Toned arms are a hot commodity. Thanks to Michelle Obama, everybody wants them. But is it possible to achieve this look with very little effort? I was determined to find out, but with a full-time job and a 5-year-old, a personal trainer wasn't an option.
That's when the Shake Weight came into my life.
Like most of the world, I'd heard about this handheld weight through television parodies rather than scientific research. This 21/2-pound weight was invented by Johann Verheem, chief executive of FitnessIQ, and it took the world by storm when it first hit the market more than two years ago.
"We've sold over 4 million," said Verheem. "We realized women wanted something that they could do a few minutes here and a few minutes there."
Experts have doubted Vorheem's claims. Krissy Ray, an exercise consultant from Advocate Fitness, told Tribune Newspapers columnist Ellen Warren the Shake Weight is "a total gimmick," while David Swain, a professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va, told Tribune Newspapers reporter Chris Woolston there's no evidence using a Shake Weight for a few minutes a day would provide results that could compete with the benefits of doing a 30-minute workout with normal weights, and that "spot reducing — losing body fat from a particular region by exercising that region — is a myth."
I decided to try it out anyway.
My Shake Weight was an impulse buy at CVS after seeing Ellen DeGeneres bust a gut while trying to use the device. The movement is simple (also lewd if you let your mind wander where it shouldn't): You hold the weight with both hands and pulse it back and forth. The vibration is supposed to tone your upper body. You can use it horizontally or vertically, depending on what muscles you're focusing on. The infomercial promises to "increase upper body muscle activity by more than 300 percent compared to traditional weights."
Works for me!
Confession: I bought the male version (5 pounds instead of 21/2) because I figured if I got the heavier weight, I'd get faster results. Rather than open the DVD it came with, I made up my own routine: 50 pumps straight up and down, with the weight placed in front of my stomach, twice a day. While the commercials say you need six minutes a day, I wanted to see what just two minutes a day would do.
"You have two different workouts going on here," said Pierce Hutchings, a personal trainer who tests fitness trends and products. "There's the vibration style, which works the biceps and triceps, and the stabilization style which works the shoulders and what we call the lats (latissimus dorsi). You are stabilizing and vibrating at the same time."
After 30 days, my arms and shoulders were definitely more toned. But the real surprise was when I noticed definition in the area underneath my shoulder blades. Not only did this thing get rid of the "tharms" (the thigh sometimes found on the arm), the Shake Weight also attacks that pesky back flab, which can be a hard area to target. I toned up so much I had to buy new bras. (Don't worry, ladies — I lost a size in circumference, not cup size.)
Pleased with my results, I continued to pump daily. But after about three months, I started to feel I was getting bulkier.
"You aren't elongating the muscle," Hutchings said. "Body builders do the small pulsations and don't allow the muscle to fully stretch — which is why sometimes they look like they can't put their arms down."
The solution, Hutchings said, is to add stretching exercises such as yoga and Pilates to my regimen.
So if you have a sleeveless dress that's calling your name, I think the Shake Weight could be a good call. Just don't expect it to help out with your love handles — that's a totally different infomercial.
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