I live and work on a military installation. i am also a familiar face at the base’s gyms, both as an instructor and a patron. As I work out, I often see men hogging the space before the mirrors, checking themselves out. Literally. It makes me crack up, seeing men angling themselves just right to see their biceps flex and pop.
On the sad side, almost no women elbow these gorillas out of the way so they can also share the space. More often than not, mirrors are very beneficial to checking posture and correct alignment while exercising. This can be especially true for arm work, as it is easy to let go of the core, shift through the waist, and use momentum, rather than strength, to lift weight that might be heavier than we ought to lift at that time.
While one of the primary aims for men while working out is accomplishing the big, bulky upper body, women shy away from arm work. There are several reasons for this. First, there is a misconception that women will bulk up. This does not happen because we are simply not men. We do not have the same amount of testosterone in our bodies, the hormone necessary to create the larger, stronger muscles men possess (particularly in their upper bodies, which are almost twice as strong), called muscular hypertrophy. Second and probably the bigger reason is that women are bewildered by the sheer number of choices in exercises and equipment. There are machines, cable machines, kettlebells, resistance bands, dumbbells, bars, stability balls, D-balls, medicine balls…it boggles the mind. Or, here seems to not be enough options because some women are “stuck” at home.
With a little imagination, we can turn many things into gym equipment. Chairs and ottomans can become benches. Cans can act as substitute dumbbells. Steps can be step benches. And so forth.
In my opinion, I feel that gyms are great places. I always recommend that people take advantage of the multitude of opportunities available in those facilities. Trainers are great guides for learning both exercises and how to use exercise equipment. (Note: If you find it financially unfeasible to purchase a membership, by all means, study at-home programs–a group I’m with highly recommends Turbo Jam–to help boost your physical activity.) Group fitness programs, or smaller studios, are also great ways to engage in fitness and still enables you to have a great time.
However you choose to do it, remember that fitness is all-encompassing: cardiovascular, strength training, and range of motion (flexibility) are essential components to a fit, healthy body. As women, we like what cardio does to our waistline, but we forget that strength training builds muscle mass, which burns more fat. Cardio, on the other hand, leans out muscle mass. A healthy balance, therefore, is necessary.
Here is a simple but effective arm workout. All that is required is a pair of dumbbells and a flat surface upon which to sit (i.e. a bench or chair). If working from home, consider investing in a pair or set of weights, be it a set of three ranging from 3-10 pounds or a full starter set. Costs range from $10-$15 a pair to several hundred dollars.
And HERE is another website with animated exercises.
Remember: if working to build strength, lower repetitions and higher weights are better; if working to lean and tone muscle, higher repetitions and lower weights are optimal. Also keep in mind good posture. Shoulders and hips should be in line, and the core should remain engaged. Breathe out through the mouth on the exertion, or work; inhale on the release/rest. To work the heart, keep resting periods less than 30 seconds. More than 60 seconds may be necessary is lifting heavier loads.
Most of all, listen to your body! Too many people, like those military men I mentioned at the beginning, are looking for visual results rather than keeping their bodies safe and sound. It is better to start with lower weights and work carefully than fling big weights around, threatening the lower back by arching as momentum propels the weight up and down, because it makes us “look” better. I guarantee you, for those who know, it really does not, and it jeopardizes your health. Go slow, be persistent and patient, and never give up!