Arm work must be precise

Looking around my classroom during a fitness workout I usually see a variety of arm moves that are incorrect. Each person seems to have a different interpretation of what I'm doing. Arm moves in a fitness workout are essential for total-body conditioning, but you need to do them right. Strengthening arms and the upper back helps to maintain a strong back and good posture. And there are few occupations that do not rely on strong arms.

If you've used a butterfly machine, you would understand my point. The proper positioning of the arms and resistance of the move uses the machine correctly. Your back is not incorporated in the execution of the movement, only the pectoral muscles. Strengthening pectoral muscles is important for swimmers, football players and almost all racket sports. Unless you concentrate on placement during a "nonmachine" workout, you often do not work your muscles to the full range. Proper breathing during the execution is important for full-range workouts.

I have spent hours explaining the proper arm curl position for biceps and triceps muscles. The proper pattern will be followed for that particular class time but then concentration drops and adjoining muscles take over. Many of the moves needed to strengthen upper body muscles can be overtaken by the use of the back. When you put the back in movement with an upper body strength move, you not only detract from the purpose of the move, you also stand a good chance of injury.

For those of you who have never worked arm muscles in a fitness workout, it is the move of putting your forearms and wrists together in front of you. It is an open and close movement with both arms at right angles. Most students will not reopen the arms to the full stretch position parallel with the shoulders. And they seldom hold the arms at a parallel position, elbow to wrist.

If you work with a towel, hold it in an "overhead" extension and pull down behind your head. Then with your arms straight, pull down hard in front of you and you will get a great strengthening workout for those upper chest and shoulder muscles. Pull up and down with the towel, then side to side, front to back. Muscle isolation is the key to a really good upper chest, back and arm workout. To get the full benefit of your arm and chest workout, concentrate on body placement or on the resistance and proper execution of the moves.

• Jerry Vance is the owner of Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through the Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.


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