Weight Lifting: Arms – Exercises For Biceps And Triceps

weight lifting armsA lot of bodybuilders enjoy working on their arms although it may take time to see any improvements in building lean muscle mass in that area. Doing workouts to increase the size and strength of your biceps and triceps may seem easier than focusing on other parts of your body, such as calves, due to the lower “burn factor” when you work on your arms. It can be fun to watch yourself in the mirror as you curl a weight or perform an exercise such as a triceps cable press down, noting how much your arms swell up after each rep. And if you have very little body fat, you may even enjoy watching the blood pumping in your veins!

Since the arm area isn’t as complicated as some of your other muscle groups such as the legs or the back, it can be easier to train them. There aren’t many weight lifting exercises to do for arms, but you can change up your training program by placing your hands in different positions on the equipment you use. However, there are some important points you need to know before you start your arms workouts.

Don’t Be Tempted To Over-Train Your Arms

You would think that over-training would give you a better chance of building bigger muscles, but you’re wrong. Over-training the arms can make building lean muscle almost impossible. Because the arms and shoulders are used when doing compound exercises for the chest and back muscles, it’s not unusual for them to become over-trained. So before you start figuring out how many reps and sets you need to do on your arms, you need to take into account the other compound exercises you’ll be doing first.

The Triceps Are Very Important!

It’s easy for beginners to forget about working on their triceps because they want to build huge biceps to wow their friends and the opposite sex. However, it’s very important to do the same amount of exercises for the biceps and the triceps, as the biceps muscle makes up only one third of the upper arm and the triceps muscle constitutes two thirds of the muscle mass in the upper arm!

Make Sure You Train The Arms Near The End Of The Workout

It’s important to keep your strength for hard exercises, like pull-ups and bench presses, so make sure you do compound exercises like those first, and then work on your arms at the end of your workout. This way, you’re targeting the larger muscle groups while you’re fresh and have plenty of strength and then, when you’re getting tired towards the end of your workout, you should still be able to perform your arm routines, as they’re a smaller muscle group and do not require as much strength.

Changing Your Hand Grip To Add Variety To Your Workout

When you work on your biceps and triceps muscles, you’ll be doing nearly all isolation exercises that use the elbow extension (triceps) or elbow flexion (biceps). This restricts the number of exercises you can accomplish. One way you can this is to use different hand positions on the equipment in order to focus on the various sections of each muscle.

There are three different hand positions you can choose from for the majority of arm exercises. Each different position will place more importance on a definitive part of the muscle. Here are the three hand positions:

  • Palms Down - This hand position focuses on the front forearm muscle and the medial (inside) head of the triceps muscle.
  • Palms Up - This hand position focuses on the lateral (outer) head of the triceps muscle and the long and short heard of the biceps muscle.
  • Palms Facing Each Other - This hand position focuses on the brachioradialis muscle that’s located in the front of the arm, the long head of the biceps and the three heads of the triceps muscle.

The Two Main Arm Muscles To Focus On In Your Workouts:


arm muscles diagram

  • Biceps - This muscle is made up of a short head and a long head. Each head comes from a distinctive region of the scapula (shoulder blade) but joins at the same place on the radius (forearm). The biceps muscle is mainly involved in the movement of the flexion of the elbow joint which moves the forearm towards the biceps. Example biceps exercises: Pull-up, any form of rows, dumbbell curls, cable curls and barbell curls.
  • Triceps - The triceps muscle is made up of the long head, the medial head and the later head. Each head comes from distinctive areas near the shoulder joint, but enters at the same location near the elbow joint (on the ulna). The main responsibility of the triceps muscle is to stretch out the elbow joint, swinging the forearm away from the biceps muscle. Triceps exercises include: Narrrow grip barbell press, bench dips (narrow grip), dumbbell extension, cable extension and push-up (narrow hand position).

Weight Lifting Exercises For Your Arms:

Below is a list of exercises for your biceps and your triceps. This is not a complete list of exercises, but I’ve hand picked the most important ones you should focus on to build the most muscle quickly.

Simply click on one of the arm exercises below to see how it’s performed:

Dumbbell Bicep Curls

Mechanics Type: Isolation

Primary Mover: Biceps

Secondary Movers: Traps, Deltoids, Forearms

Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging down and your palms facing your body as they grip the dumbbell. Move each arm one at a time as you lift your arm and curl it towards your torso at the same time. At the peak of the motion squeeze the biceps of the arm holding the dumbbell and lower the weight back to the starting point in a controlled motion. Now repeat the exercise with the alternate arm.

Tips:

Concentrate on just using biceps to lift the weight. Not your shoulders. Don’t forget to contract your biceps at the peak of the rep.

You don’t have to stand stiffly while you do this exercise. You can move normally as you curl the dumbbell towards your body, so your body can lean forward a bit at the start of the exercise and then you can sway back a little as you bring the weight up. Doing this can keep injuries from happening and you’ll probably be able to handle heavier weights. You don’t have to lift the weight like a robot in order to have “good form.”

If your biceps aren’t feeling the tension any more as you curl the dumbbell, then you may have curled it too far and you’re probably using too much of your shoulder muscles to lift the weight.

