By Pamela M. Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP
Part II of a six-part series. Check back next week for Part III: Chest
You can’t keep them out of sight forever. Buried deep inside your long-sleeved sweaters and tops are your upper limbs. You know, the ones you don’t want to share with the world because they’re jiggly and flap in the breeze. Wouldn’t it be nice to stop hiding and instead put your foot down and declare your right to bare arms? Well, that time is now and yes, you can realize your goal.
First, where does this annoying flappy flesh come from anyway? Well, it’s often a combination of many factors including:
● Genetics: Look at your family members. If there’s a genetic tendency to deposit fat on the arms, then that increases your odds of doing the same. Along those same genetic lines, poor elasticity tends to share the same genes.
● Disuse: If you don’t train your bountiful biceps and terrific triceps, then you not only have floppy muscles, but saggy fat and connective tissue surrounding the muscles.
● Weight Loss: With weight reduction, fat recedes all over the body, including the arms. This fat mass collapse results in baggy skin hang. The more times you go through the weight gain and re-gain cycle, the worse this becomes, challenging even the best elasticity. Shedding over 50 pounds magnifies this problem.
Whip out your arms from their hidden havens and study them carefully. Flex your biceps and have someone measure your arm at mid-biceps. Keep this in your “My Body 101” notebook. Keep track of your progress as you practice the following exercises on a consistent basis. Do the work and reap the rewards.
And, remember that the only way to optimize any body part you’re exercising is to match it with healthy eating. Click onto the WebMD Food and Fitness Planner right now and input your data. The Planner will help lay down a simple blueprint for healthy eating customized to fit your unique physical abilities and medical condition(s).
Now, it’s time to sweat off the jiggle. In addition to these strengthening training exercises, remember to do your cardio (burning about 400 cals) at least 5 days per week. If you’re a beginner, work up to this as your goal. The payoff is amazing.
Batwings Be Gone Exercises
All you need are a floor mat, 3-5 pound hand weights and/or elastic tubing with handles. It really helps to have a full-length mirror available so that you can carefully monitor your form. And it helps to wear a T shirt or sleeveless tank top so that you can see your upper arm and correct your form as you exercise. Finally, always clear any new exercise routine with your medical team, especially if you have medical conditions or disabilities.
Traditional Biceps Curl
Pick up a single-arm dumbbell in each hand. I like to exercise the arms independently so that you can work on any weakness in the non-dominant arm.
Stand up (preferably facing a mirror) with your feet about hip-width apart. Knees are slightly bent to increase your stability as you move your arms. Really engage your core by contracting your ab muscles. You want a great upright posture for all of your workouts.
Hold your dumbbells on the side of each thigh, palms facing forward.
Squeeze your biceps and begin to bend the arms, curling the dumbbells up towards your shoulders. Keep the elbows by your sides keeping the arm stable.
Slowly lower the weights and when you reach the bottom, maintain a slight bend in the elbow keeping tension in your biceps muscle. You never want to lock your joints.
The goal is to do 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
Hammer Biceps Curl
This is a nifty twist on the traditional curl. Everything is the same except your hands are rotated in, and the forearms, along with the biceps, get exercised as well.
So, you’ll now hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing each other. Squeeze the biceps, keeping the elbows stationary, and bring the weight as high as you can without moving the elbow. Gently return to start position, keeping a slight flex in the elbow.
The goal is to do from 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions. I mix it up and do one set with the traditional curl and the next with the hammer and then the third as traditional once again. Keeps things interesting!
You can also perform the biceps exercises with your elastic tubing. Grab both handles and step on the tubing so that you now have resistance in each arm. Follow the same instructions for the dumbbell weights.
Single Arm Triceps Curl
This is one of the easiest and most convenient ways to tone up your triceps. Grab just one dumbbell in your right hand. Maintain the same posture as you did in the biceps exercises.
Extend the dumbbell straight over your head. Flex at the elbow and lower the weight behind your neck.
Take your left hand and hold your right arm steady with fingers around the right triceps area.
Squeezing your triceps, slowly straighten your right arm straight over your head.
The goal is to do from 1-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions to each side.
You can also perform this triceps exercise with your elastic tubing. Grab one handle of your tubing and let the rest of the tubing fall to the floor. Step on the tubing so that you have resistance on the side where you’re holding the handle. Then follow the instructions for the triceps curl.
Hey, don’t run away! Push-ups are terrific because you can multitask with your own anatomy. They’re compound movements and if you’re doing them correctly, you’ll work six different muscles groups: chest, biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, abs. You get bonus points if you contract your glutes and maintain great back posture as well.
In case you just conjured up a nightmare vision of full legged Marine platoon rapid push-ups, forget about that. We’re going to keep it simple.
Get on the floor mat and balance yourself with your hands positioned by your sides, keeping them wider than your shoulders, and you’re on bent knees. You can cross your ankles behind your or keep them straight up. For folks who are more trained and want to do a full-out straight legged push-up, you’re balancing on your hands and toes. Keep your body in a straight line from head to toe. For the bent knee folks, your body is straight from head to knee. Watch out for belly sagging. Really engage your core. As well, make sure your butt isn’t pointing toward the ceiling. Get that behind down and in proper alignment.
Slowly bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor. You can keep your face looking toward the floor or hold it up staring ahead of you. This is a matter of neck comfort. There is no need to touch the floor. Lower only as far as you are comfortable doing and then exhale and push yourself back up to the start position.
If you’re a beginner, perform only as many as you can while keeping excellent form. The key is not to break form. If you do, then you’ll be at risk for injury. If you can perform one right now, that’s excellent. Repeat this exercise twice a week if you’re a beginner, and for the more trained, 2-3 x week. Ideally, you’re working up to three sets of 10 repetitions.
You’ll be working your arms no more than twice per week. Remember, you’ve got other parts of your body you need to work into your weekly exercise sessions. Stay consistent and I guarantee you stronger, leaner and toned arms. And a supremely sleeveless spring and summer!