If you really want to get rid of your muffin top and flabby arms, the best exercise you can do is the pushup. Every muscle in your arms gets a serious workout, as do all of your core muscles. It's a tough exercise but definitely one of the most effective for firming up a wobbly upper body. Not only that, but it doesn't matter if you're a training newbie or a seasoned gym bunny: pushups can be adapted to any level of fitness.
Start at the Beginning: Kneeling Pushups
If you're just starting out with pushups, start with the kneeling version to get your strength up. As this gets easier, you can move on to the standard pushup. To do a kneeling pushup, kneel with your hands flat on the ground, slightly wider than shoulder width. Keep your body straight from shoulder to knee, then bend at the elbows until your chest touches the ground (or comes as close as possible). Push back up by straightening your arms. Begin with 10 repetitions, aiming to add an extra rep every day. Your arms and waist will start seeing the impact within about two weeks. Once you can breeze through 25 to 30 kneeling pushups, move on to standard pushups.
The standard pushup is very effective for toning up the arms and abs. To do a standard pushup, balance on your toes with your hands flat on the ground, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your body straight and bend at the elbows until your chest touches the ground, or comes as close as possible. Push back up by straightening your arms. Again, start with 10 standard pushups a day and aim to add an extra rep per session. Once you can do 30 to 40 standard pushups -- keeping your form right -- you can try adding some tough variations to target your arms and waist even more.
There are plenty of pushup variations that you can add to your routine in order to keep the challenge up. Your arms and waist will be much firmer by this stage, so you don't want to lose momentum -- you've been working too hard. You can try diamond pushups, hand-raise pushups, clapping pushups, decline pushups, single-leg pushups, single-arm pushups and divebombers. These will all shift the intensity of the exercise to a different muscle group, so you can target a particular part of your body if you want to.
One important thing to keep in mind when you begin working on your pushups is that you don't overtrain. Overtraining isn't a problem for most people, but if it does creep up on you, it can cause frustrating setbacks to your progress and problems like ongoing muscle soreness, insomnia and lowered immunity. Take one or two days off from training each week to give your muscles time to recover. Make sure you're also getting enough sleep -- seven to nine hours a night -- so your body gets refreshed and revitalized.
Lau Hanly runs Fierce For Life, a nutrition and fitness company that helps young women start with healthy eating and smart training without overwhelming them. She has a certificate of nutrition, and provide individual coaching, standard fitness and nutrition programs, and group training.