EZ-Bar Bicep Curls

Mechanics Type: Isolation

Primary Mover: Biceps

Secondary Movers: Traps, Deltoids, Forearms

For this exercise you’re going to stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Now carefully pick up the bar making sure you use your leg muscles to lift, as you don’t want to hurt your back or shoulders. Clasp the bar with your palms facing upwards and make sure your hands are placed on it shoulder width apart. Make sure your arms are extended as far as possible so your biceps will get a maximum stretch. Curl up the bar towards you until you can feel your biceps fully contracted, then carefully lower the weight to the starting point.

Tips:

It’s important to let your body move naturally while doing this exercise. So make sure your back is able to move forward and backward a little as you curl up the weight and as you carefully lower it. Following this tip can help you work your biceps to their maximum capacity, help prevent injuries, and create more power in your movements.

Incline Dumbbell Bicep Curls

Mechanics Type: Isolation

Primary Mover: Biceps

Secondary Movers: Traps, Deltoids, Forearms

Some people find this to be a hard exercise, so make sure you use a weight than you can handle easily. Lie on an incline bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Your palms will be facing each other. You can do this exercise with alternate arms or bring up both arms at the same time. Now lift up the weight while turning your arm towards your shoulder, so you’re really working that bicep. Your wrist should have turned around so that the palm of your hand is facing your body at the peak of the motion. Stop for a second, then squeeze your bicep muscle and return to the starting point. Do as many reps as you can.

Tips:

Your aim is to get a good stretch going at the bottom of the movement.

Don’t let the tension leave your bicep because you’ve brought up the weight too high.

Make sure you use slow, controlled movements while performing each rep.

Bicep Hammer Curls

Mechanics Type: Isolation

Primary Mover: Biceps

Secondary Movers: Traps, Deltoids, Forearms

Stand up with your feet shoulder width apart and clasp a dumbbell in each hand. Use your legs to help lift the dumbbells. Don’t use your back or you could injure yourself. Now, with your palms curling around the dumbbells and facing each other, bring the weights up one at a time. When you’re at the peak of the motion, make sure you squeeze that bicep. Then carefully lower the dumbbell to the starting point. Alternate reps between each arm until you’ve completed the set.

Tips:

You can allow your body to move slightly as you bring the weight up. This helps prevent injuries and will make sure you fully stimulate your muscle fibers. But remember not to lift the weights too high, as all the tension will flow out of the biceps and put more stress on your shoulders.

EZ-Bar Reverse Grip Bicep Curls

Mechanics Type: Isolation

Primary Mover: Biceps

Secondary Movers: Traps, Deltoids, Forearms

Grip the bar, making sure your elbows are at your sides and carefully curl up the weight until you can feel maximum contraction in your biceps. Then carefully and slowly bring the weight back down to the starting point as you breathe out.

Tips:

Remember you’re not using your shoulders in this exercise; it’s all about the biceps. It’s important to have complete control over the bar at all times. If you can’t keep your elbows still and at your sides then the weight you’re lifting is too heavy.

You’re actually doing normal reverse bicep curls but using the EZ curl bar helps take that extra stress off your wrists and you also get improved muscle contraction at the peak of the motion. Don’t forget you’ll be using an overhand grip in order to focus on the brachialis muscle. If you develop these forearm muscles, your arms will look a lot bigger than they really are.

Bench Dips

Mechanics Type: Isolation

Primary Mover: Triceps

Secondary Movers: Biceps, Forearms, Traps

If you want to target your triceps, then bench dips may be your new best friend. These exercises are done similarly to bar dips, but with bench dips, the heels of your feet are resting on another bench. You won’t be handling as much weight as you do in bar dips, but your goal here is to really focus on squeezing those triceps at the peak of each movement.

To begin, you need 2 benches spread about 4 or 5 feet apart. Put the heels of your feet on one bench and the palms of your hands on the other bench. This will leave you stretched out with your butt facing the ground and your weight being supported by your arms which are behind you.

Keeping your body close to the bench lower your body down until you get a good stretch. Then push yourself back up to complete the rep.

Tips:

You’ll get better results if you can go down completely and feel the stretch at the bottom of each motion. You’ll be able to do higher reps than if you were doing bar dips and you’ll really feel a burn in your arms as you reach the higher reps.

Cable Tricep Pushdowns

Mechanics Type: Isolation

Primary Mover: Triceps

Secondary Movers: Traps, Forearms, Lats, Abs, Deltoids, Pecs

This exercise isolates the triceps. You can use special machines for these pushdowns, but if you can’t get access to one, you can use a lat pulldown machine instead. Now grip the bar with your palms facing down. Stand with your shoulders pulled back, knees slightly bent, and your chest out. Push down on the weight making sure you’re only using your forearms and triceps. You only want your forearm to move because it’s bending at the elbow. No other parts of your body should be moving. Breathe out as you push all the way down, then come up, making sure you’re doing everything controlled and slow. When you come back up you will only bring your arms back up until they are parallel with the floor. This is as far as you need to come back up. Then push back down for your next rep.

Tips:

Make sure your elbows are by your sides. Don’t use your shoulders or bodyweight to push down on the weight. Don’t hunch over, either. But you can bend your knees as it will help keep you more stable.

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