Tuesday, May 19, 2009

3 Month Arm Challenge - Improve Your Arms in 90 Days

I am having an issue with my triceps since I lost about 20 pounds the skin is not tight at all. I thought it would make me exercise them more if I offered a 3 month Arm challenge and show you how my arms improve a week at a time with pictures of my arm. I will work them out every other day, because muscle needs a day to recover and rebuild. Your triceps are a small muscle therefore should respond quickly to an exercise regiment. I am also included the exercises I will use for this challenge. I hope you will join me and let me know your progress by emailing me at: katmando5139@yahoo.com or making a comment at the end of the post.

I am on the road every week with my job, so I will take a set of free weights starting with 5 pounds and ending with 15 pounds by the 3rd month.


If weight machines are available I will do the follow: (of course it is easier with the weight machines to start out I will use the 10 pound weights.)

If I am going to work out with machines my favorite is the lat pull down not only does it get rid of that bulge in your back right above your bra it also feels great to stretch out your back. Since your back muscles are larger try to start out with 15 or 20 pounds. Believe me your back will love it.

Baring arms for summer
It's time to get those upper limbs in shape for summer
MARK ARONOFF / The Press Democrat
Nadine Soffer, a workout advocate and personal trainer for two decades, demonstrates some of her favorite exercises at Coach's Corner in Sebastopol Tuesday May 12. Her arms reflect years of training.


Published: Sunday, May 24, 2009 at 4:03 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 24, 2009 at 4:03 a.m.

When Betsy Smith's son announced one January he was getting married in August, she set herself a goal: Eight months to get her arms ready for a mother-of-the-groom dress with spaghetti straps.
If you’re aiming for toned arms, here are some basic exercises from fitness trainers, designed to firm and strengthen the upper arms.

Tricep dip: Sit at the edge of a chair with palms facing down on either side. Slide off, keeping your back as close to the front of the chair as possible while lowering to the floor. Press yourself back up using your triceps. Elbows point straight behind you and not flared out to the side. Knees are bent and legs are at a right angle. For more advanced, extend legs straight out or up on a bench or stool.

Pushups: Rather than going into a standard plank position for a floor push-up, you can modify by kneeling. Or you can replicate a push-up by standing and pushing against a wall. With hands aligned at breast level and arms at a 45-degree angle, lower to the floor or toward the wall without your body touching, then push up and repeat.

Tricep extension: Wrapping both hands around a single weight, lift arms close to your head and straight overhead. Bend elbows which are pointing to the ceiling and drop hands with weight down your back. Return to overhead. For variation and for focus, do one arm at a time and use the opposite hand to support the working upper arm.

Side raises: Standing and with neutral spine, holding a lightweight dumbbell, start with your arm by your side and slowly raise the arm up just to shoulder height. Imagine moving through very thick water and do the same as you bring the weight down slowly. Do the other side.

Tricep kickback: Kneel with right knee and right arm on a bench with your back flat and parallel to the floor. Holding a small weight in the left hand and with upper arm tight to the torso, kick back or straighten the arm so the arm is parallel to the floor. Then slowly move arm back to a right angle. Change sides.

Bicep curl: Standing with your arm at your side holding a weight, slowly bring the weight up to your shoulder, squeezing the bicep muscle and then slowly lower. Keep the elbow nudged back so it doesn’t move forward. Do several repetitions and then change sides. You can sit at your desk and do this one.

Pretend swimming: With small weights in each hand, do a series of back strokes and alternate with breast strokes.


"I went to a trainer and said I refuse to have old-lady arms," said Smith, a grade school teacher in Rohnert Park and part-time fitness instructor.

She worked on special arm exercises with weights and machines three days a week, started to see some bicep and tricep muscle definition by six months and still brags about herself in the wedding photos.

It made her even more sympathetic to her own exercise students who complain to her about that pesky body part.

"Upper arms, with that little bit of flab, are always a concern for women," said Smith.

