If you're like most people, you don't have a lot of time to spend sweating in the gym. No matter how busy you are, however, you can probably find 20 minutes every other day to strengthen and tone your upper body. Exercising your upper body regularly can help you avoid flabby arms -- and no one wants bat wings. You'll soon look great in that strapless dress and you'll feel better, too.
Women's Strength Training
You might be concerned that doing upper body exercises will give you arms like a bodybuilder. But don't be concerned about bulging biceps: The estrogen in your body prevents you from building massive muscles. You'll benefit from strength training in other ways, including firmer, toned arms and improved bone health. As you build more lean muscle, you will also start to burn more fat, because lean muscle burns more calories for energy than other tissues in your body. Working your upper body will also make everyday tasks, such as lifting and carrying, easier.
Dumbbell exercises are quick and effective. You don't need massive, heavy dumbbells to get an effective upper body workout, either. Start with some light 2-pound weights and gradually work up to heavier ones. Besides the standard biceps curls and triceps kickbacks, do some shoulder raises and rows to work your chest, back and shoulders. Dumbbell press exercises work your delts and arms. Chest fly exercises will help you develop firm biceps and chest muscles. You should be able to complete eight repetitions of each exercise in under 20 minutes.
The old familiar pushup is one of the most effective body-weight exercises to get your arms, chest, shoulders and triceps in shape fast. Pushups also work your abs and butt. You can start with wall pushups or bent-knee pushups if a regular pushup is too hard. Planks are a good choice for stronger shoulders, chest and upper abs. You can do pullups using a pullup bar or, if you don't have one of those or access to one, use the top of a door. Hold on to the top of your bedroom door and pull your weight upward toward the ceiling. Make sure the door is strong enough to bear your weight and -- most important -- that it is secured with door stops on both sides so it doesn't swing shut on your fingers!
How many repetitions do you have to do every other day to get in shape and stay in shape? Start out doing no more than five to eight repetitions. As you grow stronger, increase the number of body-weight exercises you do to 15 repetitions. The last two or three repetitions should be difficult to complete. If not, you can add repetitions or add more weight if you are doing dumbbell exercises. If your goal is to get firm and toned, more repetitions may not be necessary to maintain your new look once you achieve your upper body fitness goal.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.