Up in Arms

Up in Arms

by -

Growing up on the West side of Cincinnati, my Presbyterian family was outnumbered among a sea of large Catholic families. As a child, I can recall friends asking me what I gave up for Lent. Although I respected my friends’ sacrifice, I chose to celebrate Lent in my unique nonconventional manner. This practice continues as an adult.

On Ash Wednesday, when my friends announced their Lenten sacrifices, I went in the opposite direction. I have found through the last few years that this is my time to partake in the last feasts of winter. The day after Easter is when I got busy. When everyone is gearing up to dive back into their soft drinks, desserts, alcohol, pizza and junk food, I have kicked into what I call "clean living."

So, that's one way to slim up for the summer months ahead. But, as a personal trainer, I have a few tips in the exercise department to help you shed the winter weight and look great in your tank tops, dresses and shorts this year.

This is the time when I look in the mirror and ask myself, “Do you like what you see?” “Would you be comfortable wearing a swimsuit in public today?” Usually, the answer is, “Well… maybe, but I have some areas that could be improved.” If you are like me, and the majority of other women out there feeling this way, the area of concentration you are looking at is your upper body – specifically your arms. Even if you never put on a swimsuit all summer, I can bet you won’t be wearing your long sleeves. So, here are my recommendations for a fit upper body. The only things that you will need are 2-3 pairs of dumbbells. You can start with 5lb, 8lb and 10lb weight selections. A big dose of wanting to change is helpful too.

Pushups – 4 sets, 12 repetitions with a 30 second rest between each set
Start by kneeling on your mat. Place your hands down a little wider than your shoulders. Walk your legs out until they are straight. Your body should be in a straight line from your shoulders through your hips all the way to your heels. Lower yourself down with your elbows traveling out to the sides. Stop one inch away from the mat. Push up through your hands and straighten your arms to come up.

Close Grip Bent Over Row – 3 sets, 12 repetitions with a 30 second rest between each set
Hold a dumbbell in each hand, hinge over from your hips. Your torso should be a few inches above parallel to the floor. Keep your knees slightly bent, abdominals pulled in. Bring your shoulders down and back. Your arms are hanging down with the palms turned in. Start squeezing your shoulder blades together as soon as you initiate the movement. Your elbows should move past the level of your back. Slowly lower your arms.

Overhead Triceps Extension – 3 sets, 12 repetitions with a 30 second rest between sets
With a dumbbell in each hand, bring the arms overhead with the arms extended palms facing each other. The shoulders should be down and back. Keeping your upper arms still, slowly lower the dumbbells toward your shoulders. As you extend the arms up, contract the triceps.

Front Shoulder Raise – 3 sets, 12 repetitions with a 30 second rest between sets
Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. Keep your elbows slightly bent and your wrists straight. Raise the dumbbells to shoulder height. Pause and then lower your arms.

Biceps Curl – 3 sets, 12 repetitions with a 30 second rest between sets
Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Hang your arms at your sides, with the palms facing forward. Slowly curl the dumbbells up toward your shoulders. Pause and then lower your arms.

The way to increase the intensity of these exercises is to increase the dumbbell weight until it is challenging to complete 12 reps. Make sure you are lifting in good form before you increase the weight.