Some women think that the only muscles they need to work in their upper body are their abs and arms. This has to do with a couple factors: 1) Because the arms are the most visible part of the upper body, some women think it makes sense to emphasize them over other muscle groups of the upper body. 2) Many women believe that working their back, chest and shoulders will make them look bulky and unattractive. We turned to Jan Love, a certified fitness trainer with more than 35 years of experience, to debunk these fallacies and give us the truth.
“Women don’t add mass the way men do, especially if they work in higher rep ranges with intensity,” Love says. Women should not ignore their bigger upper-body muscles because training them with weights will offer the results they’re seeking, she says. In other words, working the chest, back and shoulders with weights will create a tighter, more toned upper body, more detail in your arms and a slimmer waist. “More important, training these muscle groups will give you so much more functional strength,” Love says. “This not only will help you look better but also will make you feel better about yourself.”
“I’m 57 years old, and I wish I knew then what I know now,” Love says. Over the years, Love has been certified by virtually every group that certifies trainers. Her hands-on approach to her clients backs up her experience and her training. Here are three points that she makes to the women she trains, who vary in age from the very young to the, ahem, younger-looking-than-they-are.
• Exercise for empowerment. “The most attractive quality in a woman is confidence,” Love says. “I teach exercise and weight-training methods that help women feel good about themselves because they are gaining strength and athletic skills in addition to looking better.” Keep in mind that your goals are not just physical — as you start to attain your physical goals, you’ll also feel better about yourself. And that positive approach not only will drive your physical goals but also will boost your psychological mindset.
• Listen to your body. “Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right, even if you’ve been told to do it,” Love says. “When I start with a client, I tell them that they have to give me feedback because I don’t know their body yet. Later, when I’ve learned their strengths and weaknesses, I have a better sense of what will work for each woman I’m training.” When you’re on your own, never push past sharp pain. It’s OK to go past your current fitness threshold to improve it, but you have to learn how to evaluate the difference. One tip: Don’t do moves that hurt from rep one.
• Learn how to “feel” your goal. “I teach my clients how to ‘feel’ success as they’re training,” Love says. She explains that this means you have to learn to get in touch with each muscle that you’re trying to tone. Whether you’re training with light or heavy weights, focus on the muscle you’re working. At first, you may not feel it working in isolation. “But eventually you’ll learn to target each muscle, which is not only empowering, but it’s also the way you achieve your goals,” she says.
UPPER-BODY TRAINING PROGRAM
Love has worked with M&P to develop a workout that will help women of various ages and fitness levels — whether they work out at home or at the gym alone or with a trainer — tone their upper bodies. The key is to train the upper body twice a week, in addition to the rest of your training. One weekly session involves heavier weights but fewer reps, while the second focuses more on lighter weights but higher reps for detail. The workouts are similar, but different moves are included to help you achieve your goals.
Both workouts are included in this chart. When performing a move on the heavier-weight day, choose a weight and a strategy from our exercise description that’s appropriate for your fitness level, allowing you to complete the move for the desired reps with good form. On high-reps day, adjust your weights and strategy so that you’re able to complete the targeted number of reps.