If you want a lean, sexy upper body that can sport a sexy top or bikini in the summer, you should be strength training your chest, shoulders and arms. The more variety you add to your training regimen, the faster you'll see results. Always stretch your muscles after workouts to avoid having tight, stiff muscles later. Consult with your doctor or physician before trying a new workout.
Types of Workouts
Resistance exercise involves using different types of weight equipment, such as free weights -- also called dumbbells -- machine weights and your own body weight. Yoga is one type of workout you can perform using your own body weight, as various yoga poses will tone your chest, shoulders and triceps. Pushups, which work your chest, shoulders and triceps all at once, rely on your own body weight as resistance. Swimming is another workout that will help you tone the same three muscle groups.
With dumbbells, do chest flys. At the gym, use the shoulder press machine and the bench press for your chest. Also, use a wide-grip bar for chest dips. Do pushups to use your own body weight as resistance. Spreading your arms wider than shoulder-width apart causes you to use the chest muscles the most. Have your feet raised while doing pushups to increase weight resistance. Swimming also works your chest muscles, especially the breaststroke and butterfly.
To work out your shoulders, use the military and the shoulder press machines at the gym. The shoulder press machine imitates the pushup but isolates your shoulders and chest muscles, and you can choose the amount of weight to use instead of using your body weight. If you want to use your own body weight as resistance, do pushups and handstands to work your shoulders. Swimming tones your shoulders when you use your arms to propel yourself forward in the water, such as during the freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.
Several exercises will tighten up your triceps -- the muscles on the backs of your upper arms that tend to collect fatty "flabby" tissue. Lying on a bench, do the lying triceps extension using dumbbells. Or do triceps extensions standing up and holding dumbbells straight overhead. Gripping a bench behind you, do triceps dips using your own body weight as resistance. Do pushups with your palms tucked close to your body or under your body if possible, with your elbows pointing toward your feet, to work your triceps.
Weight and Reps
According to The American Council on Exercise, doing eight to 12 reps is ideal for one set. A set should cause you to feel muscle fatigue, so choose the amount of weight you're lifting accordingly. When you can do 12 reps of an exercise with proper form, increase the amount of weight by 5 to 10 percent. To tighten and shape your upper-body muscles without building bulky muscle mass, perform at least three sets of at least 16 reps using a smaller amount of weight. If you're going for pumped-up muscles that stand out, lift heavier weights for a few reps and do just two or three sets.
Include both strength-training and cardio workouts in your weekly exercise regimen to achieve greater results. Warm up for five to 10 minutes and then stretch your muscles before each workout. Cool down for about 10 minutes at the end of your workout and then stretch thoroughly. Give your muscles at least 48 hours of recovery time after you do strength training.
- American Council on Exercise: Strength Training 101
- SwimtoSlim.com: Muscles Used Swimming
- ExRx.net: Chest Exercise Menu
- ExRx.net: Shoulders Exercise Menu
- ExRx.net: Upper Arm Exercise Menu
- BodyBuilding.com: Size Means Strength?
- BodyBuilding.com: The Cool Down -- Recover Faster & Avoid Injury!
- ExRx.net: Assisted Chest Dip
Lindsay Haskell enjoys writing about fitness, health, culture and fashion. She is a contributor for "Let's Talk Magazine" and "The Wellesley News." Haskell is completing her B.A. in philosophy at Wellesley College. She's also a fiction writer whose work can be read online.