First, let’s keep in mind what the muscles we want to target actually do. The back of your upper arms – your triceps – are responsible for extending your arm. Your biceps – the front of the upper arms – do the opposite, bringing your arms in. Any time you push, your triceps are involved, while biceps help us pull. Now for some of my favorite moves:
Bench/Chair Dip: Awesome triceps move. Begin seated on a weight bench or chair with legs fully extended in front of you, feet on the floor. Place your hands on the edge of the bench and move your hips forward and just off the bench so that your arms are supporting your weight. Slowly dip down (let your hips sink) toward floor until you feel a stretch in your shoulders, and immediately push back up. That’s one repitition. Maintain good form: Don’t let your back stray from the bench (you should feel the bench come in gentle contact with your back as you dip), and don’t let your elbows flare out to the sides too much – try pointing them more behind you than out to the sides. Dip slow on the way down and a little quicker on the way up, and strive to stay in constant motion. If legs out is too challenging, bring your feet in and perform with bent knees.
Dumbbell Curl to Overhead Press: Double whammy that hits both biceps AND triceps, with an added bonus of sculpting the shoulders. Start with a dumbbell in each hand, hands at your sides. Chest out, shoulders back (my clients know it as “proud chest”). Curl the dumbbells up while keeping elbows back to roughly shoulder height, palms facing you. Then push the dumbbells straight up over your head, rotating your wrist on the way up so that your palms face away from you when your arms are fully extended overhead. Reverse all motions – re-rotate wrists as you return dumbbells to shoulder height (palms facing you again), and slowly lower the weights back to the starting position (keeping elbows back).
Lying Dumbbell Extensions: Another fave for the triceps. Lying on a bench face up, hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms fully extended straight up and palms facing each other. From this starting position, lock your upper arms in place and lower the dumbbells to either side of your head, keeping your elbows from flaring out while you do so (they should stay roughly in line with your shoulders or just outside). Lower the weights until you feel a nice stretch in your triceps and reverse the motion, extending both arms back up to the starting position. The only things moving are your lower arms (forearms). For an added core kick try these lying on an exercise ball.
Chin-Ups: Sneaky powerhouse for the biceps, and a great back move as well. Perform chin-ups with palms facing you and a shoulder-width or slightly closer grip to focus on the biceps. Can’t do a chin up? Try finding something you can chin-up to that’s closer to the floor (an indoor adjustable chin bar, a smith machine bar, parallel bars at the park, a barbell in a squat rack…you get the point) and do seated pull ups, where your legs are out in front of you, thus reducing the amount of body weight you’re moving. Alternatively you can do close-grip lat pulldowns.
Try working these moves into your current routine, being mindful not to overtrain your arms (hitting them two to three times a week is plenty), and keep the work volume realistic – depending on your training experience, start with 2 sets of 12-20 reps and get the form perfect. Be consistent and seek progress (e.g. performing a few more reps in each subsequent workout, increasing weight used, etc.). If you’re looking to slim down and tone up, cardio work and monitoring your calorie intake are key, as you won’t see your beautiful muscle tone if it’s hidden under fat. Enjoy!