If the principal goal of your training regimen is to slim down any area on your body, then using a caloric deficit along with weight training and cardiopulmonary exercise is requisite. This combination of modalities draws energy from your energy stores or fat deposits to fuel activity, leading to fat loss. Aerobic exercise, performed at moderate intensity for 150 to 300 minutes a week; along with at least two days of strength training for 20 minutes each will satisfy these requirements. With these facts in mind, the following exercises can be used along with a nutrition plan to provide your arms and legs a slimmer appearance.
Trainers are approached quite often with requests to spot train or change the appearance of a specific area of the body. There is no approach that can directly accomplish this task for any area of your body. Human physiology does not allow you to select the areas where you would like to cut fat and tone. However, the area of your body where fat cells are burned is subject to wherever they are most easily accessed. Therefore, you cannot choose where you would like to slim down. You can, however, choose which muscles you tone with weight training, and since adipose tissue is sometimes connected to your muscles this can cause specific areas to look slimmer or more toned.
Squats are an ideal exercise that incorporate most if not all of your major muscles; consequently, they are a perfect exercise to use in a weight loss routine. Squats primarily are used to challenge your abdomen, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. To execute a squat, begin by bracing your abdominal muscles and setting your spine so that you are standing at your tallest. Your spine and abdominals should remain straight and braced respectively throughout the lift. Begin movement by sitting your butt backwards and keeping your bodyweight in your heels, your knees will bend and your hips will flex. When rounding your back is required to further lower your butt, change direction and stand up, then repeat the movement for reps. A barbell, dumbbells, medicine balls or almost any other object available to you to provide additional resistance.
Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
Romanian deadlifts emphasize your glutes, hamstrings, abdominals and calf muscles. To perform a RDL, grab a barbell from a rack using an underhand grip to stress your biceps as well during the lift. Begin the lift by bracing your abdominals and setting your back straight, both should again remain in these respective positions throughout the exercise. Initiate motion by tilting your pelvis forward to lower your barbell towards the ground. Your bodyweight should shift farther backwards into your heels as your bar lowers—do not allow your knees to bend, but do not hyperextend them, either. When you can no longer lower the barbell without needing to bend your knees or round your back change directions and stand straight. Again, you can use a barbell, dumbbell or a variety of other objects in the gym to perform the RDL.
Standing Calf Raises
Standing calf raises are better than other calf exercises for overall toning of your legs because they stress your entire leg. The calf muscles are primarily worked; however, your abdomen, lower back, glutes, hamstrings and quads stabilize your other joints. You can perform a standing calf raise by placing your feet on the foot bar of the standing calf machine and your shoulders underneath the shoulder pads. Then squat and lift the weight up so that your body stands straight with your forefoot on the foot bar and your heels hanging from the back. Once you are in this position, perform the lift by lowering your heels towards the ground while maintaining an erect standing posture prior to pushing your heels upwards from the ground to their highest position.
The shoulder, or military press, stresses your deltoids and triceps primarily; however, your biceps also are involved in the movement. This exercise can be performed using a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells or medicine balls. In order to perform a dumbbell shoulder press, begin by grabbing two dumbbells and holding them on top of your shoulder joints with your elbows bent and extended outwards from your sides. Your elbows should point downwards and away from your body. Keep your abdomen braced and your back straight throughout the movement. Once you are ready to begin the press, flex your shoulders and extend your arms to straight to lift your weights overhead. Return the weights to your shoulders by lowering them outwards from the sides of your body in a controlled manner. Keep your wrists above your elbows throughout the lift to avoid stressing your rotator cuff musculature.
Biceps curls emphasize your biceps muscles and forearm flexors. This exercise requires dumbbells or a barbell for resistance and is quite easy to perform. Begin by setting your elbows next to the sides of your body while holding your weight in both hands with your palms frontwards facing. Next flex your elbows while holding every other joint of your body in place. You can also position your palms facing backwards while performing the same movement to stress your brachialis, brachioradialis and forearm extensor muscles.
Dips are an easy way to stress your anterior deltoid and triceps muscles. You can perform this lift using your bodyweight or the assisted dip machine for resistance. Begin the lift by grasping the parallel bars with your hands facing each other and your arms extended to straight, your shoulders should not be shrugging. Perform the movement by lowering your bodyweight towards the ground by bending your elbows. When your elbows flex to 90 degrees or you can no longer lower your body without feeling discomfort in your shoulders, extend your arms back to straight and push your body as high as you can from the ground. If you need to use the assisted dip machine, you will need to stand or kneel on the platform throughout the movement so that it can assist you with lifting your bodyweight.
- Illustrated Essentials of Musculoskeletal Anatomy; Kay Sieg, PhD & Sandra Adams, PhD.; 2002
- NSCA's Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; Ed. Thomas Baechle & Roger Earle; 2000
- Strength Training Anatomy; Frederic Delavier; 2001