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Minimize flabby arms with triceps exercises

This month, we've got some exercises to strengthen and tone the "jiggly wigglies." For a winning combination, remember to mix it up with a bit of cardio. Patt, 72, and David McBane, 76, of St. Petersburg demonstrate the exercises. (If you have arm or shoulder concerns, check with your physician before performing the exercises.) Sally Anderson

Triceps overhead extension on stability ball

Sitting or standing, hold a weight overhead. Keeping back straight and abdominals contracted, bend arms at the elbows, lowering the weight behind your head, keeping elbows close to your head. Slowly return weight to overhead by straightening the arms, never locking the elbows. Tips: Do not allow head to fall forward, keep looking straight ahead. You might want to sit in a chair with a pillow behind your back.

Two triceps stretches for the back of upper arms

Bring one arm across your upper chest to the opposite shoulder, using your other hand to bring elbow closer to shoulder. Hold stretch for 10 to 20 seconds, then repeat on other side. Tips: Do not try to lift arm above the shoulder. Take several deep breaths while stretching. Next, raise arm over your head, bending the elbow until your hand drops behind your neck, elbow pointing upward, using other arm to stabilize your elbow. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, then repeat stretch on the other side.

Triceps kickback

Step forward with a bent right knee; back leg remains straight. Place right hand on ball or other support. Holding a weight in your left hand with palms facing inward, begin with your left arm at your side, elbow bent about 90 degrees. Extend left arm to the back until arm is straight. Moving from the elbow, without moving the upper arm, return arm to original bent position and repeat for desired repetitions. Tips: Lean slightly forward from the hips. Contracting abdominals and relaxing the knees will help to protect your back.

Flabby arms bugging you? The battle to remove arm "jiggles" ranks at the top of the annoyance list for many. The muscle responsible for all this hanging flab? The triceps.

Located directly behind the biceps muscle (itself on the front of the upper arm), the triceps muscle accounts for approximately 60 percent of the upper arm's muscle mass and extends from the shoulder to the elbow. It's actually three muscle segments, the largest of which, the long head, is positioned directly under your arm — the area that can do the most jiggling.

Aging causes the skin to lose elasticity for both men and women, but women are more vulnerable to underarm flab than men because they tend to have a higher percentage of body fat and less upper body muscle.

"The combination of more body fat and less muscle mass equals flabbiness," says Josh O'Brien, an exercise physiologist in the Sports, Rehabilitation and Performance Center at the Weill Cornell-affiliated Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

Aside from vanity, there are practical reasons for increasing the strength of this muscle. The triceps are involved with every activity that requires you to extend your arms.

Whenever you push anything, your triceps are working and they also help support and stabilize the shoulder and biceps. Their primary function is to extend the elbow, straightening the arm.

Because the biceps and triceps muscles work together for bending and straightening the arm, you need to strengthen them equally to avoid muscle imbalances that can cause pain and injuries.

If the triceps become weak, it's difficult to enjoy many of life's activities, whether it is playing sports, playing with the kids or simply reaching for something on the top shelf. It could also become difficult to get out of a chair, because you need strong triceps to help push up to a standing position.

Train your triceps

Just as with other muscles in your body, you can perform triceps strengthening exercises up to three nonconsecutive days a week; you need a day of rest between workouts. Strengthen triceps as part of a whole-body workout, including a cardio activity.

Some tips:

• Always warm up before beginning your workout: five minutes on a stationary bike, treadmill or just walking.

• You have a variety of resistance options: free weights, resistance bands, machines or cables.

• Your triceps muscles are fairly small, so you will not use as heavy a weight as you would for larger muscles like your chest or back.

• Make your movements smooth with a feeling of control; no fast jerky movements.

• As your strengthening routine becomes easier, add a small amount of weight.

• Vary the weight routine: Select two or three different exercises for the triceps.

• If your goal is endurance and strength, aim for one to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.

If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning any exer­cise program. Trainer Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. She can be reached at

Minimize flabby arms with triceps exercises 03/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 4:30am]
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