Strong, Sculpted Arms

Studio 5 Health and Fitness Contributor Melanie Douglass, R.D., NASM shares exercises that will strengthen and tone your arms.

One of the things I love about 2010 is that strong, sculpted, buff, tough arms are in!! These days, amazing arms are fun to show off, fun to work toward, and pretty much handy in every faucet of life.

Here’s how to start working on stronger, sculpted arms today:

Add some extra weight.

That’s right. Forget about “light weight, high reps” and the fear of getting too big. Instead go “heavy weight, low reps”. If you want simple strong arms that show a little muscle definition, then pick a heavier dumbbell or weight. If you usually bicep curl 10# dumbbells, then go for 15’s and work up to 20’s! Just take it one step further than you are doing now. Do 8 – 12 reps of each exercise. If you can do 12 reps with minimal challenge, then you need to add more weight — the 10th, 11th, and 12th reps should feel very challenging. After one set, rest for 30 seconds (or do another exercise for a different muscle group) and repeat 2 more times (for a total of 3 sets per exercise).

And don’t worry about bulk. For most women, it’s takes a serious, structured, competitive training schedule with a strict diet regimen to get arms that are “too big”.

Don’t do it everyday.

Strength training is something we do to challenge a muscle group; we essentially break down the muscle tissues so that the body can rebuild them even stronger. That means you shouldn’t push the muscle group every single day. If you are training for serious definition, then give your arms a day of rest between workouts.

I prefer to do 30 minutes of cardio every single day, then do serious strength training every other day, or 2 – 3 times per week.

Play with the tempo.

By tempo, I mean the controlling the speed of both the eccentric and concentric parts of the muscular contraction. (In it’s simplest terms, concentric and eccentric are the “up” and “down” portions of the movement).

Here’s what I mean: next time you bicep curl, try doing 2 counts up and 2 counts down. Great.

Now try 3 counts up and 1 count down. Yes? Try one more: 1 count up and 3 counts down. See what I mean?

Changing the tempo challenges the muscles in new ways. It’s one of the best-kept secrets in the industry today.

Do the right exercises.

If you want shapely arms, then work on these 3 muscle groups:

– Shoulders (mainly your medial or “middle” deltoid)

– Biceps (front of the upper arm)

– Triceps (back of the upper arm)

Here are my 5 favorite arm exercises:

1. The pretzel (shoulders)

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest your arms on the front of your thighs with your palms facing forward. Raise your arms straight out to the side (with palms forward) until they are approx. shoulder height, then rotate your palms to face the back and lower the arms back down to the thights… it’s like a figure 8.

2. Power Curls (biceps)

Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Raise your arms straight out to the side (shoulder level) with your palms facing upward. Keep the arms line up straight with the shoulders, bend at the elbow and bring the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Go slow and get a full range of motion on this one.

3. Rotating Curls (biceps)

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest your arms on the front of your thighs with your palms facing forward. Bend and the elbow and bring the palms up toward your shoulders. At the top of the contraction, rotate the palms down toward the floor, then rotate them right back and lower the weight down with the palms facing upward.

4. Overhead Press (triceps)

Hold one or two dumbbells together (depending on how much weight you want to lift) at the base of your neck, behind your head. Your elbows should be bent and pulled in close to your ears. Push the weight straight up until your arms are straight and then lower back down to the base of the neck.

5. Rotating Kickbacks (triceps)

Hold a dumbbell in each hand, bend forward from the hips and keep your back straight and your abs tight. Pull the weights up near your ribcage and make sure your palms are facing your ribs. Push the weight back behind you until your arms are straight, when you hit that point, rotate your palms to face upward, then rotate the palms back to face your body and bring the arms back to the starting position, near your ribs. Keep your elbows pulled up to shoulder level throughout the entire exercise.

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