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Dr. C.: Back to the triceps exercise.
The Triceps Dips are a simple yet effective exercise that will tone the muscle behind your upper arm. The only equipment needed for this workout is a bench, couch or a stable table or chair.
Sit on the edge of the bench. Place the palms of your hands face down on the bench with your fingers facing the front. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, about shoulder-width apart. Now, lift your bottom off the bench and walk your feet a few inches forward so that your bottom is no longer over the bench. Your arms should be fully extended. Try to keep your knees at a right angle, or a 90-degree angle. Slowly bend your arms, over a 4 second period, so that your bottom lowers in front of the bench. Stop lowering yourself when your arms are at a right angle, or 90-degree angle. Then, slowly straighten your arms and push your bottom back up, over a 4 second period, back to the starting position. If this movement is difficult, you may push with your legs to give you some assistance in getting back up. If done correctly, you should feel a first degree burn in the back of your upper arms.
1. To make this exercise more difficult, you can walk your feet out in front of you so that they are fully straight and only the heels of your feet are one the ground.
2. Do not lower yourself too low, or make your elbows too bent when lowering yourself. This can put excessive strain on your triceps, which can cause an injury.
3. You will likely feel the soreness right above the back of the elbow and upper arm. This is normal and should improve after a few days.
Dr. H.: I enjoyed this but was a bit unsure of how far apart my shoulders should be.
Dr. C.: Your arms should be shoulder-width apart so that the force of the exercise is evenly distributed over your entire triceps muscle. Keeping your arms at shoulder width will prevent injury.
Although you've said that you want to focus your workouts on your chest, we don't want to do too much this first workout. At the same time, we want to make sure that we work your back muscles, specifically those in the upper back. Working these muscles will improve your posture and help your chest to stick out more. The Reverse Fly is one of the more difficult exercises to perform, so pay close attention to technique.
All you will need for the Reverse Fly are dumbbells.
Pick up the dumbbells and hold them together in front of you so that your palms face each other. Bend your knees, at shoulder-width apart, to about 45 degrees. Bend your hips to 45 degrees. If your dumbbells are below your chest, then you are in the correct position.
Again, the key to this exercise is to keep your knees and hips at a 45-degree angle.
Also, bend your elbows so that they are also at a 45-degree angle. Now, pull the dumbbells apart from each other with your palms still facing each other. Maintaining your position, continue to widen your arms as wide as you can, as if you are giving someone a big hug. Now, over 4 seconds, return the weight back to the starting position. After performing 3 sets of 8-12, you should feel the tightness in your upper back and a little tightness behind the back of your shoulders.
Dr. H.: I found this pretty difficult at even low weight of 10 lbs. and didn't feel that I got full range of motion on the outstretch. Should I drop down to 8 lbs.?
Dr. C.: Absolutely. You shouldn't have to struggle with the Reverse Fly. When I say struggle, you shouldn't compromise your technique to lift a heavier weight, with this, or any other exercise.
Now let's jump into an abdominal exercise.
Another personal favorite is the Pilates Crunch. I enjoy this particular core exercise because it's slow, controlled, and you can really feel these muscles tighten up as you perform this exercise.
For this exercise, you can use a floor mat, but all you need is a soft, carpeted area.
To begin, sit down on the floor with your knees bent so that only your heels are on the ground. Your knees should be bent to about 45-degrees, which would be halfway between being fully straight and fully bent.
I usually leave the exercise tips towards the end of the workout, but foot placement is important in this exercise. The further away your heels are away from your bottom, the easier the exercise will be. The closer to your bottom, the more difficult the exercise will be.
Now, extend your arms directly out in front of you. Slowly, lean back, as if you are lying down. You do not want to go all the way down. Stop when the beginning of your upper back, or the bottom of your shoulder blades touches the ground behind you. In other words, don't give yourself a break.
Keeping your back and abdominal muscles tight, return to the starting position. Perform 3 sets of 8-12.
1. Maintain a regular breathing pattern throughout this exercise. You never want to hold your breath.
2. You may feel neck tightness when you first begin incorporating this exercise into your workout. This occurs because your neck muscles may be weak. Over time this will improve. You should only be concerned if you feel a sudden pain in your neck.
Dr. H.: It was really nice to sit down for a bit.
Dr. C.: Finally, your last exercise for this workout. At this point, I hope this workout has been reasonable. We are going to finish off the workout with Shoulder Circles. This last exercise is going to work every muscle from your armpits up.
For Shoulder Circles, you will need a pair of dumbbells. Start light, because this workout will be a bit demanding.
Pick up your dumbbells and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with your palms facing the outside of your thighs. While standing up straight, keep your arms as straight as possible and lift the weight to the side. At this point, both dumbbells should be even with your shoulders, and you should feel tension in your shoulder and neck muscles.
Now, keeping the dumbbells even with your shoulders, bring both dumbbells in front of you without letting them fall below the level of your shoulders.
Slowly, over a 4 second period, bring both dumbbells down in front, so that your palms are facing the front of your thighs.
That's one repetition. Now, we will move in the reverse direction.
Starting with your palms facing the front of your thighs, lift both dumbbells directly up in front of you to the level of your shoulders.
Now, swing the weight to the side, so that the dumbbells are even with your shoulders, and your arms are now 180 degrees in relation to each other.
Finally, lower both dumbbells to your side, so that your palms are facing the sides of your thighs. Let's finish with 3 sets of 8-12.
1. Start with a low weight on this exercise until you are comfortable lifting a heavier weight.
2. Once you lift the dumbbells to the level of your shoulders, keep the dumbbells on this same plane, until you lower them again. This is difficult to do, but is the most important part of this exercise.
3. Keep your abdominal muscle tight, so that you stand straight up during this exercise. Avoid the temptation to lean back when moving the dumbbells on the plane of your shoulders.
Dr. H.: I wasn't sure if one rep was the motion in both directions - up, out, down, up, in, down. I counted it that way.
Dr. C.: One rep is up to the side, swing to the front, and down. "One." Up the front, swing to the side, and down. "Two." Up to the side, swing to the front, and down. "Three." Make sense?
Dr. H.: Got it. I'll keep this up and let you and our visitors know how it's going.
Eat well, eat healthy, exercise and enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.