“Welcome to the gun show!”
While exercise provides all kinds of benefits for your emotional, psychological, and physical health, when it comes down to it, most of us workout to look better naked, which is completely fine. There’s nothing wrong with a little vanity driving your motivation.
Like I mentioned in the Easy Legs article, getting men to do upper body workouts has never been much of a problem, but women were once afraid that doing these “men’s workouts” would give them men’s physiques. Luckily, women are starting to see this isn’t true. Lifting weights gives both men and women the best version of their own bodies, not anyone else’s. In fact, even men aren’t going to turn into hulking monsters without a mountain of illegal steroids fueling that kind of growth. Trust me, it’s not possible to get “too big” without a lot of artificial help. Otherwise you would see a lot more teenage boys lifting weights until they turned into monsters that could barely squeeze through a door. They’re probably the group that wants to get comically huge more than anyone, and since they have such crazy high levels of testosterone already, it shouldn’t be hard to achieve. Fortunately for everyone in the gym, too much muscle is an inefficient waste of calories and your body will not naturally put on more than is ideal.
Building the best version of you
If the goal is to reshape your body into your best possible version, you need to include both cardio and strength training in your workout regiment. Strength training will build up your muscles and give you a more attractive physique, but it isn’t a great way to trim body fat. Cardio on the other hand will trim the fat, but it will just give you the same body you had before, only smaller. To really change your body, you need both. Fortunately, you don’t have to do everything every day. In fact, overdoing it can be counterproductive. If you work out effectively, you really only need to work your upper body 30 to 45 minutes a week total to quickly get results.
Working Big to Small
Time is precious in our modern world, which is why we here at lolo focus on squeezing the most effective workout into the shortest time possible. One way we accomplish this is through high intensity interval training (which you can read more about here), but the nature of upper body workouts gives us another trick that can significantly shorten the amount of time spent in the gym.
The biggest muscles on your upper body are in your chest and upper back. To sufficiently work these muscles, you need to move heavier weight, but as a bonus, you also work the smaller muscles in your arms during these same exercises. This is one of the minor errors I see people do when they build their own programs. Since the biggest show muscles tend to be in the arms, people focus on them first (or exclusively with an unnecessary arm-only day), and then work to the bigger lifts like bench press, pull ups, and back rows. This has two big drawbacks:
1. You can’t work the big muscles properly: Exhausting your arms early means that you will be forced to use lighter/less effective weights on your bigger lifts. If your arms are tired, lifting heavy on a chest press will not only be impossible, but dangerous. The end result is that your arms will feel tired, but you’ll never be able to become as strong or build as much muscle.
2. Your workouts will be longer and less effective: When you do your big lifts first and then switch to secondary lifts like bicep curls, tricep extensions, lateral raises, etc., your arms will already be plenty exhausted before you even begin. This means it will take far less reps to get the same effect. I always wonder what people think when they see me cruise into the gym while they’re in the middle of their workout and leave long before they finish. They must figure I’m just taking the day off. The reality is that short and focused will get you the results you want faster than a long drawn out program. You’ll spend less time in the gym each day, plus it requires less days in the gym to trigger those positive changes.
Overtraining is counterproductive
When I first started lifting weights on my own, I was part of the overtraining club. I figured if one hour was good, than 2 hours must be twice as good. I left the gym every day feeling absolutely wrecked, but after a year of doing this, my progress wasn’t that great. I thought it was at the time, but when an actual trainer explained to me a few basic principles and I took my hour workout down to 30 minutes, it was so much easier to build muscle and reshape my body. With HIIT, I’ve taken my workout time down even more to a tough but effective 15 minutes.
Muscle growth is a response to strain on muscle fibers. As the load becomes too much for the muscles to handle, the muscle fibers actually experience microscopic trauma. Afterwards, your body heals those fibers and grows additional ones to help carry the load better next time. In other words, you get stronger when you rest, not when you workout. Training too long each day or training the same muscle groups too many times per week will just keep breaking your muscles down without ever giving them the time they need to build themselves back up.
Our lolo apps are highly customizable to any equipment you have available, but some Easy Arms users are surprised that we ask for one piece of equipment in particular - dumbbells or any equivalent substitute. While there are some great body weight exercises for training your upper body, it’s difficult to effectively train your back, biceps, and shoulders without additional equipment. Dumbbells are one of the simplest pieces of equipment that will allow you to hit nearly every muscle group in your body.
The workouts are designed to use 2 sets of dumbbells: a heavy set for the primary exercises (the big lifts at the beginning of the workout) and a lighter pair for the secondary lifts (like curls, extensions, and raises). It’s a decent starting point, but as you improve, you should move through a wide range of dumbbells. For those who need to buy their own equipment to workout from home, I would suggest going a little heavier than is comfortable with the expectation you won’t be able to complete all the prescribed reps in the beginning. It’s perfectly fine to take a break during the set. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you adapt on subsequent workouts.
When in doubt, do some push ups
While dumbbells would be nice, Easy Arms (like all lolo apps) doesn’t require any equipment. When you don’t have access to anything else, Easy Arms defaults to a quick and effective push up routine to work nearly every muscle in your upper body simultaneously. There’s a reason the military relies on push ups to condition recruits, it’s one of the most effective upper body exercises you can do when equipment is scarce. It not only works your chest, shoulders, arms, and upper back, but it also strengthens your lower back and core. It’s another great exercise for countering the lower back pain brought on by sitting all day.
Fast and focused
When your programs are designed properly, you can get great results with just a few short workouts each week. The beginner programs will hit every muscle in your upper body each workout, so only once or twice a week is all you need. As you move up to the advanced levels, the workouts are broken down by muscle groups so you can hit each area harder for improved results. In this case, 2 to 3 times a week will be necessary to get the most out of the more difficult programs. Either way, you won’t need to spend more than 15 minutes to build muscle, and reshape your body.