Having a job that keeps you chained to your desk certainly makes it hard to meet your fitness goals; but it's not impossible. Stash a pair of hand weights in your drawer or under your desk to sneak in a set or two of arm exercises while attending the latest webinar. While these exercises may not be enough to fulfill all your fitness requirements, they are certainly better than skipping a workout altogether.
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The two-headed muscles at the front of your arms, the biceps, are easily trained with curls of all kinds. Sit on the edge of your chair holding a weight in each hand with an underhand grip, and hang your arms toward the floor. Keep your upper arms next to your torso as you bend your elbows and curl the weight up toward your shoulders, then lower them back down to complete one set. For variety, change your grip so your palms face your midline to work more of the forearm muscles.
The triceps muscles at the back of the upper arm are just as important in function and appearance as your so called guns, or biceps. Work these muscles at your desk with overhead triceps extensions. Sit upright at the edge of your chair and hold one weight with both hands over your head with your elbows fully extended. Bend your elbows to lower the weight behind you, then extend them back to the starting position. Pay attention to your upper arms -- they should stay close to your head throughout the movement.
Tiny one-pound weights may slide easily out of sight on your desk, but they won't do much to train your muscles. You'll have to pull out the big weights to make these moves count. Aim for at least eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise using weights that are heavy enough that the last couple of reps seem almost impossible to do with good form. If you need large weights, they can double as a foot stool under your desk. Do up to five sets of these exercises, but try to do them in one session, leaving about 60 seconds between each set. Avoid spreading the sets out during the day, which only dilutes their impact. Your body builds muscle when you allow it to rest after being exposed to the stress of weights. After working a muscle group, give it at least 48 hours before exercising it again.
More for Your Upper Body
If you have extra time, don't stop at training just your biceps, triceps and forearm muscles. Your shoulders can easily be trained while sitting at your desk and contribute to a strong, functional upper body. Sit on the edge of your chair and hold a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip. Bring your arms up so they form 90-degree angles at the shoulders, palms facing the front of the room. Press the dumbbells up to extend your arms overhead, then lower them back down to do shoulder presses -- which use your triceps for assistance. You can further train the shoulders with front arm raises by sitting on the edge of your chair and grasping a weight in each hand, arms hanging by your legs. Raise your arms so they are parallel to the floor, then lower them back down to complete one repetition.