Arms sometimes get neglected: with so many exercises and workouts focusing on getting tight abs or toned glutes, you might forget to do your upper body workout, too.
We’d all like to have sculpted arms and shoulders when we’re wearing a sleeveless shirt or dress. Beyond that, however, WebMD notes that shoulder and arm exercises are also some of the best ways to combat the poor posture many of us adopt while sitting at the computer or steering wheel. By including an upper body workout in your weekly routine, you’ll keep your muscles flexible and toned.
Ready to get started? Remember that for the best results, exercises should do more than target one muscle; spot reduction is not going to produce the same beautiful arms as a multi-muscle workout will.
Best arm exercises
For the exercises below, start with 2 or 3 sets of 12-15 reps, at least twice a week, and increase your reps or add another set as you get stronger.
Two of the best and most effective exercises for your shoulders are the lateral raise and overhead shoulder press. You can add variations and increasing reps and weight to make these more difficult.
This arm exercise, which works your lateral deltoids, is pretty simple: hold a dumbbell in each hand and let your arms hang by your sides. Slowly raise your arms to each side, keeping your elbows straightened, until your arms are at shoulder height. Lower and repeat. Do not raise your shoulders as you lift your arms.
Start with light weight but not too light that the exercise is too easy. Remember to challenge your muscles and always increase weight as weeks pass by.
Overhead shoulder press
Again holding on to your dumbbells, try this upper body workout: hold your arms to your sides, elbows bent at right angles so that your wrists are above your elbows. Slowly press the dumbbells upward until your arms are fully extended. Hold and lower slowly.
To add a bicep component to this move, start with your arms down in front of you, palms facing forward. Curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders, then move into the overhead press by rotating your arms as you press the weights upward.
Whether you’re looking to shed some excess jiggle from your triceps or add a little bit of muscle to a skinny upper arm, bodyweight dips are a great arm exercise. You can use a machine, but using just a bench forces you to maintain your balance, engaging your core muscles too.
Start by sitting on the bench, palms down and fingers wrapped over the front edge of the bench. With your legs extended in front of you and knees just slightly bent, slide forward off the bench so that you’re supporting yourself with your arms. Slowly dip down until your elbows reach 90 degrees, then push back up.
Remember to tighten your abs and glutes as you go, and keep good posture: don’t roll your shoulders forward.
Though bicep curls are definitely a good place to start for an upper body workout, you can go beyond that.
The reverse plank pull-up targets not only your biceps but your shoulders and deltoids, too, and only requires a sturdy bar. You can use a Smith machine at the gym, but even a bar at the playground would work!
Stand under the bar and hold it with your hands, palms up. Then walk forward until you’re fully extended in a reverse plank: your body should make a straight line. Slowly bend your elbows to pull yourself up and toward the bar, and then lower yourself, maintaining control.
A full upper body workout should include your forearms, even though they’re not always prioritized.
One of the simplest arm exercises is the wrist curl. With a small dumbbell of 3-5 pounds, stabilize your forearm on your thigh or a desk. Allow the weight to roll to the ends of your fingers, then curl it forward and upward as far as you can.
To reverse this, hold the dumbbells out in front of you, palms facing down. Curl your wrist upward so that you’re working the top of your forearm.
This move will tone both your biceps and forearms. Using dumbbells or a bar, start with your arms in front of you, palms facing inward. Slowly raise the weight outward, keeping your elbows tucked in to your body, until your wrists reach shoulder height. Lower and repeat.
As you develop your own upper body workout, remember to strengthen your core and lower body, as well. The benefits of strength training for women are numerous, so give these exercises a try the next time you’re at the gym.