It's official! Summer is here, bringing with it temps that call for shorter sleeves. If you're anything like me, you're wearing tank tops more and more (and your arms are pasty white). In honor of this major shift in seasons, I recommend adding some additional strength training to your repertoire of upper body moves. Here are a few of my favorites, all of which target the muscles in your arms.
1) HAMMER CURLS: Still a winner in my book. It really targets the entire biceps group (part of which extends past the elbow and into your forearm) to help you develop a nice, long muscle.
2) CABLE CURLS: If you're at the gym, set up a cable machine so that it hits right at shoulder height. Attach a handle to it, then step away from the machine until your arm is fully extended to your side and the cable itself is pulled tight. With your palm facing up, curl the cable into your shoulder for a nice tug at your bicep. Release slowly and repeat as desired. If you're not at the gym, you can rig up a cable curl machine using an exercise band. Tie a knot in one end of the band and secure it in a closed door. Proceed as previously described.
3) REVERSE CURLS: You can do these with a cable machine, dumbbells or a barbell. Grab whichever you've got available, palms facing down with arms at your side. Curl up, keeping your elbows in close the entire time. Not only will this work the bicep, it'll hit those oft-forgotten muscles in the wrist.
4) TRICEPS EXTENSIONS: So many ways to do these! What's your favorite? I recommend using a single dumbbell and standing tall, holding the weight in both hands behind your head. Contract your abs to give your lower back some additional support, then press the weight up, lower it and repeat. As you get stronger, you can try it with just one arm to increase the burn. I also like doing triceps extensions on an exercise ball. Hold a barbell with both hands above your chest as if you were going to bench press it. Bend at the elbows to bring the bar close to your head, then return to start and repeat.
5) REVERSE PUSH-DOWNS: Find a cable machine and attach a straight bar so that it falls at chest height. Grip the bar with your palms facing up, elbows in tight—which essentially puts you in a bicep curl position. Pull the bar down to your hips, slowly returning to start and repeating. Similar to the action on the biceps in the hammer curl, this move targets the entire triceps group which extends below the elbow. Again, you'll create a nice, long muscle.
6) DIPS: In my experience, people really hate dips. But I think you should learn to love them because they can be done absolutely anywhere. Really, anywhere. Find a bench to sit on, grab the edge of it close to your legs, then shift your weight just off of it. Keep your back close to the bench as you lower your weight until your arms hit the 90-degree mark. Straighten your arms and repeat. Bonus points if you can rest your feet on something. It lessens your ability to call on your leg muscles for help.
7) WRIST CURLS: Once again, we often forget about these smaller arm muscles. It's not a bad idea to work 'em every so often, especially if you frequently use a computer. Simply grab a set of light hand weights, resting your forearms on a bench so that your hands are hanging off the edge. Lift and lower, repeat. Do one set with your palms facing down, and another with your palms facing up.
8) DUMBBELL HOLDS: Yet another exercise that targets the wrists and forearms, and it couldn't be easier. Choose dumbbells that are slightly heavy for you, holding one in each hand for 20 to 60 seconds as shown below.
In addition to the above, you should also work with a medicine ball as virtually anything you do with it will call on your arm muscles in some way, shape or form. Whether you're throwing it, lifting it or juggling it—you'll feel the burn.