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Arm Exercises to Tighten and Tone

Here you'll find exercises to get those biceps and triceps in shape -- just in time for spring

WebMD Feature

Whether you want to tone and define weak arms so that you can wear something sleeveless with confidence or you want to increase muscle mass, working the muscles in the front and back of the upper arms will help you get there.

But toned arms give you much more than visual satisfaction.

"These are the muscles you use on a daily basis for the activities of daily living," says WebMD exercise physiologist Rich Weil, MEd, CDE.

Richard Cotton, spokesman for the American Council on Exercise, agrees. "It is the arms that help you lift the groceries out of the trunk, pick up a chair, and rake the leaves," says Cotton. Those, he says, are the more important reasons for including arm exercises in a fitness program.

It's Not All About Looking Good

"We're really stuck on wanting to look good and that's alright, but it's really one goal of the program and only one of the benefits," he says. "Exercise is a body tune-up, and if we're keeping our body exercised, we're keeping it tuned just like a car."

When working the arms, be sure to balance the body, Cotton says.

"We tend to make the mistake of exercising only our show muscles," he says. "And that's actually an imbalanced program. We pay too much attention to the muscles in front of our body and not enough attention to the back of the body."

On the most basic level, this doesn't build the whole muscle.

"The reality is," says Weil, "if you want big arms, you've got to work both sides of the arms. When someone flexes their biceps, it's the whole arm that's working. The triceps are a part of that."

Taken to the extreme, imbalances can lead to physical injuries, he says. If you consistently work the front of the thighs (quadriceps) but never the back (hamstrings), for example, the hamstrings will weaken, tighten, and cause you to pull or strain a muscle. Over time, it may lead to back pain from the tight hamstrings pulling you out of alignment.

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