Everyone who dreams of possessing the impressive body of a Greek god thinks of having an imposing torso and python arms. Arms are also referred to as ‘vanity muscles’ because most of the young gym-goers would put their well-build arms on display through their short-sleeve shirts and feel good when the heads turn. Jokes apart, one has to have powerful arms so as to be able to perform exercises perfectly with heavier weights because it is, after all, the arms that do most of the work in building chest and back to give one a well-built torso.
However, care must be taken so as to avoid overtraining because the overzealous efforts to build massive arms could result in damaging the muscles in the arm because this is a relatively smaller muscle group compared to the chest and back muscles. Furthermore, these muscles come into play when you are working on your chest and back, which makes them even more susceptible to overtraining.
Arms are comprised of two groups of muscles – the biceps and the triceps. The biceps are actually a set of smaller muscles and forms the front of the upper arms. It has two heads, which explains the ‘bi’ in the term ‘biceps’. The biceps are on top of the brachialis, which is a group of flat muscles running almost half way up the upper arm along the bone from the elbow joint.
As for the triceps, these are a three-head muscle group, as the name suggest, and forms the muscular portion of the back of the upper arm. The forearms are made of three primary muscle groups — the flexors, the extensors and the supinators. The forearm flexors run along the inner sides of the forearms whereas the extensors lie on the outer sides of the forearms with the supinators forming the upper and outer sections of the forearms.
To have impressive arms, all the muscles in the arms have to be paid due attention. Since the muscles work in tandem with each other, exercising one muscle group allows the benefit to percolate to other muscle groups as well.
Here are some of the basic exercises for the arms. These exercises are meant for comprehensive growth of the arms and although they do seek to target specific muscle groups, they do not take muscle isolation approach. If you are a beginner, it is better that you stay clear of the workout machines because although they do make exercising easier, they isolate muscles and may not be as good for comprehensive muscle growth as free weights.
Standing Barbell Curls: Take hold of the barbell with an underhand grip with your feet at shoulder width. Allow the barbell to hang in front of you at arms’ length and keep your elbows stuck to the sides of your torso at all times. Now, without moving your upper arm, and with the strength of your lower arm alone bring the barbell up to shoulder level. Hold the barbell in this position for a second or two so as to use up the maximum strength of the biceps through peak contraction of the muscle group. Lower the barbell slowly down to the original position, and bring it back up slowly. While you lower the barbell, do not let the elbow lock so that the weight of the barbell constantly remains on the muscles of the arms and no load is put on the elbow joint.
Also, do not let your back arch or sway backward or forward to bring in momentum to do the work of the muscles for you. This is not only cheating, but may also result in back injury. So, put in the true strength of the muscles and you would see them grow better. Perform 8 to 12 repetitions.
Seated Dumbbell Curls: To perform the exercise you need to take a stool or you might also use a weight training bench. Sit straight on the bench with your torso upright and your backbone straight. Keep your shoulders squared and your chest thrust forward. Keep the muscles tensed and do not allow the body to sway while you perform the exercise. Now, grab a pair of weight training dumbbells in each hand, let the hands hang down along the sides. Curl the dumbbells up without moving your upper arm right up to the shoulder slowly, and then bring your hand back to the original position slowly. Perform the same repetition with the other hand and then with this one again. 8 to 12 repetitions with each hand are sufficient.
Dumbbell Hammer Curls: This exercise is performed much the same way as the Seated Dumbbell Curls, but one has to stand up with the feet shoulder width apart and hold the dumbbells vertical to the ground instead of horizontal. So, you would be holding the dumbbell like a hammer with your clenched fist holding the dumbbell turned inside towards the side of your torso. The movement remains the same with your upper arm fixed while you bring the dumbbell up to your shoulder slowly and take it back to its original position straightening your arm down. Perform each repetition with one hand and then with other with a total number of repetitions between 8 and 12 with each hand. Make sure that you do not use excess weight and do not arch your back or swing your arm to assist you with the repetitions.
The good thing about Hammer Curls is that it not only works biceps, but also puts sufficient load on bronchilis and forearms. Furthermore, the movement involves triceps as well making it a comprehensive arms exercise.
Preacher Curls and Concentration Curls are two other excellent exercises, but these are muscle isolation exercises and must be performed once you have spent a regular 6 months or so in the gym. Also, before you take up isolation exercises, do take the advice of your trainer because in some cases it might not be advisable even after 6 months depending upon your body type and metabolic rate.
You may also perform a set of Reverse Curls with barbells, in which the rod of barbell is held overhand with the fingers of the clenched fist holding the bar facing the ground instead of facing the roof. The movement is same as in regular Standing Barbell Curls. The exercise works the forearms. However, not more than two sets should be performed because doing more than that would result in overtraining of the forearms, as forearms work in all exercises that are meant for biceps and triceps.
Note: This is not a piece of authoritative medical or professional opinion or advice. Exercise of individual discretion is strongly recommended.