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Laura Hunt

Fit and Beautiful for Your Wedding
Look Your Best in a Strapless Gown
Mischa Kubancik

Mischa Kubancik is the co-founder of Beyond Limits, a personal training company in San Francisco. In addition to helping brides prepare for their weddings, she is also a certified triathlon coach and has been helping clients reach their goals for over ten years.

One of the current, popular styles for wedding gowns is the strapless dress. These dresses often have a corresponding fuller skirt, which can be a very flattering silhouette. However, it can also cause brides to be self-conscious about their shoulders and arms. Including a minimal amount of strength training into your exercise program can do a lot to give beautiful shape and definition to that area. Here are 4 exercises that make up the “strapless dress tune-up”.

The Push-Up
This exercise seems to cause people to take cover and run--maybe because it brings back too many memories of jr. high--but it is one of the best, all-around, strength exercises you can do. Push-ups work almost every muscle between the head and hips with special emphasis on the chest and triceps. The easiest way to do these is from the knees (the so-called “girl” push-ups). Start with these and when you can do at least 12 pretty easily, take it to the toes. Many times, you’ll find the knees are too easy, but the toes are too hard, so do as many as you can from the toes, then quickly drop the knees and keep going to finish your set. No matter what kind of push-up you do, keep these technique notes in mind:
· Keep your head on your spine – dropping the chin towards the floor is a no-no
· Make sure the hips and shoulders move together – imagine your spine being a long pole that doesn’t bend
· Elbows in or out – your choice. Elbows close to the body is harder than having them go out to the sides
· To make sure you get a full range of motion, put something under your chest to mark your end spot.

push-up start position

push-up end position
use a mark to set your end point

Lateral Shoulder Raises
This exercise seems simple, but is actually very complex. It also is one of the few ways to get definition on the top of the shoulder. First, you have to make sure the muscle you are trying to work is pointing in the right direction. The middle of your shoulder needs to point up to the ceiling. It is very easy to let the arm roll backwards, but that changes the exercise. This is a pretty small muscle, so it won’t take long before it really starts to burn. Follow these other directions:
· The weights shouldn’t touch the legs during the exercise
· Make sure the hands are never higher than the elbows (no chicken wings)
· This small muscle doesn’t need much weight, so try 5lbs to start
make sure the weights don’t go higher than the line of the shoulder

lateral raise - start and end position

Biceps Curls
This is one of the most common exercises out there, but there is one small adjustment that most people forget, and it makes a big difference. In order to get the most out of this exercise, keep the elbows slightly forward for the whole range of motion. Although everybody does this exercise, it is a good idea to go over a few important notes:
· Elbows forward and shoulders back – it is much harder this way, but it is the correct way to do it
· Make sure the rest of the body doesn’t move. If your body is swaying, or twisting, then your biceps aren’t working and that is a waste of time. If you are having trouble doing the exercise while keeping the body still, try reducing the weight and/or doing the exercise on one foot.
· Twisting the hand doesn’t really add much to the exercise. Although it isn’t wrong, it makes it much easier to “cheat,” so keep the palm facing your leg for the whole motion.
· Using dumbbells instead of a barbell prevents the domination of the stronger side in this exercise.

elbows forward and shoulders back to get the most out of this exercise

Triceps Dips
Here is another exercise that works many muscles at once. Like push-ups there are many variations, so everyone should be able to find a version suitable to her level. One big mistake people make is letting their shoulders do all the work. The goal is to keep the neck long and bend the elbows, rather than just shrugging the shoulders.
· The elbows should stay close to the body and point backwards – not sideways
· Start with the knees bent and as that gets easy, take the legs further away till they are straight.
· Keep the hips close to the chair, so your legs don’t do the exercise for you.

keep the shoulders back and make the triceps do the work

How many? How Often?
The whole point of strength training is to fatigue the muscle, so rather than doings lots of sets with rest in between, which is inefficient, do less, but push harder. The first time you do the exercise, do as many as you can (remember only perfect form counts). If you did more than 12-15 with perfect form, the next time you do it, you need to make it harder. If you did fewer than 8, you need to make it easier. If you fall between 8-12 reps, don’t change the exercise. Follow that rule every time you do your exercise. This way, you know you are being efficient. Remember, there is no such thing as an easy strength training workout.

Lots of people worry that working out like this will make them get “big.” Not true. What makes you feel “big” is if your cardio program isn’t complementing your strength training. Specifically, if you aren’t reducing your body fat and you start doing strength training, you might feel “big.” When you are designing your exercise program, you have to look at the whole picture, not just individual exercises.

Your strength training needs to be done 3 times per week, every week, to be effective. The nice thing, though, is that it doesn’t take very long. Doing each exercise 10-15 times (no more than 2 sets) should take no more than 10 minutes. That is not much of a time commitment, especially for the benefit you will get. Give yourself at least 4 weeks before you expect to see any real changes.

Remember, work as hard as you can at each exercise, never sacrifice form, and be consistent. While this is not a complete strength training program, it will have you feeling more confident about baring your arms and shoulders in those beautiful strapless dresses.

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