It's getting close to that time, when lads and lasses all across our great nation gear up for the mating call of all mating calls: beach season. No beach body is complete without a set of well defined, toned arms. I've compiled my favorite exercises for shaping, toning, and building well defined, strong, and functional muscle in your biceps, triceps, forearms and shoulders. In addition, several of these exercises will also help you strengthen and tone other upper body areas. Get to it!
It seems that gentlemen are split over whether they would prefer giant, hulking, can't-straighten-your-arms-out muscles or well-defined, toned, and lean arms. These exercises, performed as described, will help you build the best of both worlds. You can add these exercises into your current workout or workouts, or you can perform these exercises as their own individual workout. For each exercise that uses weights, perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps each. For the bodyweight exercises, perform 3-4 sets of 15-25 reps.
-Reverse Bicep Curls
Using a curl bar, use an overhand grip. Perform the regular curl motion, however, your palms will be facing away from you at the top of the exercise. This maneuver will work three ways--it will work your biceps like a regular curl, help strengthen and define forearms due to the altered grip, and also cause your triceps to do more work during the deceleration phase of the repetition.
-Tricep Skull Crushers
Focusing on the triceps and shoulders, we amp this up by using the Swiss ball for this exercise. Assume a bridge position on the ball, arms extended at your head with elbows vertical, the dumbbells in hand. Tightening your core muscles while on the ball, extend from the elbows to push the weights up, arms fully extended. Return the weights back towards your head (hence "skull crusher"). Use a spotter if you feel uncomfortable, we really don't want anyone to literally crush their skull. Safety first!
-Dumbbell Shoulder Shrugs
Building grip strength, forearms, shoulders, and traps, these will help define your upper torso for that perfect beach look. Begin set numbers one and three with an overhand grip on each dumbbell. Keep them to your sides, then shrug your shoulders up and bring your shoulder blades back. For set numbers two and four, use and underhand grip. This will help you build strong forearms which will help make your arms look proportionate.
These pushups are great for developing your triceps, as well as your chest and core muscles. You will perform a regular pushup, however, your grip will be altered. Bring your hands in front of you together in a diamond shape (you can think either Jay-Z/Rocafella, or if you are a little old school, the "Diamond Cutter" symbol from my man Diamond Dallas Page!). This will put the stress on your shoulders and triceps more, as well as pump up your pectorals.
Another great bodyweight exercise that will build great triceps, shoulders, forearms, and chest are dips. You can use a dip machine, or in a pinch a chair or stairs work also. Either way, your body weight is supported by your arms. Lower yourself towards the ground, bending 90 degrees at the elbow, then return to the arms extended position. To amp it up, you can attach a 5, 10, or 25 pound plate to a weight belt to build more resistance.
Most of the female clients (and lady friends) that I have agree on one thing...they all want long, lean, and mean arms but don't want to look like Ron Coleman. Ladies, you are in luck. You don't produce the testosterone that will make you look like John Cena's female twin. Adding strength training to your workouts will help you shed fat and get lean. These exercises are great for your beach arms. For the weighted exercises, perform 3 sets of 12-15. For bodyweight exercises, perform 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps.
One of the most basic tricep exercises, you can use the rope or the "Y" bar on the power station at your gym. Keeping your elbows tight to your body, push down the rope/bar, with the movement coming from the triceps. As you fully extend your arms, control the bar/rope back to the top. This will put some stress on the biceps also.
These are fairly easy to perform, but are great for your triceps and shoulders. You'll use a dumbbell, somewhere between 5 and 15 pounds. Using a bench for support, form a tripod with your body and the bench, leaving your elbow bent. Keeping your elbow close to your body, extend the weight back and up towards the ceiling, then bring it back to the original position. Remember you are trying to keep your arm still and make your triceps do the work
Another great bodyweight exercise that will build great triceps, shoulders, forearms, and chest are dips. You can use a dip machine, or in a pinch a chair or stairs work also. Either way, your body weight is supported by your arms. Lower yourself towards the ground, bending 90 degrees at the elbow, then return to the arms extended position. Just like for the guys, these dips are a great way to build strength and definition without adding a bunch of "bulk" to your frame.
-Dumbbell Bicep Curls and Shoulder Presses
Using anywhere from 5 to 15 pound dumbbells, you can perform these standing or, for added benefit, you can sit on a Swiss or BOSU ball to add core stability. Letting the dumbbells rest as your arms hang, palms facing away from you, curl the weight, keeping your elbows close to your body, finishing with your palms facing you. Before returning the weight, continue to press the weight up and over your head, arms extended, palms facing out again. Reverse the motion all the way to the starting point. This exercise will work trifold, concentrating on biceps, triceps, and your shoulders.
Ryan Barnhart, MS, PES, is a certified Performance Enhancement
and Injury Prevention Specialist through the National Academy of Sports
Medicine (NASM). He also holds a master's degree in exercise science, as well as a bachelor of sport management, both from California University of Pennsylvania. Ryan has worked with numerous collegiate and amateur
athletes across many different fields. Ryan also has had the opportunity
to work with several professional athletes. Recently he has worked with
amateur and professional athletes within the emerging sport of Mixed
Ryan is currently the director of fitness at a 700+ member gym near Pittsburgh, PA. He enjoys working with weekend warriors, athletes, and everyone in between. You can contact Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.