Lewis Bowling: It’s time to get in shape for spring
“Deprivation of my usual walks is a very serious matter to me, as I cannot work unless I have my constant exercise.” – Charles Dickens
“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden … though an old man, I am but a young gardener.” – Thomas Jefferson
I thought the above two quotations might be good to use as spring continues to make its welcome presence known. Maybe walking and/or gardening are activities you can enjoy. As warmer air comes, many of us will start wearing more revealing clothes, which in turn will reveal more of our bodies. We all have a certain amount of vanity, and there is nothing wrong with that, as wanting to look good to others is completely natural. Following are some suggestions on making those body parts that people will be noticing over the coming months look better, and more importantly, help make you healthier.
Let’s start with the arms. I honestly can’t begin to count the times a woman has jiggled the back of her arms and asked me what to do to make it look better. A good exercise for the back of your upper arms – the triceps – is to do push-ups. Do push-ups with only your hands and feet in contact with the floor if possible. But if need be, do a modified push-up, where you place your knees on the floor. This makes it easier, but enables some people to do more repetitions, which is good. Whatever way you do it, keep your shoulders, hips and knees in line with each other. Some people “cheat” by sticking their butt way back, thus making it easier. The push-up also works the chest and front shoulders, along with the triceps.
The biceps, the front area of your upper arms, is an area of the body that is looked at quite a bit, especially on men. Most polls reveal that a man’s biceps are one of the body parts most noticed by women. Quite frankly, if you want nice biceps, some type of curling motion needs to be done, in which you curl a weight from a straight arm position towards your shoulders. Use dumbbells, barbells, machines, resistance bands and other types of equipment to do this. The more variety you can use the better. Keep in mind that curling 40 pounds on a machine will give you just as good results as curling 40 pounds with a barbell or dumbbell. Another tip here is when you use dumbbells, curl the weight with your palms facing up, with your palms facing each other, and with your palms facing down. Doing sets of curls using these different grips will stress the biceps and the other muscles in the front of your upper arms, called the brachioradialis and brachialis. Working all three of these elbow flexor muscles will make your arms bigger and stronger. Perhaps do one set using one grip, then switch grips for your next set.
Now what about those legs? For the back of your thigh – the hamstrings – here is a great exercise. In fact, this exercise will also work your gluteus maximus like you never have before. Simply lie down on your stomach on the floor. Now lift your right leg as high as is comfortable, now rotate your right leg to the right side of your body. In effect, you are asking the gluteus maximus to do two tasks with this exercise, hip extension (lifting your leg up) and external hip rotation (rotating your leg to the outside of your body). Don’t forget that this exercise also works the hamstrings. Another very good exercise for the hamstring and glutes is to walk backward. Try it sometime.
Of course, I have not come close to writing about all the parts of our bodies we need to work on, both for appearance and health. If you have a specific area of concern that you want to work on, get in touch with me. I just might be able to suggest a new exercise for you, or offer some tips on changing what you now do.
Lewis Bowling teaches at N.C. Central University and Duke University. He is the author of several books on fitness and sports. His website is www.lewisbowling.com. He can be reached at 919-530-6224 and at Lewis_Bowling@yahoo.com.