Looking good in sleeveless clothes isn't the only reason to have toned arms. Having stronger arms can add strength and power to your golf swing and tennis stroke. The 23 muscles in each arm are often taken for granted until the day we find it difficult to get up from sitting in a chair or on the floor. Don't neglect shoulders in your arm workout. They give you range of motion. Don't neglect your wrists, either.
Meet your biceps, triceps and forearms
The biceps are involved in many daily upper arm movements, such as carrying and picking things up. They are located in the front of the upper arm, between the shoulder and the elbow. The triceps, the "flabby muscle" that women love to hate, are in back of the upper arm, directly behind the biceps. Whenever you push anything, you are using your triceps. The biceps and triceps work as a pair; when biceps contract, the arm bends, and when the triceps contracts, the arm will lengthen. You need to strengthen both muscle groups. When one muscle group is stronger or weaker than the other, you create a vulnerability for developing injuries to the arm and shoulder. The muscles of the forearm, located between the elbow and wrist, extend and flex the wrist, plus rotate the forearm. They play a big role in providing you with a strong grip.
Do's and don'ts
Vary weights: Your biceps muscles are relatively small so you will not be able to use as much weight as you do for your chest and back.
Avoid jerking and swinging: The proper way to perform any isolated arm exercise is to not move the lower body, chest or back; you want to move from the elbow joint only.
Don't rock and roll: Rocking back and forth while lifting the weight generally indicates the weight is too heavy and could strain your back.
Use the right weights: For beginners, women should use 3- to 5-pound weights. Men should use 8- to 10-pound weights. Increase weight gradually, performing 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions.
Don't rush the moves: Lift and lower weights with a controlled motion, rather than using momentum, as this will add more muscle power by maintaining tension on the muscle. It also protects the elbow joint.
Contract abdominals: And relax your knees to prevent injuries to your lower back.
Take a seat: If you have lower back issues, doing exercises in a seated position offers more support for your back.
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 [email protected]