Time is precious, both in your day-to-day grind and on the gym floor. While it would be ideal to find the time for every exercise to sculpt and tone the body, very few people have that luxury. When it comes to the exercises you do, sometimes hitting the same muscles with many routines is a bridge too far. For example, flat bench presses are great, but if you want to tighten and tone the utmost part of your upper body, you should be doing incline dumbbell flyes instead. If you want to tone your underarms, though, bench presses will be your new best friend. Simplify your workout and find the upper-body exercise that best meets your fitness goals.
Trimming the fat in your schedule too much may prevent you from doing the same with your body. Organize your workouts by grouping the exercises you do for each muscle group together, and keeping your sets and reps as efficient as possible. For example, instead of doing four sets of 10 bench presses, try to do two sets of 20 at a lighter weight. The extra reps will make up for the lower weight, and the intensity you get from two rapid-fire sets helps build muscle endurance.
Incline Dumbbell Fly
Even though presses and flyes work the same muscle groups, they are not the same type of exercise. Incline dumbbell flyes hit the upper and outer bands of the pecs, the delts, the traps and the triceps. Using dumbbells in a fly exercise, you also work stabilizer muscles in the forearms. You’ll need an incline workout chair that doesn’t include a barbell cradle, but you won’t have to mess with changing weight plates. Just grab a couple of dumbbells and go to work. The biggest plus for incline flyes is that the motion keeps the collarbone area between your chest and your shoulders tight and developed. Because you’re doing reps at an inclined angle, the form takes some practice to get used to, and the exercise itself does nothing for your core muscles.
Flat Bench Press
Flat bench presses are the most common chest exercise around. They work the middle and outer bands of the pecs, the triceps, the traps and the outer part of the lats. Keep your feet flat on the floor while you do your reps and you’ll also engage your core muscles in the obliques and abs. You’ll need a flat bench press rack with a barbell cradle, but these are common in most gyms. You’ll also need an Olympic barbell and several free weight plates. Bench presses are great for developing the chest and keeping your underarms tight and toned, but aside from secondarily hitting your traps, bench presses do nothing for you above the collarbone.
In a better, leisurely world, you would be able to do each exercise in your routine, since each tones and sculpts a different part of your upper body. But time is limited, so you should take some before you hit the gym floor to assess exactly what you want to do before choosing one exercise over another. For either exercise, have a friend to spot you. Take at least one rest day in between your upper-body workouts to let your muscles recover.
Bobby R. Goldsmith is a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience in journalism, marketing and academics. His work has been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, "DASH Literary Journal," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" and WiseGEEK.