A lot of us take our arms for granted. We want powerful legs so we can climb stairs with ease, and we want strong abs to keep back pain at bay. But our arms don't always get the appreciation they deserve.
So let's take a second to do just that. Strong arms make it easier to haul grocery bags, lift laundry baskets, tuck a book up onto a high shelf, pick up kids and so much more, all with a lower risk of injury.
"In anything that we do, from running to weight-lifting to moving, strong arms provide the body — our machine — with a strong foundation," says Keoni Hudoba, founder of core-intensive virtual training program COREntine and host of our 4-Week Arms Challenge (which he has affectionately nicknamed "ARMageddon").
To build stronger arms this month, you'll need some space to move and a set of medium dumbbells. The weight you choose should be heavy enough to challenge you but allow you to work the entire time with good form. (You can also swap the weights for one of these creative dumbbell alternatives.) Keep scrolling for everything you need to know to join us.
"This challenge was designed to keep you accountable," Hudoba says. "Take modifications as needed, and when you feel like you need to stop, try for 1 or 2 more reps. Have fun!"
How the 4-Week Arms Challenge Works
We're starting this challenge on Sunday, April 2, but you can start on your own at any time. You can also join our Challenge Facebook Group to learn when we're hosting the next session or for encouragement and support if you're doing a solo challenge.
Each week, you'll do the same type of workout on the same day, but throughout the month, we'll up the ante by increasing the amount of time you do each exercise (more on that below). Here's what your weekly schedule looks like:
The Challenge Calendar
Get a printer-friendly version of the challenge calendar here.
How to Join the Arms Challenge
1. Print and/or Save Your Calendar
Keep your calendar somewhere you can see it, and use it each day to help you stay on track. Do the activity listed, then check off each day as you complete it.
2. Join Our Challenge Facebook Group
Our community of more than 57,000 members is here to support and motivate you through the month. We'll share tips, photos, encouragement and more!
3. Learn the 4 Best Arm Exercises
Even though this is called the Arms Challenge, you'll notice the exercises target more than your biceps and triceps.
"We're including other upper-body muscles in this challenge because we want an overall strong physique," Hudoba says. "The shoulders work with the triceps, which work with the core, and so on. This is going to give you optimal peak performance."
Your four main arm exercises for this challenge are (keep scrolling for a step-by-step breakdown of each one):
- Biceps curl
- Triceps kickback
- Arnold press
- Alternating shoulder tap plank jacks
On Day 1 and then every following Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, you'll do a circuit of the four moves following the time scheme below. After each rest period, move right into the next exercise. Each week, you'll increase the amount of time you do each exercise:
Only do however many reps you can with good form during your work interval. If your form breaks down, pause, reset, then continue until the time is up. The increase in time spent working each week is meant to help you challenge both your body and mind throughout the month, Hudoba says. But if you're ready for an additional challenge, you can try his favorite advanced variations.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand with both palms facing out.
- Keeping your elbows glued to your sides and your chest upright, raise the weights up toward your shoulders.
- At the top of the motion, focus on flexing your biceps.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells until your elbows extend fully at the bottom without locking.
- With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hinge your hips back, maintaining a straight spine. Your upper body should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
- Bring your arms to your sides, elbows tight to your ribs. This is the starting position.
- Extend your arms straight back with control and squeeze your triceps at the top.
- Bend your elbows and slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.
- Start with your back straight and feet planted shoulder-width apart.
- Hold two dumbbells in front of you level with your shoulders with your palms facing you.
- Bring your elbows out to your sides as you raise the weights and exhale. As you press your arms overhead, rotate your wrists so they face outward.
- Inhale as you slowly return the weights to shoulder level, palms facing in.
Alternating Shoulder Tap Plank Jack
- Start in a standard plank position on your hands and toes. Your palms should be planted directly under your shoulders, and your body should form a straight line from head to hips to heels. Keep your core engaged and your glutes tight.
- Tap your right hand to the front of your left shoulder as you simultaneously jump your feet several inches out to the sides.
- Return your right hand to the floor as you jump your feet back together.
- Repeat on the other side: Tap your left hand to the front of your right shoulder as you jump your feet out, then return your left hand to the floor and your feet to center.
This exercise has a lot of moving pieces, and if you can't do them all together, that's OK. To simplify it, there are a few things you can try:
- Step one foot at a time out to the side
- Do the shoulder taps but don't move your feet
- Skip the shoulder taps and just try jumping your feet out to the sides
- Skip the shoulder taps and get into a forearm plank position instead of the standard plank, which can help make you feel more stable
Try a few options to discover what works for you, and see if you can build up to the full move by the end of the challenge.
4. Enjoy Your Rest Days
Every Monday and Wednesday, you'll have a rest day.
"Listen to your body in times of rest," Hudoba says. "It's the key to your machine's longevity."
5. Add In These Workout Videos
To mix things up a bit, on Thursday each week, you'll do one of the following 10-minute workouts, led by Huboda:
6. Incorporate Active Recovery
Your arms do a lot for you; give something back to them during your active recovery days. On Saturdays, spend some time doing mobility drills, stretching or foam rolling, paying special attention to your upper body.
You can couple this upper-body work with light cardio — like cycling, walking, swimming or hiking — or another gentle movement practice, like restorative yoga.
Huboda recommends adding 15 minutes each week to your active recovery. Aim for:
- Week 1: 15 minutes
- Week 2: 30 minutes
- Week 3: 45 minutes
- Week 4: 60 minutes
7. Celebrate Your Success
You made it to the end of the 4-Week Arms Challenge — congrats! Take some time to appreciate that accomplishment, then let us know how it went in our Challenge Facebook Group.
When you're ready, keep your momentum going with one of our other challenges:
You can do any of our challenges on your own whenever you want, or you can visit our Challenges page to see what we have planned for the full year.