How to begin
Start with one set and choose weight that fatigues the muscle at the end of 15 repetitions. Focus on the biceps, triceps and deltoids (the three major muscles of the arm) with progressive weight training. After a few weeks, progress to weight that exhausts the muscle in 12 reps. Soon you'll be able to pick up weight that moves the muscle to failure in eight reps. Once you add sets, try to take minimal breaks between them. And remember, the last few should always be difficult (not painful) but hard as heck to do.
'Oh, no! I'll look like a man'
Think again. You won't unless you're taking steroids and lifting massive weights for hours. And while we're on the subject of fitness myths, let's tackle this one:
'Strength training adds weight'
No, it doesn't. Muscle is denser than fat so it will weigh more, but it will also take up less space. Think of this concept by comparing a softball (fat) to a baseball (lean muscle). Both weigh the same, but the baseball will fit into a size 6 and the softball will need a size 12. And, when good nutrition is factored in, there is absolutely no reason anyone should gain weight.
In fact, the secret to managing weight is in building lean muscle tissue. Most of us have great arms waiting to be discovered beneath layers of fat. The more lean muscles you have, the higher your metabolism and the more calories you will burn even while you're sleeping!
Flabby or strong
Women who focus solely on cardio will find that as they age, their skin will sag -- not a good look. On the other hand, women who spend some time lifting weights fill out their skin the best and most healthy way. Thirty to 60 minutes of metabolic strength training three days a week will build fabulous arms. To have a hard body, you've got to train your body hard.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and YMCA Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or email cindys...@aol.com. Look for her award-winning fitness advice book, "CindySays ... 'You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World'" at www.cindysays.com or contact the YMCA at 340-3527.