The arm muscles are a top priority for many women looking to get in shape. During summer, when you're in sleeveless tops and dresses or flaunting your toned body in a bikini, saggy, flabby arms are a definite disadvantage. Getting bigger arms doesn't mean getting muscles that rival Arnie's, but a little more muscle mass can add shape and definition to your physique. Ladies, it's time to get your guns.
Work both parts of your arms evenly. Your upper arms comprise two main muscle groups -- the biceps on the front and the triceps to the rear. For even arm growth, for every biceps move you do, match it with a triceps one.
Learn how to do dips. Narrow-grip dips, keeping your arms close to your body, are a highly effective triceps builder, according to strength coach Sally Moss. Position yourself between the handles of a dipping station and take your feet off the floor. Bend your elbows as you descend, going as low as possible, then push yourself back up. If you're struggling with body-weight dips, Moss recommends negatives, where you simply perform the lowering part of the lift, but do it as slowly as possible.
Add chin-ups to your routine. Grab a chin-up bar with an underhand grip, let your body hang completely straight, then pull yourself up until your shoulders are in line with your hands. This might sound simple, but they're incredibly tough and many women struggle with chin-ups, according to trainer Charles Poliquin. To get around this, Poliquin advises performing negative reps, or having a partner help you by assisting on the way up. Alternatively, if you train on your own, tie a resistance band around the bar, place your knees in the loop and use the band to give you a helping hand.
Perform a triceps isolation move next. Dips hit your triceps, but they also work your chest and shoulders; now it's time to really fatigue the triceps. Sit on a weight bench and hold a dumbbell in one hand. Lift your arm overhead so it's completely straight, then bend your elbow so the weight comes down behind your head. Keep going until you feel a stretch in the triceps muscle, then forcefully lift it back up. Keep your upper arm locked in place -- all the movement should take place at the elbow. Complete all the reps on one arm, then switch sides.
Stay sitting on your bench, but this time hold a dumbbell in either hand. Sit with your arms hanging down by your sides and palms facing forward. Hold your elbows steady, then lift the dumbbells up until your hands reach chest height. Pause for a second while squeezing your biceps, then lower the weights down slowly.
Train your arms two to three times per week, advises the "Shape" magazine website and complete two to three sets per exercise. To build muscle, perform six to 12 reps per set, with the weight heavy enough to be challenging, but not so heavy you fall short of the six-rep minimum or use poor form. When the weights start feeling light, increase them.
Increase your calories. To build muscle, you need more calories. The average active woman is advised to eat around 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day, but you may need more than that to grow. Nutritionist and trainer Joy Victoria recommends a diet containing all the macronutrients -- protein, carbs and fats. Aim for at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day, get 30 percent of your calories from fats and make up the rest with carbohydrates.
Things You'll Need
Your arms need rest between sessions, so avoid performing arm workouts on back-to-back days. If you still want to hit the gym, work your legs or perform a cardio workout instead.
Check with your doctor before beginning a program and ask a qualified trainer to run you through all the exercises to ensure your technique is perfect.
- Strength Training Anatomy; Frederic Delavier
- Gubernatrix: How-to: Dip
- Poliquin Group: Chin-ups vs Pull-ups
- ExRx: Dumbbell One Arm Triceps Extension
- American Council on Exercise: Seated Dumbbell Biceps Curl
- Shape: How To Get Toned Arms: The Best Exercises for Arms
- JCD Fitness: How To Build Muscle: Women’s Edition Part 3 – Setting Up Your Diet