If you make a beeline for the treadmill every time you hit the gym, you're missing out on some of the biggest advantages of having a gym membership. Between barbells, benches and all those big machines, your gym's weight room is stocked with every tool you need to get stronger muscles and sleeker arms -- not to mention impress every iron-pumping guy in the place. Incorporate an arm workout into your fitness routine at least two times per week, taking a minimum of one day of rest in between workouts so your muscles can recover.
Stand in front of a cable machine with your feet hip-width apart and the cable set higher than your head. Hold the handle, wrapping both thumbs around it, and pull it down so your elbows are pressed close to your body and bent near the midpoint of your torso. With your shoulders pulled back and down, straighten your arms to bring the handle down, keeping your wrists in line with your forearms and your upper arms in place throughout the move. Pause at the bottom of the move and slowly bend your elbows to bring the handle back to chest level, or just below. Complete 12 reps. Throughout the move, focus on keeping your shoulder blades down and back, your head and neck in line with your spine, and your upper arms stationary; this will help isolate the triceps and prevent spine stress.
Barbell Shoulder Press
Sit on a bench with the backrest up, keeping your butt, head and shoulders against the pad, your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Grasp a barbell and bring it up to collarbone height, elbows bent, palms facing forward and hands just wider than shoulder-width. Pull your shoulder blades down and slowly straighten your elbows as you raise the bar straight overhead. Pause before lowering the barbell back down again, letting your muscles, not gravity, do the work. Repeat until you've finished 12 reps. To keep this exercise as safe as possible, recruit a spotter to stand behind the bench, elevated if possible. Have your spotter place her hands inside of yours, one just over the bar and the other just under, so she can grab it if it slips from your grip.
Stand between the arms of a dip bar, grasping each one. Straighten your arms to lift your body off the floor, your ankles crossed and your shoulders over your hands. Bend your elbows behind you to lower your body down until your arms form 90-degree angles, trying not to let your body swing. Pause, then straighten your elbows to raise your body again. Repeat for a total of 12 reps. To prevent excess stress on your shoulder joint, it's critical that you don't lower yourself too much on the downward phase of the exercise; never let your elbows go beyond the 90-degree angle.
Cable Biceps Curl
Stand in front of a cable machine and adjust the pulley so it's close to the ground. Grip the handle with your hands at opposite ends, your arms straight and your palms facing forward. Keeping your elbows close to your body, bend your arms to bring the handle up to shoulder height. Pause before lowering the handle back down to waist-level until your elbows form 90-degree angles. Complete 12 reps. Make sure you maintain a firm grip on the handle throughout the move to avoid letting it slip and injure you.
Sit on the lateral raise machine with your feet flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. With your arms at your sides, bend your elbows and grip the handles. Keeping the bend in your elbows, push your arms out to raise the weights up until your arms are level with your shoulders. Pause before lowering back down, bringing your elbows close to your body without actually touching. Repeat for a total of 12 reps.
Kristen Fisher is a freelance writer and editor with professional experience in both print and online media. She has published articles on a wide variety of topics including health, fitness, nutrition, home and food, and her work has appeared in "Connections Magazine" and on Lifescript.com. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in psychology.