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Reveal Yourself
Fit Arms and Shoulders for Summer
By Amy Carey

Summer's here, and suddenly your arms and shoulders are forced out of hiding. If you're like many women, shedding sweaters and turtlenecks might reveal that your arms are not exactly your best feature. Excess flab can cause you to shy away from your favorite summer dresses and tank tops, not to mention bathing suits. But covering up problem areas won't make them disappear. Now is the best time to address arms that jiggle and reveal yourself with confidence this season.

Overlooking the Upper Body
Why are the arms and shoulders so difficult to keep lean? According to Namita Nayyar, president and fitness trainer at http://www.womenfitness.net/, it's about neglect. "Muscles that are not regularly exercised tend to lose their muscle tone and tend to look flabby," she says.

Many women are concerned with larger or more visible areas like thighs or abs, so when they hit the gym, they may focus on everything but the arms and shoulders, she adds.

Women also are less likely than men to become involved in a sport or activity that requires strenuous pushing or punching that would increase the size of arm muscles. "For example, in many high school gym classes, girls were once allowed to perform push ups while on their knees. Sociological factors may be responsible for reducing the amount of stress arm muscles receive over a woman's life, says Vin Ricciardi, certified personal trainer and owner of Total Body Shoppe in Southold, N.Y.

Untoned arms may be also be age related. "One reason women store fat in the upper arms is hormones. The activity of lipoproteins in the upper body begins to increase slightly in women in their late 30s and early 40s. This results in excess fat beginning to rise from the hips and thighs to the stomach, shoulders and upper arms," says Ricciardi.

Shapely Shoulders and Arms
No matter the reason, if your arms are flabbier than you'd like, you can do something about it. But just working out harder at the gym may not be the "something" that works. "One common approach to training the tricep muscle among gym-goers is simply doing more tricep exercises," says Ricciardi. Ironically, since the tricep is a small muscle, concentrating on this area at the gym means you're not burning as many calories as you would be during, say, a thigh workout. Burning calories is key to reducing flab.

Don't lose hope. First, increasing your activity level in general, not just doing arm curls, is an important way to combat overall flabbiness and improve the tone of your arms. Nayyar points out that women tend to lose muscle mass every year as they get older.

"If a consistent strength training program is not adopted to maintain and increase muscle tone, the muscles around the arm will lose texture and tone," she says.

Modifying your diet and training your muscles both through strength training and aerobic activity means the fuel you take in is not piling up as fat. "A low-fat diet and a regular exercise routine composed of cardiovascular and strength training routines will help you to achieve and maintain a fit and well-toned body," Nayyar adds.

Secondly, when you do begin an exercise routine, Nayyar suggests you train your biceps and triceps together or separately three times a week as part of a full-body workout, decreasing your training to twice a week as you become an "intermediate lifter."

Where are those biceps and triceps? Biceps are the muscles that run along the front of the upper arm from the shoulder to the elbow. They help you flex your elbow. Triceps are the muscles that run along the back of your upper arm from your shoulder to your elbow. They extend your elbow. How can you work them into shape? Try these exercises to get you started:

Bicep Curl

 

  1. Stand with back straight, knees unlocked, feet hip-width apart, and hold two dumbbells at your side. Your arms should be extended straight down, palms facing your hips.
  2. Keeping your elbows close to your body, use your biceps to curl the dumbbells up to the chest level. Your palms should now be facing your head.
  3. Hold for a brief second flexing your biceps.
  4. Keep your wrist straight and elbows at your sides throughout the exercise.
  5. Lower the dumbbells to the starting position in a slow, controlled manner.

 

One-arm Dumbbell Tricep Extension

 

  1. Stand with your feet parallel and with one hand resting on your hip. The other arm should be slightly bent and raised as vertical as possible.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in your hand with the wrist in a straight line with the forearm. Palm should be facing forward.
  3. Keeping the upper arm vertical, lower the forearm by bending at the elbow until the upper arm and forearm form an angle of about 45 degrees.
  4. Lift your arm smoothly back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat on the other side without rest.

 

Shoulder Raises

 

  1. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, hold a water bottle in each hand.
  2. Turn your palms toward each other while bending your elbows slightly.
  3. Bring the water bottles together in front of the tops of your thighs.
  4. Bending your knees a little, pull your abs in.
  5. Holding the water bottles, lift your arms up and out to the sides, until the bottles are almost at your shoulders.
  6. Slowly lower the bottles back down.

 

Push-ups for Shoulders and Arms

 

  1. Bend your knees and cross your ankles while lying on your stomach.
  2. Bending your elbows, put your palms on the floor beside and just above your shoulders.
  3. Balance on your hands and knees by straightening your arms and lifting your body off the floor.
  4. Point your chin at your chest, and keep your stomach muscles tight.
  5. Lower your entire body while bending your arms. Continue lowering until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
  6. Push back up.

 

Aside from working out in the gym or in your living room, look for ways you can increase your strength doing everyday chores like sweeping, vacuuming or window-washing. "Our daily routines require the use of biceps and tricep muscles to perform jobs like cleaning and lifting. It's a matter of how often and how much you use these muscles that determines the strength and tone of your arms," Nayyar reminds us. She says that making a consistent effort to consciously use these muscles while performing your daily activities can help you achieve lean and strong arms.

Next time you drag your feet at the thought of hanging laundry or scrubbing the floor, remember the benefit your arms not to mention your home will reap from the effort.

 

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About the Author: Amy Carey is a contributing writer for iParenting.com and mother of one toddler, Katie.

 

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