Post Style: Armed for Action; Tone Those Arm Muscles and Open Up a Whole New Strappy Tops Wardrobe, Says Gabriel Roberts

Article excerpt

This season's little shell tops and spaghetti-strapped dresses may be glamorous but they are also very unforgiving on the one part of the body most women hate - flabby upper arms.

Although not many women yearn for the bulging biceps of Madonna or Jennifer Aniston, toning up those muscles could open up a whole new wardrobe of strappy tops.

The all-important muscles are the triceps, biceps and brachialis. The tricep muscle is in the back of your upper arm. To feel it place your hand on the back of your arm, then bend and straighten your arm. This muscle tightens or hardens when you straighten your arm.

The biceps and brachialis muscles are in the front of your upper arms. To feel these muscles place your hand on the front of your arm and bend and straighten your arm. Hold it flexed "Popeye-style" and turn your wrist in different directions to feel how parts of the muscle are activated at different joint angles. These muscles contract when you bring your hand to your shoulder.

According to Martica Heaner, author of The Squeeze, it is not difficult to change the look of a muscle by increasing its definition but it is virtually impossible to create those vein-popping bulges.

She says: "Since women tend to have less muscle mass, especially in the upper body, and less testosterone, it's extremely difficult to look like a body-builder."

Research into the upper body has shown that anybody wanting to tone up the upper arm muscles should use the "overload principle". This means you must put gradual, progressive stress on your body.

To get stronger, a muscle must be stimulated intensely for 30-90 seconds. This is the length of time it takes to complete about 8-15 repetitions, or one set of an exercise. The muscle should be challenged to the point of fatigue by the last repetition.

You should feel as if it would be very difficult to do another repetition. If the stimulus is too light, if you are not exerting too much effort, then you may feel perfectly fine after doing 15 repetitions. You may be tempted to do 10, 20 or 30 more.

This is where most people go wrong, relying on working at a very low intensity. Unfortunately that will not result in any gains in strength and sculpting.

In actual fact the biceps are usually fairly strong muscles to begin with because they are used regularly in everyday life. Just picking up shopping bags or a baby provides you with a mini work-out.

So how do the film stars go about getting that perfect definition? LA trainer Michael George gave the actress Meg Ryan biceps for her role in Courage Under Fire by combining weight-training with Eastern exercises, such as yoga and martial arts. …