Do these eight exercises—four using your own body weight and four using dumbbells. Then look forward to showing off your well-toned arms in four to six weeks. Another major bonus: You’ll also build bone strength to help protect against osteoporosis.
How to get started
What to lift: For dumbbell exercises, use five- to 10-pound weights. Once you can easily do 12 repetitions, try heavier weights.
The workouts: For each of the four target areas, do either the dumbbell or the body-weight routine three times per week. For a tougher workout, do both routines back to back. Take at least one day’s rest between workouts.
The repetitions: Complete one to two sets of eight to 12 repetitions for each of the exercises you do.
Target: Front of upper arms
1. Self-Resisted Curl
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and toes forward. Let right arm hang by your side with palm facing forward. Reach left arm across body, placing left palm on top of right palm.
B. Bend right elbow, bringing hand slowly up to the shoulder while pressing palms together to create
resistance. Keep right elbow close to body.
C. Still pressing palms together, lower right arm to your side. Complete the set; switch sides.
2. Horizontal Curl with Dumbbells
A. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, raise arms straight out to the sides until elbows and hands are almost level with shoulders, palms facing up.
B. Bend arms upward to 90 degrees, keeping upper arms parallel to floor and elbows level with shoulders (they’ll also benefit from this exercise). Palms face in.
C. Straighten arms to the starting position; repeat.
Target: front and middle of shoulders
Works: anterior and middle deltoids
3. Sideways Plank Walk
A. Get into a plank position: like a push-up, with arms straight and only the hands and toes on the floor. Tighten abs. Align hands under shoulders; place feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
B. Move your right hand about five inches (13 cm) to the right, then move your left hand the same distance to the left. Your hands should now be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
C. Return each hand to the starting position. Repeat, alternating leading hands.
4. Side Raise with Dumbbells
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, let your arms hang by your sides, palms facing in.
B. Keep a slight bend in your elbows as you raise your arms out to the sides until the dumbbells are level with shoulders and palms face the floor.
C. Lower your arms; repeat.
Target: Back of upper arms
5. Triceps Push-up
A. Get into a push-up position with arms straight but with knees on the floor and feet in the air. Hands should be under your shoulders but closer together than in a regular push-up.
B. Tighten abs and bend arms, bringing chest toward the floor. Keep upper arms close to your sides and back straight. Elbows should point behind, not out.
C. Straighten arms to the starting position; repeat.
6. Overhead Extension with Dumbbells
A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent, and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
B. Reach arms overhead, holding the dumbbells vertically. Keep wrists straight. Bend elbows, lowering the dumbbells behind head. Keep upper arms close to your head and elbows pointing toward the ceiling.
C. Straighten your arms upward; repeat.
Target: Back of shoulders
Works: Posterior deltoids
7. Prone Extension
A. Lie face down with legs straight, arms by sides with palms facing up. Place a folded towel under forehead.
B. Keep arms straight as you lift them slightly off the floor. Hold arms in the air for three seconds, squeezing the back of the shoulders together.
C. Return your arms to the floor; repeat.
8. Horizontal Row with Dumbbells
A. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and get on hands and knees. Keep back straight. Align knees under hips and right hand under right shoulder, palm facing in. With elbow slightly bent, reach left arm out to the side (keep dumbbell on floor). Your palm should be facing back.
B. Tighten abdominal muscles. Squeeze shoulder blades together and lift left arm up until the upper arm is parallel to the floor and elbow is slightly behind you. Your forearm should be hanging down with the palm facing back.
C. Return to start and finish the set; switch sides.
The Latest in Arm-Toning Tools
Dumbbells have a tight grip on the fitness scene, but other equipment can also strengthen your arms. Here are three widely available tools that have muscled their way into health clubs and home gyms.
- Kettlebell: Popular with Russian Olympians in the early 20th century, kettlebells resemble a cannonball with a handle. Unlike dumbbells, they require you to control their swinging motion, which works your legs and core while giving your arm muscles an intense workout.
- Resistance Band: Rubber bands come in a variety of intensities that differ in how hard they are to pull. They are portable, easy to stow away in a drawer and lightweight. (If you have kids, you don’t need to worry about a weight dropping on small toes.)
- Medicine Ball: Build your arm, chest and torso strength as you lift, lower, toss and catch this easy-to-grip weighted rubber ball. Weight increments vary from about two to 20 pounds.
March/April 2009 issue of Best Health magazine