Upper Body Strength Training for Brides

Written with love, by Kimberly Riegel Dore

I am excited to put out my first article in hopes that I can give some useful fitness tips and advice to help you prepare for your big day! I was thinking back to my big day and what my dress looked like and what was important for me to focus my fitness training on and it was easy: upper body sculpting!  Most of the time it is the upper body, the arms and shoulders, that are exposed in the wedding dress. So, I want to talk a little bit about the importance of strength training and some exercises to start toning up those arms.

A lot of women come to me with concerns about lifting weights and thinking they will bulk up.  That is not true! Women tend not to get big and bulky because of our higher amounts of the estrogen hormone. There are many reasons why we, as women, should strength training and here are a few of them:

Why Women Should Strength Train

1) Lean muscle will increase your resting metabolic rate.  The more muscle you have the more calories you will burn overall.

2) You can lose fat easier by having more lean muscle on your body.

3) Muscle tone is long and lean and has a sexier look.

4) 5 pounds of lean muscle takes up a lot less space than 5 pounds of fat.

You will need to strength train the upper body with enough resistance to overload the muscles so they will change.  Curling soup cans, as I tell my clients, will not make any changes to your upper body.  If using weights, you should find an appropriate weight so when you hit the 10th rep it should be pretty challenging.

The following couple of exercises can be done anywhere and really made a difference in changing and toning up my upper body for my wedding!

Push Ups

The great thing about push-ups is that you could do them anywhere: at home, at the gym, and even if you're traveling and staying in a hotel room.  Push ups can be done in many different ways. If you are a beginner, they could be done on your knees, which is called a modified push-up, or they can be done on your toes. I recommend doing 2/3 sets until fatigued, 3 times a week and be sure to keep your hips down. They can be hard but the results are well worth it! Not only are push-ups great because they target all the muscles in the upper body, but you will increase your upper body strength as well.


The second exercise to help you sculpt and change your arms is boxing. There are a variety of options for boxing. You can punch a bag while wearing boxing gloves at a gym or at home, get a partner who can wear hand mitts and punch the mitts, or what I do with my clients is have them wear weighted hand gloves and do a series of boxing exercises in their home. Boxing is a great exercise to really tone up the shoulders.  I usually switch up a series combo between jabs, hooks, and uppercuts. Another benefit you will get from boxing is an intense cardio workout and boxing can be a great stress relief if planning becomes too overwhelming.

Tricep Exercises

Another area that women like to target are the triceps, or the back of our arms. A couple quick examples of tricep exercises: start by sitting on a step or the edge of a chair. Place your hands next to your butt, palms down and fingers facing forward. Lift your butt off and drop your hips down so your shoulders become level to your elbows, and push yourself back up until your elbows are straight again and repeat. Do a couple of sets until fatigued.

A second example of a tricep exercise would be to grab a weight and hold it in both hands straight up overhead by your ears. Bend the weight back behind your head and straighten the weight back up again and repeat until the muscles burn out.

The Row

One last good exercise for toning the upper back is the row. If you are at home grab a dumbbell, or a heavy object. Holding it in one hand lean over with the other hand resting on your front leg. Release your arm down in front of you and pull straight back so your elbow is pointing to the ceiling and the weight is right above your hips. Then release back down in front and straighten your arm again. Do 12–15 repetitions on each side. 2-3 sets three times  a week.

Keep in mind that strength training cannot be successful without a good eating plan. It is very possible to do all the strength training but not reap any of the results if you cannot shed some of the fat that is over the muscle. So strength training combined with good eating will definitely help bring out the lean muscles of the upper body.

Happy strength training!