If your regular arms routine is a few sets of half-hearted curls, you might be looking to kick it up a few notches. This biceps and triceps workout will do just that—in only 10 minutes.
You don’t need a long, drawn-out workout to really challenge your arms. What you do need to do, though, is train smart, so you can get in a whole lot of work in a short amount of time.
For an arms workout, that means picking exercises that challenge your biceps (the muscle in the front of your upper arm) and your triceps (the muscle in the back of your upper arm) by working them from different angles, Dane Miklaus, C.S.C.S., CEO and owner of Work training studio in Irvine, California, tells SELF.
That means your bicep curl variations should ideally include different grips—a hammer grip, where your palms face each other, will hit your muscles a little differently than a supinated grip, where your palms face up—as well as rotation at the shoulder, he says. The same applies to tricep exercises, where the pronated grip (palms facing your body) helps you with the “pushing” movement in exercises like dips.
Even though your biceps and triceps are smaller muscles, they can put out a lot of force, says Miklaus. Still, if you’re only working your arm muscles, you need to make sure they don’t fatigue too quickly. That’s why this biceps and triceps workout alternates biceps moves with triceps work.
“We want to make sure we oscillate between the two, basically taking tension off one while working the other,” Miklaus says. That’s especially helpful because biceps and triceps are opposing muscle groups worked by the same joint, the elbow: So while one works, its opposite is not only resting, but actually also getting in a good stretch, since the same joint is still working.
Exercise physiologists call this “reciprocal inhibition,” but what it really means for you is that you can get a whole lot more quality work done in a lot less time—without over-fatiguing.
You can use this workout as a standalone arms routine—it’s a solid way to get in a heart-pumping workout in just 10 minutes—or you can consider it a finisher for a full-body or upper-body workout when you want to include some extra focus on your biceps and triceps. While your arms also work during compound moves (your biceps assist your “pulling” muscles in moves like rows, while your triceps help your “pushing” muscles in moves like chest presses and overhead presses), this workout is a great way to isolate them to really make them work hard.
Want to give this biceps and triceps workout a shot? Here’s what you need to get started.
What you need: A set or two of light dumbbells, and a step or box for the tricep dips. Choose the weight for this wisely: Because this workout is intended to be done without resting between exercises, you’ll definitely want to go with lighter weight than what you would normally use for these moves. (I used 5-pounds dumbbells for everything here, and I was really feeling it by the end.) You can go slightly heavier on moves like the cross-body curl, since you’re working one arm at a time, but one set of dumbbells should be just fine.
For circuit 1, complete each exercise for 40 seconds (switching sides halfway through for the cross-body single-arm curl). Try not to rest between exercises. Rest for 20 seconds at the end of the circuit. Complete 2 rounds total.
For circuit 2, complete each exercise for 40 seconds. Try not to rest between exercises or rounds. Complete 2 rounds total.
Demoing the moves below are Nathalie Huerta (GIF 1), coach at The Queer Gym in Oakland, CA; Rachel Denis (GIF 2), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York State powerlifting records; Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength; and Denise Harris (GIFs 3, 5, and 7), a NASM-certified personal trainer and Pilates instructor based in New York City.
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