Building Arm Muscle
the Right Way
Armed for summerAugust 26, 2020
Armed for summerAugust 26, 2020
It is sweltering outside, and we are stripping off layers left, right and centre. But exposing all this skin can sometimes show off parts of the body that we have neglected during our training sessions throughout the year. Whatever the goal, be it more definition, greater strength, or a higher percentage of lean muscle mass, we’ve got some tips and tricks to help you sculpt some sexy arms this summer. Plus, stick around for a bonus workout circuit.
Arm Muscle 101
Having a strong upper body isn’t purely aesthetic; by maintaining your arm muscles, performing other physical activities becomes easier, you lower your chance of injury and boost your metabolism at the same time.
Building muscle mass involves hypertrophy—breaking down and rebuilding muscle. There are three essential elements to consider when training your arms: intensity, volume and frequency.
How much do you lift?
- Intensity involves finding the right weight to sufficiently challenge yourself. You’re looking to lift heavy enough that you are working the fibres but are still able to do enough repetitions to stress the tissue. Seek moderately heavy weights, about 65% of your one repetition max.
How long do you lift?
- Volume is the number of reps and sets you’re doing. Don’t lift until you cannot lift anymore but rather until you are adequately fatigued. A good rule of thumb is that the last few reps of every set should feel a bit uncomfortable, like you’re challenging yourself.
How often do you lift?
- Frequency refers to how often you train. When you frequently and consistently train your arms, you steadily build up strength and muscle protein.
*Common Mistake: women often use weights that are too light to avoid bulking up. This will increase muscular endurance but won’t necessarily give the sculpted definition you are looking for.
Nutrition is key when it comes to any fitness goal. Especially when you are developing muscle, it is important to consider that you are eating enough raw materials to build the desired structure.
Make sure you are consuming enough calories to facilitate the results you are looking for. Best if these calories are made up of lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Protein is especially important to equip your body with the amino acids necessary to build muscle.
*Common Mistake: not eating enough! Building muscles takes energy, and your strength goals won’t become a reality if you are burning more than you consume.
The upper arm is composed of two main muscle groups which you have probably heard of: the biceps in the front and the triceps in the back. Each of these are made up of smaller ‘heads’—two in the biceps and three in the triceps. These are opposite functioning muscle groups that require different types of exercise to get trained.
If you’re spending ages in the gym and not seeing gains, maybe check that you are choosing the right movements. It is also vital that you change up your routine, especially if it currently only features curls on curls on curls. Overtraining without variety is another common mistake to avoid—you may be overbuilding in one area and neglecting others.
Go for complex movements that recruit more muscle fibres, instead of just single-joint exercises. Multi-joint compound exercises get more accomplished in a shorter amount of time.
At the beach, on a boat or simply wherever your vacation takes you, these are some practical and effective arm-boosting exercises to pack along.
Start with your feet hip-width apart, bending over and touching the floor with both hands. With straight legs and a tight core slowly walk your hands forward without collapsing your hips, moving through high-plank position. Pause at your maximum and then slowly walk your feet towards your hands. This is 1 rep. Complete 10-15.
- Push up w/ Balancing Ball
Start in plank position, with right hand on top of ball (can be a medicine ball, soccer ball—whatever you have available). With an engaged core and level hips, complete one lopsided push up. Swap the ball from right hand to left. Repeat on other side. This is 1 rep. Complete 10-15.
- Triceps Kickback
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees bent, leaning slightly forward. Hold weights (or anything appropriately heavy) in each hand, elbows bent 90-degrees by the side of your body, palms facing each other. Straighten arms and press weights back and up while squeezing triceps. Keep core engaged and breathe steadily. Return to start. This is 1 rep. Complete 15-20.
- Alternating Lunge with Bicep Curl
Start with feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Take a big step forward with right foot and lower down into a lunge until both legs form 90-degree angles. In this position, bend at both elbows to curl weights up to shoulder height. With control, lower weights, then press through right foot to extend legs and step back into start position. Swap legs and repeat. Complete 12-15 on each side.