“But it’s not enough,” I wailed, my eighteen year old mind unable to grasp the notion of budget management. It was in my wallet. It was cash. It was gone. “How about a credit card?” I suggested, hoping for a miracle. That financial tool had been given to older siblings, with mixed results.
“Not a chance,” he drawled. I was like Jan from the Brady Bunch, fourth in line behind our version of Greg, Marsha and Peter in front of me. I was following in the footsteps of the athletic standout, the responsible one, the loud, always smiling gregarious one…all endowed with at least one good trait. Mine superior trait seemed to be my ability to spend money on frivolous items that did nothing to get me an A on my papers.
I cajoled. I had a temper tantrum. I cried.
“You didn’t need the fishtank,” Dad said, unmoved. “The ski pass was non-essential,” he continued, since I paid for the ticket on a weekly pass, with a massive discount as a student. My argument that the resort was close, but lame, held no sway.
Then Dad offered up another suggestion.
“Try going to the gym more. You have all this time to go shopping. Spend it exercising. Work it out.”
My fragile, pea-size brain nearly exploded from an aneurysm. Transfer the hours of window-shopping, make-up trying on, shoe-buying experiences I shared with my friends for an hour of sweat and pain? I told him he was asking the impossible, until he reminded me the track circled the weight room, inside the massive health facility. He knew wherefore he was talking: he’d gone to the same college.
“It’s where the football players train,” he said, he noted, suggesting I reconsider. “I’ll send you one more stash of money to get something to wear.”
He had me at ‘football players train,’ though I allowed him to send me the money nonetheless.
It was in this house of pain that I learned to love and adore upper body workouts. For the avoidance of doubt (thanks studio, legal department for this wonderful phrase) are talking from the waist to the neck.
It was easy–and sit-ups I’ve already put forth on this blog, as well as the side bends. This blog, then, is going to focus on a few of the easy to do arm exercises. I’m going to write about two types: the machine-required and the non-machine required–with the caveat that P90X does a great alternate series of exercises that pretty much eliminates the need for a machine at all.
Simple, high impact arm exercises.
Without the machine
Arm exercise 1
- When walking on the treadmill, standing (doing squats, or watching the TV) extend your arms shoulder height like an airplane.
- Clench your fist, bend at the elbow and draw in. When extending the arms back out, you can a) keep the first clenched, wrist up, or you can open the hand, the fingers flat and extending. Doing the former strengthens and tones the top of the arm; the latter works the upper arm/shoulder muscle.
Arm exercise 2
- Begin with the same formation, clenched fist. Instead of dropped down at the elbow, turn up, like a bicep curl, taking the wrist to the shoulder.
Techniques and variations
- When I am standing, or walking on the treadmill, or doing knee bends–whatever–I’ll do sets of 25 under than 25 over. My shoulders and arms start to burn somewhere between 25-50. When the burn starts, I’ll rotate, going up for one step (touching wrist to shoulder) then down, dropping the arms, touching wrist to armpit.
- When I don’t have much time, or want to really lean out fast (as in, it’s Wednesday, and I’m going to wear a sleeveless/quarter sleeve on Fri or Saturday night), I’ll add wrist weights. These are the soft, pad weights that strap to the wrist, as opposed to traditional weights that must be gripped in the palm. Those work–it’s just a bit more awkward.
These two, simple arm exercises work wonders for leaning out the arms, upper and lower triceps etc. It’s not for building bulk or adding mass. Won’t happen. Besides, I hypothesize the majority of women was toned, lean arms.
If you care to lean out, or tone-up your chest, from inner shoulder to sternum, where the v-neck shows your skin, here are two quick and easy exercises.
- If you have a balance ball, lie on it, with the middle of your back on the top. Use your feet for balance. Grip your weights (I use 8 lb, but started with 3, then 5…), extend your arms in a 90 degree angle, bent at the elbows, weights straight up in your hands. The palm of your hand should be facing forward, towards your legs.
- Lift the weights up, over your head. Some trainers suggest lifting up and then touching the weights (the thought that this works the pectoral muscles). Other trainers have told me to lift straight up, particularly if your elbow joints are weak or sore.
- Repeat 15x, or until you have a hard time lifting. Even now, I do 3 sets of 15, before moving to the next exercise.
- Start with the same, beginning position, arms up. This time, turn the palm of your hand inward, so the weight (and your palm) is facing your head.
- Lift the weight directly over your head.
My routine involves 3 sets of 15 reps each. If I’m really feeling gross, I’ll move it up to 20, but that’s tops. I’ve found when I use 10 lb weights, I bulk up, so I use a lower weight with a high rep count.
These two exercises stretch, tone and lean out the space between the shoulders (you know, the female dead space that can be jiggly, and cause shirts to fit tight), along the shoulder blade–a very sexy stretch of skin–and then the v-line area.
You’ll see results very quickly.
The results paid off, for within two months of starting this regime, I was asked by a local gym owner to pose for a series of ads. The print ad was a zoom-in on my waist, slightly turned, as though I were doing a stretch. The space between my stomach and back appears to be about 2 inches deep. It’s a slight optical illusion, but my waist was quit trim. My hopes of becoming more than a local model were dashed however, when I saw the rest of the piece.
I’m headless and legless. They didn’t want those parts. Ouch.
I laughed about it with Dad during the first Christmas I returned home. In effect, he told me the workout was a whole lot cheaper than another fish tank, with better, long-term results.