Spring has arrived. If you’re still carrying around a little insulation from this winter, in the form of extra helpings of savory Thanksgiving stuffing, Super Bowl snacks, and sugary Valentine’s treats, don’t worry. Help is on the way. Today we’re starting a short series of spring shape up moves to help you look toned in those new spring fashions. We’ll work arms, glutes, legs, and abs. You can do each of these mini workouts three times a week. Do them on their own for targeted toning, combine them for a higher calorie burn, or mix them into your current workout for a fat-blasting boost.
There are seven exercises in each circuit, so not only will you tone up, but you’ll burn some fat as well. Aim for three sets of 15 reps for each exercise. If you can’t do that yet, try to do two sets of 8, 10, or 12 reps to start, and work your way up. Best of all, you won’t need any equipment except a pair of dumbbells, and some floor space, for most of the exercises. Don’t forget a towel for wiping away sweat, a bottle of water, and maybe some tunes to get you moving.
In addition to these moves, aim for 30 minutes of cardio each day, such as walking, jogging, cycling, or whatever appeals to you. If you can’t find a block of 30 minutes in your day, walk the stairs at work for 10 minutes, three times a day. Or go out and play with your kids or dog. Walk to the store and back when you run out of milk. Get movement on your brain and you’ll find a way to get it done.
To get started, here’s a list of exercises that will target your arms and help get you in spring break shape. You’ll need a bench, chair or stair step, or you may want to use a large Swiss ball. You’ll also need a pair of dumbbells. Start with eight to ten pounds. If this is too light, add more weight. To build muscle, always increase the weight. To tone muscle, just increase the number of reps. When you’re just starting, choose a weight that forces you to lift to the point of failure, which means you can barely, or just flat out can’t, get through the last few reps. Whatever that weight is for you, use that as your starting point.
- Triceps dips The muscles on the backs of your arms can make or break your dreams of wearing short-sleeved or sleeveless shirts. You can use a bench, stable chair, or even the bottom step of your staircase. Place your hands, shoulder-width apart, on the bench behind you. Bend knees and place feet hip-width apart. Your backside should be just in front of the bench, with your back straight. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the floor, until your arms are close to 90 degrees. Keep a slight bend in your arms at all times to avoid putting too much stress on your elbows, shoulders, and wrists. Then press back up for one rep.
- Triceps extensions You can use two lighter dumbbells or one heavier dumbbell for this move. Be careful when using the old school, knurled dumbbells with the plates, as they can be awkward and you don’t want to whack yourself in the head with the plate. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, or sit on a chair, bench, or Swiss ball. Hold the dumbbell, or dumbbells, over your head, holding onto the shaft of the weight. Moving slowly and carefully, lower the dumbbell behind your head and neck, until elbows are bent to their full range of motion. Then slowly raise the dumbbell back over your head for one rep.
- Biceps curl A nice curve in your biceps makes you look great in a tank top. This classic exercise is a classic for one simple reason: It’s effective. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells. Rest your elbows along your hip bones. Bending elbows, slowly curl the dumbbells until your forearm comes to your chest. You can alternate arms, or do both arms simultaneously. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to starting position for one rep.
- Hammer curl A variation on the biceps curl, a hammer curl helps give you more muscle definition in your biceps. It will tone your forearms as well. Stand up straight with knees slightly bent, arms hanging at sides. Grasp dumbbells, palms facing your hips. Keeping your elbows in, curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Slowly lower for one rep.
- Shoulder press If you’ve got a halter top you’re dying to wear, it’s time to tone those shoulders. This exercise can be done standing or in a chair. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, feet planted on the floor, hip-width apart. Bend elbows at 90 degrees and, holding arms out to the sides, raise your arms to shoulder height. Dumbbells should be at ear level. Press the dumbbells up and in, extending your arms directly over your head. Keep this movement controlled so the dumbbells don’t clack together. Lower dumbbells to starting position for one rep. For a variation, do these while laying back on a Swiss ball, and press the dumbbells over your head.
- Upright rows These will get the middle of your deltoids (shoulder muscles) looking great. You can use dumbbells to do these to make things more efficient and keep you from dragging out all of your weight equipment. However, if you have a barbell, that’s a great option, too. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Keep spine neutral. Grip a dumbbell in each hand, arms relaxed in front of you, palms toward your thighs. Lift the dumbbells straight up, bringing elbows out and back. Finish the lift just under your chin. Keep your hands close to your body throughout the motion and then return to starting position for one rep.
- Flyes OK, technically, this exercise is for your chest, but since you’ve got those dumbbells out, it’s a good one to mix into this set. Besides, men and women alike can always benefit from strengthening their chest muscles. You can do these on the floor, on a bench, or on a large Swiss ball. These may also be done standing up, but you’ll get a better range of motion when laying back. Grip the dumbbells in each hand and extend your arms so that the dumbbells are directly over your face. Keep elbows slightly bent at all times. Slowly lower your arms out to your sides. Go as low as you feel comfortable and then slowly bring your arms back to the starting position for one rep. Again, try to avoid clanking the dumbbells together.
Talk it up:
Are your arms ready for spring clothes?
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