If you’ve been following along from the beginning, you’ve developed a pretty well rounded base of information regarding your core, flexibility, stretching and the like. You know that weight training is a big element in healthy living, particularly for us women who lose bone density, as we get older. It has been proven that weight training can help offset the reduction in bone density. Let’s look at basic exercises specific to different muscle groups.
Today we’re focusing on your arms, biceps and triceps.
Understanding the lingo
- The first position, in which you start, is referred to as starting position.
- Repetitions are the number of times you can do an exercise without a break, with your final “rep” bringing you really close to “muscle fatigue” meaning you just couldn’t squeeze in one more “rep.”
- Sets are the number of times you repeat the repetitions. Typically between 2 or 3 depending on weight and goal.
- So when you hear 3×15, it means 3 sets of 15 repetitions. Insert a 60 second break in between sets to stretch out the muscle you’ve just worked.
Form and posture
- Never lock your joints. Even if an exercise calls for your arms to be straight, always have them bent just a touch. This prevents strain on your joints.
- Never “break” your wrists. Which means always make sure that when you have a dumbbell or barbell in your hands, your wrists don’t bend back unnaturally. They should form straight lines with your forearms.
- For best posture, stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees (like elbows) should be slightly bent (never locked), chest up, abs tight (belly button to the spine) and don’t let your shoulders round forward, i.e. don’t slouch.
- Your body shouldn’t sway back and forth as you lift and lower. If you find that you can’t control it, do your dumbbell exercises with your back against a wall which helps eliminate unnecessary momentum.
- Do the exercises in a slow and controlled manner. Try not to swing your arms; introducing momentum reduces the work on the muscles, because inertia has taken over.
- Exhale when you exert. When you are doing, for example, a bicep curl, where you stand with your arms by your side, exhale when you raise the dumbbell toward your chest (working against gravity), inhale when you lower them back to starting position.
Dumbbell Curl 3×15
- Stand with a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing upward.
- Keeping them close to the body, bend elbows to curl dumbbells up toward shoulders, exhaling as you do.
- Return your arms in a slow and controlled manner to starting position, inhaling as you do.
Triceps Kickback 3×15
- Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your body, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle more or less in line with your back.
- With feet hip-width apart, bend at the hips and knees as if you were about to sit in a chair (skiing position).
- Extend both your arms behind your body, keeping them close to your torso, straightening your arms, but not locking your elbows.
- Return your arms to starting position.
Hammer Curl: 3×15
- A slight variation of the bicep curl, this one calls for dumbbells in your hands with palms facing your body while you bring the elbows up toward the shoulders.
- Return to starting position.
Chair Dips 2x fatigue
- Use a chair or a bench for this. If using a chair, be sure to prop it against a wall so it can’t slide out from under you.
- Sit on the edge of the chair with your hands shoulder-width apart and fingers facing forward.
- Slide your hips off the seat by walking forward until knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Keeping your shoulders down and elbows pointing behind you, lower your hips toward the floor as if you were about to sit on the floor, but don’t let the hips reach that far.
- Return to starting position and do as many as you can, until fatigue.
Standing Barbell Bicep Curl: 3×15
- Hold a barbell with palms up, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, elbows in line with shoulders, arms straight but not locked.
- Bend elbows and curl bar toward shoulders.
- Return to starting position.
Triceps Extension: 3×15
- Lie on your back with a weight in your right hand.
- Extend it upward (straightening elbow) and steady it with your left hand so that your left hand crosses your chest to hold onto your right arm between the bicep and the elbow.
- Keep your right elbow directly above your shoulder and slowly bend it, bringing your right hand toward left shoulder (as if you could cross your arms across your chest while gripping opposite elbows).
- Return to starting position, exhaling as you do. (Remember, exhale when you exert, and here the exertion is greater when you return to starting position — against gravity).
Naturally there are many different exercises that can target the multiple muscles that comprise the biceps and triceps. The ones that I’ve mentioned should get you off to a running start. Over time, we’ll build on this so that you have a large repertoire of exercises to choose from. After all, we have to continue to change, challenge and confuse!