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.
“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