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Women’s problem areas: The essentials of arm toning

Most women who work out have one, two or all of three goals in mind: toned arms, flat tummy and lean hips. Such women have a perfect picture of themselves that they would like to achieve by the end of each class or training session. However, not every woman manages to acheive these three goals together. It's only those who add knowledge to their workouts to maintain a balance between the effort used and the right ways of exercising who will be able to reach that finish line.

For the next three weeks, this weekly column will be dedicated to women’s problem areas, starting with solutions for arm-toning, moving on to a flat-tummy plan and finally some lower body exercises to help you define the perfect thighs.

There are a few things you need to know when you are trying to tone your arms.

Firstly, to tone a muscle you need to lose fat

Arm toning is not possible without losing fat. And, sadly, it is not possible to lose fat from only one area in your body. This means that if you want to lose weight from your arms you need to start a weight loss program that will help you to lose weight off of your whole body.

Secondly, you need to work with weights to build muscle.

We fitness instructors know that most women are not the biggest fans of weightlifting. Most think that weightlifting is going to create bulky muscles all around their bodies. This however is not true. To tone your arms you need the muscle to be built and to show through whatever fat you have on your arm. The bigger the muscles, the better they will show through.

Big female muscles are not the same as big male muscles. You can control the amount of muscle mass in your body by picking lighter weight to use during your workout, and doing multiple stretches afterward to make sure the muscle mass stretches across your arm rather than bulking up in one area. Getting bulky isn’t really a concern as women generally do not have the necessary testosterone to get that big.

The exercises you will use for your arm toning workout are simple weight lifting exercises that are done with free weights (bar bells and dumb bells). We'll start with the biceps muscle, which is the muscle that connects your shoulder to your lower arm, passing your elbow joint from the front side of your arm.

The simplest biceps exercise is the biceps lift: Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, grab a bar bell, holding it with hands about shoulder-width apart. With your elbows locked firmly by your sides, lift the weight up, using your biceps muscle, to the top of your chest. Lower it slowly down without moving your elbows, and repeat.

Another alternative exercise is the alternate dumb bell curl: Standing with feet shoulder-width apart grab two dumb bells and let them rest at your side. Tensing your biceps, curl one dumb bell up and twist it so that when the dumb bell reaches its top position near your shoulder your palm is facing your shoulder. As you lower the dumb bell down to its starting position, repeat with the opposite arm.

Your triceps is the muscle that connects the upper side of your arm with the lower side, passing the elbow as well but from the rear side of your arm. To work on your triceps with weights, you need to understand the role gravity plays in your favor during working out. Naturally, gravity pulls the weight down and you will work the muscle when you pull that weight up. Thus, when you are working on your triceps you need to place your body in a way that your triceps will work against gravity. There are many ways to do that. One is the famous close-grip bench press. Simply lie on a bench, hold a medium heavy bar bell with a slightly narrower than shoulder-width grip and bring it down to your lower ribs. Push the weight up, using your triceps, and lower it to the same position. Just before it reaches your chest fire it up in the pushing direction again before it gets a chance to rest on your body. This prevents your chest from taking on the weight lifting.

Another was of working out the triceps is to do kickbacks. Take a light dumb bell in your right hand. Place your left hand and left knee on a low flat bench so your back is parallel to the floor. Keeping your back straight, lift your elbow so that your upper arm is in line with your torso. Slowly tense your tricep and lift the dumb bell to a position where your arm is almost locked out straight. Lower, and repeat.

Finally, you can simply do a combination of these exercises that will give you results in no time. The following combo, which will take you only 20 minutes daily, will help you keep the fat away from your upper arms and tone them for that slender look:

These are the basic four exercises that you can use to build your foundation of strength and technique. Remember, without perfect technique you will not make any progress, so make sure your posture and lifting method is perfect.

Remember to perform each exercise with care, and slowly. Do not be tempted to pump out the reps quickly.

Start by warming up with some cardio, stretching, and light weights. You can do that by simply walking in place for 2-3 minutes, then stretch your back by bending it down as if your are curling your tummy over a huge ball stationed in front of you, but remember to support your upper body by placing your hands on your lower thighs. Then move on to some jumping jacks or simple steady running for 3-4 minutes.

1. Start with the bar bell curls, where you perform these for four sets, each of the sets is 10-15 repetitions.
2. Move on to the bar bell curls, which you would be doing for four sets each set is 8-10 reps.
3. Rest your biceps while working on your triceps with the narrow grip bench press (four sets of 8-10 reps) and go back to training your biceps with the alternate dumb bell curls (4 sets of 8-10 reps).
4. Finally finish your workout with the triceps kickbacks (4 sets of 10-15 reps).

Final tip: Note that this workout is aimed at beginners who have not worked on their upper body before, so after a while do ask your trainer for ways to make these exercises more challenging. Keep in mind that mixing this weights training workout with a good diet and some cardio should bring you results in no time.

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