Warmer weather means starting to dig out sleeveless shirt and sundresses from your closet, and time to start toning and strengthening your arms! Strength training, bands, and weight machines are a great way to get the sculpted look you're aiming for, but did you know you can also tone your arms while working on your heart health and burning calories? We've compiled tips from trainers on how to tackle those upper-body trouble spots while using common cardiovascular machines.
While using an elliptical with handles, the majority of people focus solely on pushing with their legs while their arms do a minimal amount of work. One way to change it up and involve big muscles in your back and chest is to perform short intervals where you focus on pushing and pulling with the upper body, letting your legs completely rest. You'll be amazed how different it feels when focusing on the top half of your body and your arms start to burn! Add in five to 10 20-second upper body intervals throughout your workout for best results.
Alexandra Price at FIT4MOM Waco, TX, recommends adding some mini bands into your treadmill workout. "As moms, we're always on the move so at FIT4MOM, we like our equipment to be portable yet powerful. I love utilizing these SKLZ mini bands in ways people might not think of since most of what you see is lower-body use of them.
While on a treadmill or elliptical, you can place the bands a little higher than your wrists and open your arms to keep resistance. Holding good posture through your upper back and pressing your shoulder blades down, you can take the bands over head, in front of your body, or down. Work your shoulder and arm muscles either by releasing tension and then opening again or by making short pulsing movements out and in and for an added challenge. Hold one side down and pull the other side up for a bicep curl or reverse that to target your triceps."
Price also notes the rowing machine can be incredible effective for toning the upper body. "Rowing machines are already a great full-body workout, but you can target your upper body by connecting mind to muscle and being mindful to utilize your arms more than your legs as you row. Posture is very important here also as we tend to slouch and use our back and shoulders rather than our arms, especially once we start to fatigue. Making that brain body connection to the body part you want to target is very helpful." Kylie Schofield with Tall Girl Fitness agrees.
"The row machine is one of my favorite machines. Not only do you get a great cardio workout, you are also working so many muscle groups, which leads to a greater amount of calories burned as well as building lean muscle to get the toned looked you want! I like to do five sets of 2-minute intervals going as hard and as fast as I can! Deltoids, rhomboids, pecs, biceps, and triceps are some of the upper-body muscle groups you'll be activating during this exercise."
Recumbent or Spin Bikes
While riding on a Spin bike, you have the opportunity to get light dumbbells involved and strengthen your arm and shoulders as you ride. My top moves are overhead shoulder press, Arnold press, lateral raises, and forward raises with 2- to 3-pound weights. Make sure to sit up nice and tall, working on your posture and keeping the weights light, putting minimal pressure on your lower back. When you're not using the weights, you can place them on the ground or rest them on your legs in between sets.
Meagan Moore, a fitness instructor at Snap fitness, likes to incorporate hand weights into stair stepper workouts with her clients. "Adding hand weights to the stair stepper to incorporate upper body can be very useful in the gym. Not only are you adding resistance and strength, but also utilizing your time in the gym. Keeping the stair stepper at a slower pace allows for better form and not swinging your arms around. Make sure to keep your elbows tucked in, shoulders rolled back, and chest up to try to keep your hammer curls slow and controlled. Making sure to keep the right form can be very crucial in preventing injury and utilizing the correct muscle groups."