My grandmother once told me that it’s your hands that show your true age – so many women are concerned enough about sun damage and wrinkles to put expensive products on their faces and decolletage, but the hands bear the brunt of years of constant sun, water, and daily-life activities that can’t be hidden or faked.
Similarly, I have a lot of (mostly) women remarking on the fact that while their legs stay somewhat toned as they age, and their stomachs can be corralled into Spanx, it’s the arms that really start to show the telltale signs of getting older – floppy underarms, a lack of muscle tone, and that squishy chest-shoulder area are common concerns I hear from ladies “of a certain age.”
So what can we do here, people?
The single most crucial solution for flabby, loose upper bodies is exactly what you think it is: exercise. So many women lack adequate upper body strength (and resultantly, muscle in the upper body) due to a hyperfocus on abs, thighs, and rear ends, which makes for a rather unbalanced bod and disproportionate weakness from undertraining.
When I train women with upper body weakness, the first thing I do is help them get a proper push-up. Push-ups are the do-anywhere, go-everywhere exercise that you need zero equipment to perform and that attack the chest, biceps, triceps, and shoulders in one beautiful movement. A few weeks ago I wrote a full primer on how to get the perfect push-up, so if you’re one of the folks that needs this skill – go check it out!
In addition to push-ups, weight training the upper body is crucial – and I don’t just mean tossing in a few triceps kickbacks with 5-pound weights every now and then. Bench presses, chest flys, shoulder presses, shoulder raises, biceps curls, overhead triceps presses, pull-ups, bent-over rows, rear flys, plank-rows, and lat pull-downs are a few of my favorite exercises to build upper body strength in clients – and they should all be performed toward maximum weight, for 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions, twice weekly.
Other than weight training, there are some more superficial strategies to help reduce the appearance of loose skin, dark veins, and generally “older” looking features of the arms. I personally like to use a self tanner to enhance where my natural triceps “cuts” would be (see pics below for how this works) and spray a luminescent body oil on my arms (this bronze-tone NARS one from Sephora is great) to make them look tighter.
And finally – perhaps it goes without saying – but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander – so take those fancy products you save for your face and commit to using them on your arms (especially upper arms), too. Retinoids, emollient moisturizers, sunscreen, and exfoliators work wonders on rough, loose, or otherwise tired-looking skin, and they shouldn’t be contained to one specific part of the body. Try going half-half on your regular lotion with a dollop of Retinol, or use a dose of your face scrub to smooth out bumpy rear arms. Treat your arms with the respect those hard-working guns deserve!
I live in a place where “tank top season” is year-round, so having great arms is on my (and my clients’) mind all the time – so we don’t mess around with building strong upper bodies, and you shouldn’t either. Pick up those weights and never look back…
What are your favorite upper-body exercises? Do you like to show off your guns?