In addition to appearance, it is very important to maintain strength in those arms, as they are needed for practically every upper body movement we perform. We often take our 23 arm muscles for granted, until we reach a point where it suddenly becomes difficult to push off a chair to a standing position or get off the floor. Weak arms can affect other parts of our body as well. When you strengthen your back by doing a lat pulldown, you will need strong biceps muscles to perform the movement. And pushups would be very difficult to perform if you had weak triceps.
Meet your biceps, triceps and forearms
The major muscles of the arms include the biceps, triceps and forearms.
The two-headed biceps muscles located in the front of the upper arm, between the front of the shoulder and elbow, are responsible for flexing our arms at the elbow and at the shoulder. They also help with shoulder rotation (good for a strong forehand in tennis). Its partners, as they work together, are the three-headed triceps muscles found in the back of the upper arm, starting from the lower shoulder and ending at the elbow. The triceps are often thought of as the "flappy muscle" women love to hate. While biceps help to bend arms, triceps will extend arms at the elbow. Whenever you push anything, you are using your triceps muscles. It is important to strengthen both muscle groups equally. If one group is stronger or weaker than the other, you could be setting yourself up for injuries as a result of strength imbalances. The muscles of the forearm are located between the elbow and the wrist and are responsible for bending and extending the wrist, plus rotating the forearm.
Do’s and don’ts
Don’t neglect your shoulders in an arm workout, as shoulder muscles help with the range of motion.
Do use good form. Poor form is not only ineffective, but it can be dangerous. When doing biceps curls and triceps extensions, do not use your shoulders and back to "throw" or swing the weight. Rocking back and forth is an indication that the weight you are lifting is too heavy. Lifting and lowering weights with control adds more muscle power by maintaining tension on the muscle. It also offers more protection to the elbow joint, shoulders and back.
You can lift weight in isolation, but you can save time and amp up the calorie burn by adding an exercise that will make it a compound move. An example would be a squat and biceps combination, which works the biceps and, in addition, the thighs, calves, glutes and lower back.
You can also strengthen your arms without using weights by performing what is called a body weight exercise. You’ll use your own body weight for these strength exercises, which include pushups and planks. And a big plus: These exercises involve other muscle groups as well.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can’t respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at [email protected]