Arm Exercises: Best to Tighten and Tone your Arms (cont.)
"We live in such a flexed-posture society, says Lori Incledon, athletic trainer and author of Strength Training for Women.
Being hunched over the computer, in front of the TV, and at the steering wheels of our cars takes a toll, she says. The shoulder girdle becomes stretched, the chest muscles get tighter, and we set ourselves up for decreased range of motion and potential injury.
"We're never going to be able to reach for the cup on the highest shelf anymore" if we don't balance out our muscles with exercise, says Incledon, of Chandler, Ariz.
Arm Toning Tips: The Whole-Body Prescription
As we all know by now, you cannot spot-reduce an area. So we need to think about the bigger picture. "The emphasis should be on the entire body -- and cardio and diet," says Nutting.
Diet and nutrition are a huge part of the equation, says Agresti. If you work the arms and don't see results, look at your whole program: "Underneath that fat is the most beautiful set of arms you've ever seen," he says.
Nutting, Agresti, and Incledon all use multi-muscle, multi-joint exercises for their clients, so they work more muscle at one time, thus increasing the calorie burn.
"We need to train the body the way it was designed to work," says Agresti. Otherwise, "there's not a lot of crossover into the real world."
You need to use some sort of resistance to really strengthen the upper body and tone the arms, whether it's weights, bands, machines, cables, grocery bags, or your own body weight.
You also need to be willing to push yourself a little, says Agresti.
"If you want to tone and shape your arms, you have to use a bigger weight," Agresti says. "I don't think women tend to push themselves with sufficient weight and to the level of effort and fatigue necessary."
It's all about motivation, says Agresti. "Could you have done more? For $100,000 could you have doubled the reps?" If your response is 'You bet,' he says, you're cheating yourself.
Women sometimes ask if the workouts will lead to too much bulking up. If you feel a little bigger at first, it may not be your imagination. "When you first start lifting, there's a big influx of carbohydrates and water to that area," as your body attempts to protect itself from something it's not accustomed to, says Incledon. "It's a beginner thing. At first, you'll get a bit more of a bulky feeling, but after a month, the body regulates."
Another reason you may look bulkier is because you're building muscle under a layer of fat. Once the fat comes off, the bulkiness gives way to the lean muscle underneath.
And you don't have to treadmill yourself to death to shed that layer of flab, says Incledon.
"It's a myth that the only way you can affect body composition is by cardiovascular exercise," she says. In a sense, "anything you do that is exercise is cardiovascular, because you have to work your heart and lungs to lift a weight."