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Sally Gunnell's fit for life: Give flab the elbow; WOBBLY, UNTONED ARMS CAN MAKE A BODY LOOK DECIDEDLY MIDDLE-AGED - AND UNSEXY. SALLY SHOWS HOW TO FIRM UP FOR A BETTER LOOK.

They say that hands are a dead give away to a person's age, but I think the state of your arms is a pretty good pointer too. When we're young, most women don't think twice about wearing skimpy tops. Our arms are naturally firm and look great bare - with or without a tan. But as gravity takes it's toll, if you don't exercise your top half, all of a sudden the upper arms in particular start to look saggy and decidedly unsexy. Before you know it, your body's looking middle-aged - long before it should.

The sorry state of my arms was the first thing I noticed after giving birth to my son Finley last year. Because I wasn't exercising as much as I normally do in the weeks before and after the birth, my whole body suffered. Every part of me looked droopier, but my arms were the worst. I was absolutely horrified when I looked at all the photos of me proudly cuddling Finley - how I wished I'd covered up my flabby arms with a cardigan.

But seeing the state of them in full colour (and having them framed for all time) was the incentive I needed to do some toning and strengthening exercises. Luckily, as I hadn't let myself go too much, I was pretty much back in shape within weeks.

And having knocked years off the state of my own limbs I had the idea of devising a programme to help other women regain their youthful, sleeker shape - not just their arms, but their shoulders and bust too. Hence the four-week programme detailed here. In just weeks you'll look firmer all over and you'll be waving goodbye to your flabby bits.

Programme for sleeker arms and shoulders

Before you start the exercises, make sure you warm up and stretch to mobilise the joints and avoid injury. With most exercises I've suggested eight repetitions, but as you become stronger, you can increase this number to 12. For toning, use 1lb-3lb weights, and you'll soon see a difference. For fastest improvement, perform each programme 2-3 times a week, but avoid training the same muscles on consecutive days. As the exercises become easier for you move to the next, more difficult, level of the programme and add the exercises to the ones you've already learnt.

LEVEL ONE

1 Stand feet

slightly apart, back straight, tummy tucked in. Raise your arms and make 10 small circles clockwise then anti- clockwise with both arms moving simultaneously. Rest, then bring your extended arms to the front and repeat.

2 Kneel and raise arms to shoulder level, arms bent. Keep the back straight and punch forward with alternate arms 20 times. Punch with both arms 20 times.

3

Stand

with one hand clasping the end of a rolled-up towel behind your back at waist level, the other end behind your neck. Move your arms up and down.

4 Hold a weight in each hand, arms by your side, close to your body. Breathe out as you slowly raise your shoulders then roll them back. Hold a second, then breathe in as you lower your shoulders. Repeat 8 times. Rest then repeat.

LEVEL TWO

1 Stand with feet a hip width apart, back staight, chest lifted, tummy tucked in. Tilt your pelvis. Raise weights to shoulder height, keeping palms facing forward and wrists straight. Breathe in, then out as you extend your arms above your head, keeping elbows soft. Hold a second, then lower weights to shoulder height. Repeat 8 times. Rest then repeat again.

2 Stand with feet a hip width apart, back straight, chest lifted, tummy tucked in and knees slightly bent. Hold a weight in each hand in front at thigh level. Breathe in, then breathe out as you raise weights to shoulder height, keeping elbows soft. Hold a second, then lower. Repeat 8 times. Rest then repeat again.

3 Rest right knee and right hand on a chair. Bend left knee and hold weight in left hand, arm extended without locking elbow. Keeping back flat, tummy in and head in line with your spine, breathe out as you pull weight to your chest. Hold a second. Do 8 times. Rest, repeat on other side.

LEVEL THREE

1 With a weight in each hand, raise your arms to shoulder height, bend the elbows. Holding weights side by side, lead with your elbows, raising your arms, so elbows come up higher than shoulders. Repeat 8 times. Rest and repeat.

2 Sit on floor with knees up, feet apart, arms bent behind you. Raise the body by straightening arms, lifting your bottom, then lower to starting position. Repeat 8 times. Rest then repeat.

3 Sit on the floor with knees up, feet apart, and resting your upper body on your lower arms. Keep your elbows tucked in, hands flat on the floor. Slowly raise your body up on your elbows until your bottom is a good six inches off the ground. Repeat 8 times.

LEVEL FOUR

1 Bend your elbows, then bring your arms up towards your shoulders. Extend arms without locking elbows. Repeat 8 times. Rest, repeat.

2 Stand feet apart, knees soft, and lift arms out to the sides at shoulder level - keep here through the movement. Holding a weight in each hand, keeping the arms at right angles, bring the elbows together on a count of two, squeezing the chest. Count to two as you return to the starting position. Repeat 8 times. Rest then repeat.

3 With back straight, feet wide apart, sit on the edge of a chair. Rest left hand on left knee, with left elbow slightly bent. Hold a weight in right hand, right arm extended to the floor. Breathe out as you bring weight up towards the opposite shoulder. Hold for a

second. Repeat 8 times. Rest and repeat with other arm.

If you are in any doubt about your health, consult your GP before embarking on the exercises or diets featured here.

Tried and tested

I tried out some of the most popular hand weights. It's really worthwhile investing in a pair if you're planning to tone up as it increases the resistance and difficulty of an exercise, so you see results more quickly.

Reebok Soft Grip Dumbells

with Velcro Straps,

pounds 11.95, 0.5kg; pounds 14.95 1kg.

Light and compact, with velcro straps keeping them secure and easy to work with. Ideal for step or aerobic classes or power walking. Comes with a Strength Reebok Workout programme. Stockists: 0171 816 5363.

York Hand Weights,

pounds 7.99, 1.5kg; pounds 11.99, 2.5kg

Brightly-coloured, vinyl-covered dumbells which are nice and easy to grip and comfortable to use during work-outs. Ideal for women looking to tone their upper body, but who are worried about adding bulk. Stockists:

0181 391 2600.

Golds Gym Chrome Dumbells

pounds 49.99 for a 23.6kg set

High quality dumbells with adjustable weights. Comprises 2 dumbell handles plus 4 x 2.4kg plates and 8 x 1.25kg plates which can be used in various combinations. The lighter weights can be used for toning, while heavier weights will sculpt. Stockists: 01926 622405.

Marcy Chrome Dumbell Set, pounds 49.99 High quality dumbells comprising 2 dumbell handles plus 12 discs (plates) in various weights which can be used in various combinations, making the set suitable for beginners to advanced. Stockists: 01792 796893.

SLIM TIP

Take up swimming, the best all-round exercise for the upper body. Breaststroke develops strong, sexy arms and shoulders and it's great for your heart and lungs too.

MY

MOTIVATION

Start my programme today, and just think how fantastic you'll look by the time all your Christmas parties come along.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Gunnell, Sally
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 10, 1999
Words:1285
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