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Tank Top Workout: Upper-Body Exercises

It's not too late to buff up your arms and shoulders for tank tops. Here's how.

Arm and Back Toners continued...

"Pull-ups [a.k.a. chin-ups], for example, work the back, forearms and biceps," McCall says. If you're not strong enough to lift your own body weight, substitute seated pulldowns or seated rows, which work the same muscles. Here's how:

  • Seated Pulldown: Attach tubing to upper part of a door hinge. Sit tall on a stability ball or bench and grasp tubing handles. Keep feet flat on the floor and chest high as you pull elbows down and back, squeezing shoulder blades together. Pause and slowly return to starting position.
  • Seated Row (works the back and biceps): Attach exercise tubing to a door hinge and sit tall on a bench or exercise ball, grasping handles in each hand, palms facing up. Keep chest high and shoulders down (avoid shrugging) as you pull the handles towards you (tubing should be at chest height). Pause when hands reach the sides of your chest, pause and slowly return to starting position. Keep palms facing up to work the biceps; palms down strengthens forearms.

  • Plank-Ups (works the core, shoulders, chest, and triceps): If you're familiar with planks, a popular core exercise, McCall suggests adding this challenging version to your workout routine three times a week. Lie face-down on the floor and support yourself on forearms and the balls of your feet, legs straight. Keep abdominals braced and back flat. "Walk" up onto one hand and then the other, so you end up in a push-up position. Walk back down onto your forearms. Keep your body stable and avoid rocking side to side. Start with three to four reps and work your way up to 10 or so.

To firm up the backs of your arms, McCall recommends this exercise:

  • Chair Dips (works the triceps): Sit on the edge of a chair or stable bench with hands on either side of your hips, palms facing away from you grasping the edge of the bench. Shimmy off the edge of the bench, feet flat and knees at a right angle, and lower your hips towards the floor until upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push back up -- using your hands, not legs -- and repeat.

Burn Fat for Definition

To bring out muscle tone, keep body fat in check. So include cardio along with your strength training to see more defined muscles.

"Definition is usually the result of burning fat," says Michael Applebaum, MD, fitness specialist and author of numerous fitness and weight loss books.

Strive for 20 to 30 minutes of cardio on alternate days of the week from resistance training days. Applebaum recommends monitoring your heart rate after a couple weeks at the same level of intensity. "If you're working hard enough, you'll see your heart rate decrease."

How long will it take to see results? That depends on several factors, including genetics, workout intensity, body fat level, and how much room you have for improvement (if you're out of shape, you'll see results faster than if you've been exercising for years). "In general, you should see results in four or so weeks," Schoenfeld says.

Reviewed on June 23, 2010

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