Let's face it, your body can change a lot as you age, but you don't have to take those changes lying down. Weight training is beneficial at any age from 14 to 40 and beyond. It builds muscle, increases your metabolism, helps control body fat and can even help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis. To tone and shape your arms, do exercises that not only work your biceps and triceps, but your shoulders as well.
Do It Right
Work your arms two or three times each week on nonconsecutive days, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Choose at least one exercise for each muscle group, or up to three per muscle for a really challenging workout. Do one to three sets of eight to 12 reps of each exercise, resting 30 to 90 seconds between each set. Choose a weight that is challenging, but allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise. Start with lighter weights than you think you need and add one to two pounds at a time until you find the right weight for each exercise. Five-pound dumbbells or a 10-pound barbell are examples of a good starting weight. As you get stronger, increase the weight you use.
Start at the Top
Your shoulders are larger than your biceps or triceps, so begin your workout with shoulder exercises. Start with a shoulder press. Grab a 10-lb. barbell and press up and down overhead eight to 12 times. To work your shoulders a little more, switch to dumbbells and do a set of lateral raises, lifting the dumbbells out to the sides and back down. You can also do a kneeling reverse fly with a resistance band for the rear part of your shoulders. Kneel down with the band secured around a weight machine. Extend your arms in front of you, keeping your elbows straight and arms parallel to the floor. Bring your arms out to the sides and squeeze back as far as you can. Slowly release back to the front for one complete repetition.
The View From Behind
Work your triceps next to tone the backs of your arms with a cable push-down with a rope attachment. Set the cable as high as it goes and keep your upper arms next to your body. Press down and up eight to 12 times, starting with only one or two plates on the weight stack. Next try a triceps dip on a flat bench. Sit on the bench and place your hands on either side of your hips. Pressing up, lift your butt off the bench, bringing your hips slightly in front of the bench. Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor, stopping when your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Press up and down eight to 12 times. Another option is an overhead press with a dumbbell. Standing with your hands wrapped around a 10-lb. dumbbell, bring it overhead, keeping your arms next to your ears. For one complete rep, lower the weight behind your head and press back up.
Last But Not Least
Biceps exercises are a good finish for an arm workout. For a standing barbell curl, holding a 10- to 20-pound barbell, lift the bar up and down by bending your elbows for eight to 12 reps. Further work your biceps by performing an incline curl holding kettlebells or dumbbells. Sit on an incline bench that it is angled 30 to 45 degrees. Holding a weight in each hand, curl it up and down as you recline on the bench. Finish up with a cable curl using a straight bar attachment. Keep your upper arms next to your body and bring the bar up and down for eight to 12 reps.
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription; American College of Sports Medicine
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Why Strength Training?
- ExRx.net: Shoulder Exercise Menu
- ExRx.net: Upper Arm Exercise Menu