Fall days are looming and it’s a good time to tone your upper body in readiness.
The best tool for toning is resistance work, which gives your muscles something to act against. Most of the exercises below use hand-held weights to provide resistance. These can be as simple as water bottles or even tins of food, so long as you can grip them comfortably. For the stronger among you, try conventional hand weights in the 1 lb to 5 lb range.
Toning exercises not only make you look and feel good. They also increase the number of insulin receptor sites on your cell walls, which reverses the imbalance of blood sugar and glucose caused by Insulin Resistance. Left unchecked, this condition can lead to weight gain and obesity, which, in turn, may result in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Diabetes and the cluster of Cardiovascular Diseases known as Metabolic Syndrome (Syndrome X).
As with all exercise, you should warm up first. A short walk up the street or marching up the stairs, interspersed with some gentle stretches, should do the trick. If your muscles have lain dormant for a while, body toning exercises can be easily overdone. It shouldn’t be painful while you’re doing it. If it is, you’re using too much weight. Start with with a weight that feels easy and build gradually from there. Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise regime if you have any anxiety about it affecting your health.
Exercise 1 – Chest and Shoulders: lie on your back and grasp your weights with the palms of your hands facing up and your arms outstretched to the sides. With your elbows slightly bent, lift your arms above your chest until your hands are almost touching. Return to starting position and repeat.
Exercise 2 – Chest and Shoulders II: lie on your back and grasp your weights with the palms of your hands facing up, and your arms outstretched above your head. Grip your weights and bring them over your head and down to your hips by your sides in a semi-circular motion. Lift back to starting position and repeat.
Exercise 3 – Chest and Back: sitting with your back straight (preferably supported) and legs straight out in front of you, hold your weights in at your chest with your elbows out to the side (parallel to the floor). Push your arms out straight in front of you then pull them back in. Repeat.
Exercise 4 – Back and Shoulders: stand with feet a shoulder width apart and arms by your sides, gripping the weights with palms facing outwards. Making sure your movements are slow and concentrated, tense your shoulder and upper back muscles, then slowly “shrug” them up and down.
Exercise 5 – Shoulders and Upper Arms: with feet a shoulder width apart and arms raised straight up above your head, grip your weights with your palms facing behind you. Slowly bring your arms forward and down, without bending at the elbow, until level with your shoulders. Lift back to starting position and repeat.
Exercise 6 – Upper Arms, Shoulders and Back: standing with feet slightly apart, grasp your weights and bend at the waist until your torso is parallel to the floor. Extend your arms towards the floor with palms facing outwards. Lift your arms out to the side, keeping them straight, until parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Exercise 7 – Upper Arms, Shoulders and Back: standing with feet slightly apart, position your arms straight down in front of you almost against your body, with your weights almost touching. Bend your elbows and lift your weights towards your chin, bringing your elbows out to the side, in line with your shoulders. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Exercise 8 – Arms and Chest: the classic push up. With your hands a shoulder width apart, place your palms on the floor. Stretch out your body with either your knees on the floor, or if you’re feeling ambitious, your toes – so you are supporting your body weight. Keeping your back straight and using your arms, lower yourself gently toward the floor until you are hovering just over it. Push yourself slowly back to your starting position and repeat. Remember – don’t lower yourself to the point where you come into contact with the floor because it’ll be much harder to push back up.
Exercise 9 – Arms: in a sitting position with your back straight, relax your arms in line with your body. Grip your weights with your palms facing upwards and curl them up towards your shoulders, then back down again. Repeat. Keep your torso still and back straight, let your arms do the work.
Exercise 10 – Forearms: holding your weight with your arm outstretched in front of you, tilt your wrist up and down repeatedly. Try doing this with both an overhand and underhand grip on your weight. Do one arm at a time.
To begin with, a regime of ten gentle repetitions of each exercise should take about eight minutes. The secret of successful body toning is regularity. If you do this exercise sequence every other day, you’ll start to see results in a few weeks. If you’re fit and feeling more ambitious, you could also try building up to repeating each exercise 15-20 times in three separate sessions, with a break in between each one, which should take you between 30 and 45 minutes.