Armed & Ready
Pump Up Your Biceps and Triceps for Optimal Health
What motivates you to finish that second set of arm reps? For many of us,
it's achieving perfectly cut biceps or feeling confident in a sleeveless top.
But building arm strength isn't important just for looking great, hauling
groceries or even doing chores. Toned limbs --- along with a conditioned,
strong body --- are a vital part of our general health.
They can also help us stay slim. Having more muscle improves metabolism of
glucose and fat, and helps to stabilize your weight.
Two major muscles are involved in arm strength -- the biceps and triceps.
Leg muscles get the bulk of action during the day, but our biceps and triceps
hold a close second place. If you understand these muscles and how they
function, you'll be one step closer to making them stronger.
Biceps are muscles in the front of the arm and are actually two muscles in
one --- a long and a short. The biceps' primary function is to flex the elbow,
allowing us to lift or pull something. As the bicep shortens and contracts, the
elbow bends. Biceps are involved in pulling and carrying. Whenever your elbow
is bent or you're holding a child, pulling a drawer open, lifting a cat ---
you're using your biceps.
Triceps comprise the back of your arm -- everything behind your biceps. They
include three muscles: two short ones behind the bone, and a longer one that
crosses the shoulder joint. The triceps straighten or extend your elbow join
and are involved in movements like pushing open a door, throwing a ball or
pushing a lawn mower.
If you want to build strength --- as well as symmetrical, great-looking arms
--- be sure your workouts target both the triceps and biceps. You'll be armed
for any task at hand!
To begin your bicep and tricep workouts, select a hand weight you can lift
12 to 15 times with good form. Here are two exercises to get you started:
Bicep Curl: Hold two dumbbells to
each side, with palms facing in and arms straight. To start a bicep curl, bring
one elbow to the side, raise the dumbbell, and rotate the forearm until it is
vertical and palm faces shoulder. Lower to original position and repeat with
opposite arm. Continue to alternate between sides.
Tricep Kickbacks: These exercises
will balance out your workout. Kneel over a bench or couch with one arm
supporting your body. The other arm, holding the dumbbell, is parallel to the
floor with elbow bent. Extend the arm downward until it is straight. Return to
original position and repeat. Switch to the opposite arm.
Beginners can start by doing one set, three times a week, every other day.
Later on, to continue building strength, you may want to increase weight on
your dumbbells. Check sporting goods stores for little donut-shaped magnets to
stick on either end of your dumbbells. It's an easy way to add weight. Just
remember, when you add weight, do fewer sets.