Building a strong chest and biceps isn't just for guys. Although most women can't develop huge muscles the way men can, having a strong chest and arms helps you accomplish many everyday tasks, such as pushing, lifting and carrying. Don't worry about lifting heavy weights and developing big, bulky muscles. Women lack enough testosterone to get as a big as The Terminator.
Isolation exercises focus on your chest muscles with little consideration for other body parts. These activities include the bench press, dumbbell chest press and seated chest press. Integrated exercises, however, train movement patterns in addition to muscles. They incorporate other muscle groups to perform the pushing movement. For example, pushups, medicine ball chest passes and standing cable chest flyes engage your core to help you move and stay in alignment.
Biceps training can also include both isolation and integrated exercises. Isolation exercises -- a common sight at the gym -- include arm curls with a barbell or a dumbbell. Integrated exercises blend other body parts with the arm curl, such as the curl and press, squat and curl, and lunge and curl. For beginners, do two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps for both the chest and biceps exercises.
Rather than doing the same, old "three-sets-of-10" routine, the pyramid system offers a gradual progression of strength that gives your chest or biceps workout an extra kick. In this system, you increase or decrease the weight with each set. In a light-to-heavy pattern, start with 10 to 12 reps with a light load and increase the resistance with each set until you can only do one to two reps -- usually within four to six sets, according to National Academy of Sports Medicine founder Michael Clark. The heavy-to-light pattern is just the opposite, starting with one to two reps with a heavy load and decreasing the resistance with each set. Work with a partner who can spot for you and observe your form, if you're new to this method of lifting.
Overly vigorous chest workouts can make your chest and shoulders round forward, which can tighten those muscles and increase the upper spine curvature. This can cause your back muscles to weaken, which can lead to a variety of problems, says corrective exercise specialist Anthony Carey. Perform back and leg exercises -- such as rows, pullups, squats and deadlifts -- to strengthen your whole body so it looks leaner and more balanced. Consult your physician before starting any workout routine.
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.