For many people, good-looking arms are a thing of wonderment and mystery. Without wanting to gender stereotype, I can honestly say when taking on new clients most of the females I consult with ask for an increase in tone in their arms and most male clients I have trained initially dream of bigger, more bulging biceps.
The reality is unless you do a physically hard manual job we really don’t use our upper body that much which makes toning, developing and retaining the arm muscles a real challenge unless you know what you are doing.
Follow these steps for a radical change in your arms and be proud of showing them off this summer!
1. Eat Protein
Protein based foods are the building blocks for toning and developing your muscles. It really doesn’t matter what exercises you do… If you’re not eating right, your body physically cannot turn your hard work into lean, strong muscle.
Aim for 40% of your daily food intake to be protein based and aim for foods such as lean turkey, ham off the bone, skinless chicken, oily fish, such as; salmon, mackerel and sardines plus nuts, seeds and high quality dairy like low-fat cottage cheese and 0% fat yoghurt. For more detailed information, please read my post ‘So, What Should I Eat?’.
2. Do Press Ups
Press Ups are one of the best upper body exercises you can do, in my opinion. Firstly, they engage not just the all important pec and shoulder muscles for upper body development, but they are also a fantastic way of toning your triceps (which are the back of your upper arms), as your arms are being forced to not just lift a dumb bell, but your entire body weight, which will accelerate the development of your muscles.
Start on your knees if being on your toes is too challenging, or your toes if you are able. For more advanced options try keeping one leg off the ground to really challenge the arms and to work deeper into strengthening your core.
3. Give Your Arms Their Own Workout
Many people bolt arm exercises onto the end or somewhere in the middle of their workout. Training and developing a weak body part takes time, focus and lots of hard work. Break your weekly workouts into a split routine where you are working different body parts every time you exercise and make one workout a week dedicated to your biceps, triceps and shoulders for maximum effect.
4. Work Your Triceps Harder Than Your Biceps
The bicep muscles in the front of the arms have two ‘heads’ meaning there are two muscles forming the muscle group. The triceps actually have three (hence the name) and are therefore actually a bigger muscle group. When novices train their arms they jump straight into exhausting their arms with heavy bicep curls while really only working around 40% of the arm and missing on properly developing the other 60%.
For those who want to build, big arms from the side view are largely down to well-developed triceps as it’s the most visible muscle from that angle. For those wishing for a toned sleek look, the ‘bulge’ on the side of a toned upper arm is actually the lateral ‘head’ of the triceps.
When working out incorporate 2 exercises for biceps and at least three for triceps. Aim for 3 – 4 sets of around 8 – 12 repetitions per exercise with a weight which exhausts your muscles by the last repetition. If you can keep going the weight is too light for you and won’t offer you the best benefits.
5. Work Your Shoulders
More specifically, the deltoid muscles. These are the rounded muscles at the front, sides and back of the top of the upper arms. Great arm muscles are wasted with out good deltoid development as the shoulders will appear narrow, rounded and flat and will make your toned arms look strange and disproportionate. Great deltoid tone looks fantastic in a sleeveless shirt and is crucial for that confident summer look.
For best results simply add shoulder presses, lateral raises, upright rows and rear deltoid flies with dumb bells to your workout.
6. Pre-Exhaust Your Muscles Before You Work Them
If your weekly workout time is limited and dedicating a whole workout to your arms is impractical, then fatigue them first with some compound (multi joint) movements which also work the bigger muscles in the chest and back.
Compound movements use lots of different muscles at the same time. Chin ups, for example, work the back muscles and the biceps while bench pressing works the chest, shoulders and triceps. By completing these exercises first will ‘pre-exhaust’ your arms meaning you can blitz them with your usual exercises afterward for a much greater effect and faster gains.