Can anyone tell me how to get started? The only strength resistance exercises I've ever done are push ups, sit ups, and dips. I'd like to tone my upper body especially my back and shoulder/armpit area. I'm almost 40 and muscle is starting to turn to fat, not a pretty sight in bra-strap region and near armpits in front. But I've never done weights and feel so intimidated by the gym, though I have access for the next 3 months.
Any suggestions for basic weights exercises for these areas (upper back, shoulders, near armpits in chest area)? Or even just how to get started with weights if I've never done them before? There are so many machines at the gym and I don't understand most of the directions that they come with.
How many times a week should I go to get results?
Stay away from the machines - you don't need them.
For upper body, you've got 4 basic movements - vertical push and pull, and horizontal push and pull.
- vert push -shoulder press
- vert pull - pullups, chinups, lat pulldowns
- horiz push - bench press, pushups
- horiz pull - cable row, bent-over row.
Pick one exercise from each movement, and do 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps, using a weight that makes it difficult to reach the prescribed reps with good form.
Also, don't neglect your lower body - squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, for instance. So between 8 exercises (4 upper, 4 lower), you can pick 2 from upper and 2 from lower, and do those one day. The other 4, do the other (non-consecutive) day. 3x/week.
Or you could follow a program like New Rules of Lifting for Women. That might be even easier, since it shows you pics of the exercises, explains why you are doing them... all those things that are kinda hard to include in a forum post.
as always, amethyst's advice is spot on.
additionally, http://www.stumptuous.com/ is a great resource for simple training plans and the dork to diva series will show you proper form. you can also search for info on how to do any exercise on here: http://www.exrx.net/. and of course youtube but there are a lot of bad how-to videos on there. good luck!
Push ups and other resistance training will tone your muscle if you are persistent with it.
But weight training is where you will achieve the fastest and most dramatic results.
The above poster gave out some good advice regarding the exercises.