It’s really easy to get stuck into performing the same, stock standard moves for your arms. A few that come to mind: bicep curls, tricep dips and push ups. Women are generally concerned about growing “bulky” when it comes to training their arms and this holds them back from stepping in to the weight room but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Women simply lack the genetic make up to “get massive” from muscle bulk. Lifting, to strengthen the arms and make them lean, should be an essential part of your workout. Neglect your arms and they will lack firmness. These are five of my favourite exercises and I can vouch for their effectiveness. They target the back, chest, shoulders and arms.
Perform all of these moves for 10RM, for 3-4 sets. You can have a small recovery rest in between sets (keep it under a minute). These exercises are best performed in the gym however with a few variations they could be included in an outdoor workout.
1. Underhand Grip Pull Ups
Try this on the assisted pull up machine before you graduate to unassisted or simply use a strong pull up resistance band to help. Pull with the back, arms and shoulder blades. Place your hands on the grips and engage your core and pull your shoulders blades down and together. You are aiming to get your face over the grips whilst keeping your body quite ridged. Try a slower decent and don’t forget to breathe. This move targets your upper body with a solid focus on the lats and biceps.
2. Standing Unilateral Dumbbell Lateral Raise (also called Lean Aways)
This has to be one of my favourite arm moves. You’ve more than likely performed a lateral raise before, this is a nice step up for that move and focuses on the single side (unilateral). You can use a dumbbell or a cable, with the handle attachment and cable fixed to the very lowest setting. Minimal weight to start off, don’t let your form slip. Hold onto the cable’s central pole and lean away towards the opposite side of the machine. Slowly raise your arm up to shoulder height, keep your forearm steady and straight then bring it back down to the side of your thigh. No jerking just a nice smooth movement.
3. Cable High Face Pulls
Great for the triceps and upper back muscles that can get a little lazy due to poor posture. Use the cable machine with short rope attachment or you could use your own bodyweight on a TRX. For the high face pull, I recommend you fix the cable quite high. I like to keep my elbows up and back the whole time, don’t let them drop. Stand back from the machine with the rope in both hands and your arms raised straight in front of your shoulders. As you pull the rope towards your face, it will separate. Keep your elbows out to the side and focus on squeezing the back and triceps. Control the movement back to the start position and repeat.
A body weight move you can do anywhere! Start with hands flat on the ground and bend forward from the hips (as if you where stretching your hamstrings) with the heel of the hand close to your toes. Walk out with your hands till you reach a plank position. Hold for 3 counts and then quickly walk the hands back the way you came. Great as a bonus core move and will strengthen the arms and chest. Make sure you are evenly walking out on both hands. This will help those with flexibility issues also. Want to work harder? Add a pushup before you walk your hands back!
5. Standing Cable Straight Arm Push down
Here’s another favourite and a nice variation for the back. You would have definitely incorporated a lat pull down in your upper body routine, this is a modified standing version, great for a shapely back. Perform this slow and controlled, you don’t need much weight. Select your weight and stand back from the machine whilst facing it. Slowly push the long bar down with open hands (palms resting on the bar) using your arms and lats. You will feel your abs tighten, let these guys help you out too. You don’t need to grip the bar tightly. This helps engage and squeeze the lats without excessively using the chest or shoulders.
Natalie Carter is a Sydney-based fitness expert and personal trainer: www.nataliecartertalksfitness.com/@newoutlookpt.