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Strength Training: Building Arm Muscles

Exercises for biceps and triceps
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

The most famous technique for building arm muscles is the curl, which increases the size of the biceps. Some trainers, however, make fun of this exercise as “curls for the girls” because men often neglect other muscle groups in their rush to build biceps suitable for display in tight T-shirts.

But building strength and muscle mass in the arms isn’t just for show. It’s very important for activities of everyday life, such as carrying groceries, lifting grandchildren, and even driving.

Keeping upper body strength as you age

“Maintaining muscle mass and muscle strength is very important in the upper extremities,” says Chhanda Dutta, a scientist with the National Institute on Aging who studies the effect of exercise on older people. “We use our upper extremities for so many activities of daily living.”

Resistance training, according to Dutta, is the best way to combat sarcopenia — the gradual loss of muscle mass that comes with aging.

“You begin losing skeletal muscle in your 30s,” Dutta says. “By the time you’re about 50, you have approximately a 10 percent loss of muscle mass. After that it speeds up about two percent per year. By 80, you could have 40 percent loss of muscle mass. Anything you can do in terms of weight training and resistance training is going to help preserve muscle mass and muscle strength.”

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