowns," she says scrunching up her face to prove she still can. "Maybe I would [have surgery] later, but not right now."

Her stint in Peepshow ended two weeks ago, and she's now taking a well-earned month off and moving back to Los Angeles, where she's lived for the last six years. She says she has some exciting projects (rumoured to be a film and a talent show) in the pipeline, but she's most looking forward to spending time relaxing with her kids and Stephen.

"I couldn't bear being away from him for longer than a week," she says. "He's been with me for the last five months in Vegas and I went with him when he had a filming project in New Orleans. Before we got married, we both agreed that long-distance relationships just don't work - plus I'd miss sex too much."

You'd think all Mel's energy would be spent during her rigorous gym sessions, but it seems she always sets aside some for sex with Stephen - and then some. This is a woman with a libido to rival Hugh Hefner's in his heyday.

"We really can't keep our hands off each other," she says. "Most days we have sex five times."

Really, five times? "Yes, sex is a huge part of my fitness. It's all-over body-conditioning after all." Goodness.

She lets out a throaty laugh, but she's not joking. In between sit-ups, gym sessions and putting on a nightly show, how on earth does she find the time? "We find it. We're not having sex for two hours each time, but when I see him, I just want to grab him. I'm a nymphomaniac and he's got a really high sex drive so it works well," she explains.

And what happens when Stephen's not around? "Oh, that's easy, I've always got my Pocket Rocket."