Add to that the summer season calling for skimpy tops that expose the arms and now, a new standard of upper arm fitness coming from the White House. With first lady Michelle Obama drawing commentary for her sleeveless dresses that reveal strong firm arms, the pressure is on.

The first lady even won a presidential endorsement for her toned triceps when Barack Obama said at the White House Correspondents dinner, "No matter which party you belong to, we can all agree that Michelle has the right to bare arms."

Nadine Soffer (cq), a personal trainer at Coaches Corner in Sebastopol, appreciates that Obama's athletic body puts emphasis on not only attractive but strong arms.

"I think her arms are a metaphor for her own strength and independence," said Soffer, who is in her 50s and grew up when "little girls were told they should never be stronger than boys."

She thinks it's time women's arms be admired not just for how they look but for what they can physically do.

"If you're strong, you can pick up your child, load your own groceries, stack your own firewood, haul your mulch and put your suitcase up in the overhead compartment by yourself."

Arm emphasis

Some athletes come by strong arms automatically. Soffer names tennis, golf and swimming as sports that can automatically sculpt and strengthen arms.

Everyone else has to work on it, including Michelle Obama whom Soffer said "probably works really hard to have that arm definition."

For upper arm emphasis, Soffer recommends strength training, 25 minutes to an hour three to four days a week. She advises choosing exercises that work on all three areas -- triceps, biceps and shoulders.

"You need all three. You might have nice shoulders or upper arms but if the skin underneath is soft you need to also concentrate on your triceps," she said. Triceps are the trickiest, she said, because there's naturally more body fat in that part of the arm.

Some of her favorite arm exercises include the tricep kickback, pushups, simple bicep curls and the cat bow and dolphin movements in yoga.

When using weights it's important, she said, to squeeze the muscle and relax the grip on the weight itself. "Make every repetition count and visualize the muscle as you do it."

Avoid "locking out" the joints, protect the lower back and neck, suck in the stomach, don't compete with the 30-year-old next to you and keep the spine in a neutral position. Then, stretch when you're finished.

The pay-off, she said, is "you feel like you're superwoman. Tiny arms on pretty thin women were the old standard. And thin is not necessarily strong."

Sports medicine doctor Todd Weitzenberg(cq) agrees. "With Michelle Obama, we're looking at toning. Shapely looking arms that are strong in a healthy way."

Target excess fat

The Kaiser doctor said it's possible for women and men of any age to improve tone, but that often means working on excess fat first.

"Every one of us has a sleek looking arm in us. It's just how much fat you have hiding it. Get into a sustained aerobic exercise program to burn fat -- and everything will look better," he said, including your arms.

Then, he said, to focus on biceps and triceps, "You want a combination of low weight and high frequency exercises. They'll put less stress on the joints and cause less injury." Instead of using a 25-pound weight and doing five bicep curls, he said it's better to take a five-pound weight and do 25 repetitions.

While arms may be thought to be more of a concern to women -- there's the old joke about what part of grandma keeps waving even after she stops waving goodbye -- men also have their upper-arm worries.

Testosterone in men holds muscle mass and allows them to generally stay leaner longer than women, said Weitzenberg. "But after a certain age the natural testosterone level decreases and men begin to lose a certain percentage of lean muscle mass."

To them and all his patients who fret over signs of aging, he says, "It's not how strong or fast you are now compared to what you used to be. But being the best you can be now."

Rejuvenate muscles

In its encouraging studies on exercise, the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato found that strength training can rejuvenate muscle tissue in healthy older adults.

That is what Smith, 56, found out. To prepare for her son's wedding, she worked out three days a week doing pushups, chest presses and other arm movements using the exercise ball, stretch bands and weight-resistance machines.

After the wedding, even as she continued to exercise in a general way she backed off on the arm routines and said, "Now, I still have a little bit hanging. You have to keep at it. As we get older and the hormones and the gravity and our bones do their thing, we have to fight back."

She tells her students to just keep moving, whether the results are visible or not.

"If you're working out that means your blood pressure is probably going down and you're losing some weight," she said. "If that's happening, I say, mission accomplished. Even if you don't have Michelle Obama arms."