Everyone's a beginner at one point or another. If you've just begun thinking about starting a strength-training program for your upper body, dumbbell exercises can make an effective workout to tone and define your muscles. Dumbbells can be used easily at home, the gym or even the office, making them convenient for you. So, get ready to tone your muscles and say "hello" to a sexy, toned upper body and, of course, that sleeveless, low-cut or backless dress you've been dying to wear.
When you don't have to worry about jiggly arms, you'll feel a lot more comfortable ditching the long-sleeved tops and dresses. Biceps curls with dumbbells can help you tone and define the muscles on the front of your upper arms, while also working the muscles of your forearm. To work the back of your upper arms -- the triceps -- do triceps kickbacks, in which you stand with your upper body bent at a 45-degree angle. Position your arms at a 90-degree angle, keeping the upper arms close to your side. Extend your arms back to straighten them.
Work your entire arm and shoulder with arm raises. Hold a dumbbell in each hand while standing with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms up at the sides, with the dumbbells facing the walls to either side of you, until your hands are at shoulder level. Lower with control to perform one repetition. Perform all three of these dumbbell arm exercises for a total of 12 to 24 repetitions, three times weekly.
Get the kind of toned back that looks hot in a halter top by performing dumbbell rows three times per week. Hold your dumbbells in each hand while bending forward at a 45-degree angle. Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle, positioning your upper arms next to your sides. Pull the dumbbells up as you row your arms to draw your elbows as far as possible behind your back. It should feel as if you're trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Push the dumbbells back to starting position. Perform 12 to 24 dumbbell rows each session.
Toning the muscles of your chest will help you complete a well-rounded upper body workout. Dumbbell exercises such as chest or bench presses will help strengthen and tone your chest area. Try dumbbell flyes: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Raise your arms out to your sides until they're parallel with the floor. Hold the dumbbells vertically and bend your elbow slightly. Focus on contracting your chest muscles as you bring your hands together in front of your chest. Return your arms out to the sides, bringing them a few inches back from the starting position. Perform 12 to 24 flies, three times each week.
If you're carrying excess fat on your upper body, it's important to include cardio exercise and a healthy, calorie-reduced diet in your plan for a better upper body. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as spot reduction, and strength training with dumbbells will not help you lose fat in specific areas. But it will help you reveal toned, defined muscles as you burn fat with 300 minutes of cardio exercise per week and a reduction of 250 to 500 calories daily.
Mary Ylisela is a former teacher with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and mathematics. She has been a writer since 1996, specializing in business, fitness and education. Prior to teaching, Ylisela worked as a certified fitness instructor and a small-business owner.