It's sweater-shedding time! Are you ready to bare your biceps? If not, don't panic. You can get your arms in shape in no time! The trick? Focus simply on toning your biceps (the front of your upper arms), triceps (the back of your upper arm) and shoulders.
These are the areas, says Reebok Master Trainer Lisa Wheeler, that people want defined when halter season hits. "Fortunately, they respond quickly to regular training."
A good bet is to use "compound" exercises, which work more than one muscle at a time. "By choosing to structure your workout this way, you'll ultimately save time while getting a better overall workout," says Wheeler. If you're looking for accelerated results, Wheeler suggests adding some kind of resistance. "Whether you use hand weights or bottles of bleach, you'll get toned faster if you overload the muscles you're working." We're not talking lifting like a bodybuilder. Think more along the lines of 3 to 5 pounds. "And as an added bonus," says Wheeler, "stronger arms make everyday tasks like lugging groceries easier."
Below, Wheeler offers three compound moves to rapidly tone and strengthen your tank-top zone. Perform three sets of these exercises at least three times a week in addition to whatever cardio workouts you're currently doing.
Curl and Lift (Targets biceps, triceps and back of shoulders). Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides, each hand holding a 3- to 5-pound weight, palms facing front. Bending from the elbow, curl weights up until palms almost touch shoulders. Release slowly to starting position. Rotate palms to face your sides. Keeping arms straight, torso erect, raise weights up and back about 45 degrees, squeezing backs of arms and shoulders. Release to starting position. Rotate palms front to perform the curl again. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions of the entire sequence.
Note: this exercise also works with exercise tubing or bands for resistance. Just stand on tubing, one end in each hand.
Circle Press (Targets triceps and middle and front of shoulders). Stand with feet hip-width apart, or sit on a bench, arms at your sides, each hand holding a 3- to 5-pound weight, palms facing forward. Circle arms up, bringing palms together overhead. At top, pull weights down in front of your face, bending from the elbows and rotating palms toward you. Press weights back overhead, palms once again facing each other. Circle back down. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions.
Front Raise and Extension (targets front of shoulders and triceps). Stand with feet hip- width apart, arms at your sides, each hand holding a 3- to 5-pound weight, palms facing body. Raise weights straight in front of body until overhead. Holding at the top, keeping arms in line with ears, bend only from elbows to lower weights behind head. Squeeze backs of arms to straighten overhead before reversing semi-circle, lowering weights to starting position. Complete 10 to 15 repetitions.
On the Other Hand
Not feeling in the mood for a structured arm workout? Each of these activities hides a killer arm and shoulder blast within:
Swimming – Whether treading water, lapping or playing Marco Polo, you're sure to use your arms and shoulders to stay afloat.
Yoga – Supporting your own body weight with your arms is a sure way to strengthen them.
Yard Work – Push the hand mower for a while. Follow with some raking, shoveling or weed whacking and watch your garden (and biceps and triceps) grow.
Kid Pick-Me-Ups – Many a mommy has toned her arms from hoisting a little one who wants to be held. If you don't have any of your own, borrow a munchkin to babysit for an afternoon. It'll give new meaning to the term "baby weight."
Car Wash – Wax on, wax off, throw soapy sponges (heavier when wet!), start a water fight…have fun!