When your arms are strong, it's easier to carry groceries and shovel snow. But your biceps (the muscles located at the front of your upper arms), triceps (the muscles at the back of your upper arms), and deltoids (the muscles that wrap around the shoulders) serve another purpose: They're considered "support muscles" because they help move your back and chest-so when you exercise them, your posture improves. Women in particular need to work on these muscles because their upper bodies are typically weaker than their lower bodies. "Doing arm exercises once or twice per week will create a leaner and more defined upper body," says Gregory Joujon-Rouche, Hollywood trainer and author of One Body, One Life (Dutton Adult, 2006). (A bonus: You'll look great in those sleeveless holiday outfits.) Joujon-Rouche created the following ten-minute toning routine- all you need to get started is a pair of 2- to 8-pound dumbbells.
Tones the deltoids, biceps, and triceps.
A) Stand with your legs hip-width apart (stagger them if that gives you more support) and hold a dumbbell in each hand at about head height with your palms facing away from you. Your arms will be at 90-degree angles. Keep the weights in line with your wrists.
B) With both weights in line with your ears, press your hands to the ceiling and straighten your arms, holding the weights above your head for two seconds. Keep your abdominals tight to protect your back. Return your arms to the 90-degreeangle position and repeat.
Do 3 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
Seated Lateral Fly
Strengthens the front and rear deltoids and stabilizes the shoulders.
A) Sit on a chair or bench with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. Your arms should be at your sides with your hands near the chair's seat. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand. Lean forward from the waist at a 45-degree angle, contract your abdominals, and bring the weights together in front of your knees.
B) Look forward, and with your palms facing down and your elbows very slightly bent, raise both dumbbells out to your sides until they're at shoulder height. Hold for one slow count then bring the dumbbells to the outside of your thighs without touching them. Repeat.
Do 3 sets of 15 to 20 repetitions. Do not lift the weights higher than shoulder level-this can strain your shoulder joints.
Strengthens the arms (and also the butt); stretches and strengthens the shoulders; promotes good posture.
A) Sit on the floor with your knees slightly bent and your feet flat on the floor, about hip-width apart. Lean back and place your arms on the floor behind your back. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, your fingers pointing toward your butt. Roll your shoulder blades down your back and contract your abdominals.
B) Slowly raise your hips until your torso is completely parallel to the floor. Roll your shoulders back and allow your head to tip back (if it's comfortable). Keep your elbows slightly bent-don't lock them. Breathe deeply and hold the pose for 5 seconds. Slowly bring your buttocks back to start position and repeat.
Do 2 sets of 5 repetitions.
Strengthens the deltoids, biceps, and triceps.
A) Stand with your legs about 2 feet apart, and hold a dumbbell in each hand. For this exercise, the weights should not exceed 3 pounds each. Bend your knees and elbows, and raise your left hand (holding the weight) up to chest height. Turn your left hand so you're holding the dumbbell vertically, your thumb facing upward. Bring your right hand (holding the weight) below your chin as though you are protecting your face from an opponent.
B) Keeping your right hand at your chin, punch out with your left hand, extending your left arm to shoulder height. Keep your left elbow slightly bent-hyperextending your arm can strain your elbow joints. Retract the punch quickly and repeat.
Do 15 rapid punches with your left hand, then switch sides. Do 2 sets per side, alternating all sets.