By Lisa James
Whether you’re wrestling with bags of cement for your latest home DIY or wrestling for fun with your kids, everything is easier with arm strength. The following workout, which uses free weights and a bench, can help you not only develop functional capacity but also build the kind of arms you’ll want to show off now that it’s T-shirt weather.
If you’re new to working out, remember: Technique is important—don’t try to lift so much weight that it throws off your form. So start slow, with lower weights and reps, and build gradually. Include a warmup and a cooldown as part of each session.
As tempting as it might be to concentrate on your arms, be sure to also work all the other major muscle groups, both upper and lower body. Give yourself at least a day or two between sessions for any specific group; it’s during that recuperation period when the body actually builds new muscle tissue.
The biceps is what most guys think of when you say “big arms.” No arm session would be complete without working the biceps.
Concentration Curl: Sit on the edge of a chair or bench, feet slightly wider than your shoulders. Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, bend forward at the hips and rest your right elbow on the inner part of your right thigh, just behind the knee. Let your arm hang down with a slight bend in the elbow, palm facing inward, and place your left hand on your left thigh. Then slowly raise the dumbbell towards your right shoulder, keeping your back straight (don’t pull off to the right) and your abs tightened, before slowly lowering the arm. Repeat on the left side.
Barbell Curl: Stand while holding the barbell with both palms facing forward, hands about shoulder-width apart, arms hanging down (the bar should be resting on your thighs). Stand straight, bend your knees slightly and tighten your abs; then slowly bend your elbows, almost bringing the bar to your shoulders. Slowly lower to the starting position. Be sure to keep your back straight to avoid straining. This exercise helps build the forearms, too.
Hammer Curl: This is another exercise that works both the biceps and the forearms. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing your body, and stand straight, feet about shoulder-width apart. Then, bending your knees slightly while tightening your abs, slowly bend your elbows to bring the weights toward your shoulders as the palms continue to face each other before slowly lowering down to the start position. Keep your back straight.
Forearm and Wrist Exercises
In addition to the biceps exercises that also work the forearms, use these moves to really build strength—especially grip strength—in your lower arms.
Wrist Curl: Sit on the edge of a bench or chair, feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing up. The bend forward at the hips and rest your right forearm on your right thigh, hand hanging over your knee; place your left hand on your right wrist for support. Slowly raise the dumbbell towards your forearm before slowly lowering to the start position. Repeat on the left side.
Reverse Wrist Curl: Same as the Wrist Curl, only with the palm facing down instead of up.
Grip Crush: Sit on a chair or bench holding a dumbbell in your right hand. While resting the back of your right forearm on your right thigh, relax your hand so the dumbbell rolls towards your fingertips. Then tighten your grip as much as possible while curling the weight upwards. Repeat on the left side.
It’s easy to forget the triceps, the muscle at the back of the upper arm. But don’t—a developed triceps holds the key to true arm strength.
Bench Dip: Sit on the edge of a bench or chair with your legs straight and together, toes pointing upward; place your hands on the bench next to your hips, fingers around the edge. Then tighten your abs, straighten your arms and lift yourself off the bench, moving forward until your weight is supported by your arms. Keeping your hips close to the bench and your elbows close to your body, slowly lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel with the floor before slowly straightening your arms and returning to the start position. In addition to working your triceps, the Bench Dip is also a good exercise for your shoulders and upper back.
Triceps Kickback: Place your right foot next to a bench, knee slightly bent, and your left knee on the bench. Lean forward, place your left hand on the bench and reach down with your right hand, palm facing in, to pick a dumbbell up off the floor. Then, tightening your abs and keeping your upper arm parallel to the floor with the elbow bent, slowly straighten your right arm close to your side until the entire arm is parallel to the floor; slowly lower to the starting bent-arm position. Repeat on the left side.
Barbell Triceps Press: Lie on a bench, feet flat on the floor. Hold a barbell just above your chest with your hands about six inches apart, palms facing forward. Tighten your abs and raise the bar slowly, pushing your shoulder blades into the bench; then lower the bar until your elbows are slightly below your shoulders (keep them close to your body). In addition to building the triceps, this exercise also works the front of the shoulders (anterior deltoids).