Whether it be male or female, all of us long for a set of toned arms. For men, it might be adding a bit more muscle while for women it might be the pursuit of more definition. Whatever the case may be, in a day and age where sleeveless shirts have become the norm, it’s become important to learn the basics of adding muscle and losing fat to our frames.
While there are some exercises that can sculpt muscle and create the illusion of appearing bigger than you really are, one of the most essential components of any sort of body recomposition is nutrition.
Having a balanced diet that refrains from overeating will be the pinnacle of success in any endeavour that hopes to achieve some sort of positive change in the body. But if you’re interested in adding exercises to your workout routine that target arm fat, take a look at the moves below.
1. Bicep Curl. Having more muscle not only increases one’s metabolism and ability to burn fat but it creates the illusion of looking ‘bigger.’ According to bodybuilding.com ‘stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length. Keep your elbows close to your torso and rotate the palms of your hands until they are facing forward. This will be your starting position.’ While this exercise can be performed with a barbell or a pair of dumbbells, the cable machine in this scenario offers a much more steady approach. By squeezing the handles firmly and focusing on contracting the bicep muscle in that particular range of motion which is forced by the cables, it ensures the most activation from the biceps.
2. Upright Row. The upright row performed with a kettlebell not only hits the delts but also engages the traps, some of the mid-back and also your biceps and triceps. Be sure to stand shoulder-width apart while maintaining tightness in the core. According to Men’s Health Fitness Director BJ Gaddour: ‘Many guys will pull the barbell or dumbbells all the way up to their chins—but when you lift your upper arms above your shoulders, it puts you at risk for shoulder impingement.’ He went on to say that it is important to make sure your body is tight all the way through and you are gripping the handles of the kettlebell firmly and pulling the weight to your chest instead of all the way up.
3. Push-up. The push-up is a great exercise for the arms because it engages the entire upper body. This form of a push-up with the use of a barbell is particularly effective because it places the upper body at an incline. According to excercise.com, ‘the incline barbell push-up is a callisthenics exercise that primarily targets the chest. The only incline barbell push-up equipment that you really need is the following: a barbell. There are however many different incline barbell push-up variations that you can try out that may require different types of incline barbell push-up equipment or may even require no equipment at all.’ Set up a barbell at a squat rack and set your feet close together. Put your arms out in a push-up position and press yourself towards the bar until it reaches near your upper chest.
4. Shoulder press. The shoulder press is a great exercise for the arms because it creates the ‘round’ look on the upper body and caps off the arms nicely. In an article from the Men’s Journal, Jim Wendler who is a strength coach from London, Ohio said: ‘the simple shoulder press activates more core muscles than a crunch and helps build the strength to heave bigger loads on every upper-body lift.’ The standing shoulder press is a great exercise because it is a fantastic muscle builder. Make sure your core is tight and find a weight that you can press for about 5 to 8 reps. Bring the weights down to your shoulders and press up firmly without locking out. Make sure to have someone spot you when you get near 5 reps.
5. Sanding dumbbell kickback. Having some big triceps can create the illusion of having gigantic arms. The standing dumbbell kickback can add some serious muscle to the triceps. According to muscleandperformance.com, ‘one of the most common ways to perform the triceps kickback is with a dumbbell in one hand, and the same side elbow pinned to your side. Your upper body is just above parallel to the floor with your knees bent.’ But in this variation, stand with the dumbbell above your head and keep your body tight. Ensure that your elbows are locked in and press the weight straight up.
6. Kettlebell swing. According to Onnit.com ‘[the kettlebell] will allow you to loosen your tight hips and strengthen your butt so that you’ll develop the rear end of an athlete. It will bulletproof your lower back by creating an armoured brace around your midsection, and it will get rid of that paunchy gut. And the kettlebell swing will force you to use all the muscles in your upper back, thus opening up your chest and forcing you out of the slouchy shoulder look that screams insecurity.’ The article went on to instruct a gym-goer to set their feet shoulder-width apart and as you begin the descent of the body squat, swing the kettlebell up from between your legs. Have control of the kettlebell and aim for 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps.
7. Kettlebell Row. The kettlebell row is a great exercise for the arms and the back. According to bodybuilding.com: ‘place a kettlebell in front of your feet. Bend your knees slightly and then push your butt out as much as possible as you bend over to get in the starting position. Grab the kettlebell and pull it to your stomach, retracting your shoulder blade and flexing the elbow. Keep your back straight. Lower and repeat.’
8. The most important “move”: a balanced diet. And finally, having a set of toned or muscular arms comes down to a balanced diet. According to Muscle and Strength, the single biggest factor to consider in matching your diet to your goal is total calorie intake. Making sure that you get the right amount of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates are essential to anybody’s recomposition. And sticking to a diet or meal plan that is adherable is of utmost importance since consistency is ultimately what breeds change. Make sure you consult a physical fitness and health professional before you make any changes to your diet and exercise habits.
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