Tips to build strong, toned arms
For every sleeveless t-shirt and thin-strapped tank top in this world, there is a man or woman staring in the mirror wishing their arms were strong and sculpted. It’s time to stop wishing and start lifting something heavy.
Fortunately, NFP's expert team of trainers are offering strength training tips and arm toning exercises to build maximum muscle from your biceps and triceps, to your forearms, and everywhere in-between.
1. Train every part of the muscle
Despite what the movies show, doing bicep curls for hours on end will increase your arm strength to a point, but will not result in evenly toned arms. Building uniform muscle tone means you need to train every muscle group. To better understand how to train, get to know the anatomy of your arms.
Bicep:Considered the showpiece of your arms, your bicep helps rotate your forearm and, when your hand is palm-up, flexes the forearm. Unfortunately, the bicep is a relatively small muscle, so target strength training is necessary to build your bicep peak.
Get strong biceps with these arm exercises:
Brachialis: While this muscle flexes the forearm, it is located on the upper part of your arm near your bicep. It is difficult to strengthen this muscle with regular bicep curls.
Target your brachialis with arm toning exercises including:
Strengthening this muscle has an added benefit – a larger brachialis builds underneath your main bicep muscle, helping your bicep to peak higher when flexed.
Triceps: As the name suggests, your triceps are composed of three different attachment points, or heads. The triceps muscles contract to extend your elbow joint.
For an effective triceps workout, focus on arm strengthening exercises including:
Though individually, your triceps are smaller muscles, they make up about two-thirds of the muscle mass in your arms. Training every part of the muscle will help you develop strong, well-defined arms.
Pronator Teres: This muscle is located on the underside of your forearm and helps rotate your hand to the palm-down position.
Strengthen this arm muscle with a wrist curl.
Brachioradialis: When your palm is facing down, the brachioradialis flexes your forearm.
Strengthen this muscle with exercises including:
Biceps are important, but make every muscle in your arm a “glamour muscle” by diversifying your strength training exercises to target every muscle group.
2. Switch up the reps
Cycle high rep, medium rep, and low rep periods of training. Each approach has its own benefits and pitfalls.
- High rep (15 or more) sets help you build muscle stamina, but aren’t particularly helpful when it comes to building muscle mass.
- Medium rep (8-12) sets allow the muscle optimum time under tension – about 30-60 seconds. This method also allows maximum hormone response without dipping into protein stores for energy. A medium rep range also leads to dramatic pumps, which can be highly motivating.
- Low rep (5 or fewer) sets are key when developing strength, but lower reps mean shorter sets, and shorter sets mean the muscle is under tension for a shorter period of time. The muscle needs time under tension to gain mass.
When mixing high, medium, and low rep sets, begin your arm workout with your low rep sets first. Repping the highest weight at the beginning of the workout, when you’re fresh, enhances muscle hypertrophy, which leads to increased muscle size.
3. Focus and Flex
During your sets, visualize the muscle you’re training. This will help you lift with a higher intensity and proper form, which leads to maximum muscle strength and size. When you are working your bicep, triceps, and forearm muscles, hold your position for a long count at the peak of each exercise to make the lift more intense.
4. Get your mind right
Not all biceps are created equal. Much of the shape of your arm is predetermined by genetics – but that doesn’t mean you can’t shape what your mama gave you. Instead of focusing on what you can’t change, practice some positivity before your trip to the gym. Before going to the gym:
- Blast some music that motivates you – whether it be classical to form your focus, heavy metal to get your blood pumping, or a little “Eye of the Tiger” for some Rocky-style inspiration.
- Visualize your workout and picture your arm muscles gaining strength and building muscle
5. Train your whole body
When someone asks you to flex your muscles – what do you picture? It’s likely a bicep flex. Your biceps and other arm muscles are definitely show muscles, but don’t neglect to train the rest of your body or you may end up with a flashy set of biceps and a sagging midsection or flabby legs.