Sculpted arms make the difference between feeling confident in a tank top and reaching for a well-worn cardigan. The good news is you don't have to join a gym to earn tighter arms; you can earn an enviable upper body after a few weeks of regular strength training right at home. Consult a physician before beginning, keep motivation high by training with a friend and get ready to put your short-sleeved shirts into storage.
The old-fashioned pushup strengthens and tones your triceps as well as your shoulders and chest. Many women find pushups difficult initially; if this describes you, work up to multiple standard pushup reps by starting on bent knees. The American Council on Exercise recommends keeping your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Point your fingers forward, tuck in your abs and squeeze your glutes. Keep your head in a neutral position, your body straight and lower yourself until your nose nearly touches the ground. Exhale as you push yourself up, and squeeze your triceps at the top of the motion. Do three sets of 10 reps; modify to the straight-leg standard pushup when you can do 30 reps with easy regularity.
If you have a 5-pound weight -- even if it's a bag of flour or sugar placed in a handled grocery bag -- you can do a four-minute Tabata biceps curl workout. You can apply the Tabata training regimen, developed for Japanese Olympians, to any exercise. Stand erect, tuck in your abs and glutes, keep a soft knee bend and hold your weights with straight arms at your sides. Face your palms away, bend your arms and curl your hands upward toward your shoulders, and then lower them back to the starting position. Do as many reps as you can for 20 seconds; squeeze your biceps at the top of each rep. Rest for 10 seconds and do seven more 30-second intervals.
Dips are an effective way to isolate the triceps muscles using only body weight and a chair. Sit on a chair, place your hands at your sides and push yourself off the chair so you are supporting your weight using only your hands. Keep your back close to the chair edge and straighten your arms; beginners should keep their feet closer to the glutes. Bend your arms and lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Exhale as you push yourself back up to straight arms, squeezing the triceps at the top. As you gain strength, move your feet farther away from you; the straighter your legs, the more weight your triceps will support. Work up to two sets of 15 reps each.
The Downward-Facing Dog
If you've ever taken a yoga class, then you are familiar with Down-Dog, a fully integrated exercise that strengthens the arms as well as the back, butt, legs and core. Begin at the top of a pushup, exhale and shift your weight behind you, raising your glutes into the air to make an inverted "V" with your body. Push your heels toward the ground and maintain straight or nearly straight legs. Do not lift your head. Squeeze your arms, inhale and return to the pushup position. Do 15 reps, rest and complete two more sets.
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