Sculpted and sexy arms are desirable for both men and women, especially the front of the arms where the shoulder muscle meets the biceps. There is no specific, singular best exercise for defining the upper arms, rather it takes a combination of strength training to build the proper muscles and decreasing body fat to reveal the definition of your arms. The best combination of exercises to build the muscles of both your shoulders and biceps are overhead presses and biceps curls. Incorporate these movements into your weekly routine for strong and shapely arms.
The shoulder muscles, or deltoids, are made up of three major muscles: the rear delt, middle delt and front delt. Critical Bench suggests including exercises for all three muscles when designing a workout program to fully sculpt and develop the shoulders. To emphasize the tie-in between the front delt and the biceps muscles, include biceps exercises with the shoulder exercises. The larger your biceps and front delts are, the more defined the separation between the two muscle will be.
The best exercise for activating both the front deltoid and the biceps is the curl-to-press exercise. Grab a barbell in an underhand grip and let it hang straight down, then bend your elbows to curl it up to your chest. Proceed to extend the bar up over your head into a reverse-grip shoulder press. Do not lock your elbows overhead, as that can put strain on your wrists, rather keep a 30 to 45-degree bend at the top position. Lower the bar back down to your chest, then straighten your elbows and lower the bar back down to a hang, completing the biceps curl. For variation, try this exercise with dumbbells.
The Arnold press specifically activates your front and medial delts. In addition, your biceps remain active the whole time to stabilize the weights. Grab dumbbells and bring them up in front of your head, palms facing towards you, elbows bent at about 90 degrees. Open your arms out wide, finishing with the dumbbells on either side of your head at about ear level, palms facing forward. Press the dumbbells up overhead and pause at the top. Bring them back down to ear level, then together in front of your head again.
Once you have developed size and tone to your muscles, burn the excess body fat so that the separation between shoulder and biceps is apparent. To lose excess body fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume to put yourself in a caloric deficit. Your body will then turn to stored fat for energy. Do this through dietary control and adding cardiovascular exercise into your routine three to five days per week for 20 to 30 minutes, suggests the American College of Sports Medicine. Incorporate high-intensity intervals such as 30 seconds of sprints on the treadmill or bike, followed by 30 seconds of rest for at least 20 minutes. Intervals burn more calories in a shorter amount of time than long steady state cardio, making them ideal for burning fat.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends building muscle by lifting a weight that fatigues your muscles by eight to 10 reps for about four sets. Once you have developed adequate size in your deltoids and biceps, increase your range to three sets of 15 repetitions to further tone and sculpt your muscles. You may need to lower your lifting weight slightly to accommodate the higher repetition range.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; National Strength and Conditioning Association; Thomas R. Baechel and Roger W. Earle
- The American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- CriticalBench.com: Tips for Building Shoulder Muscle
Riana Rohmann has been working for the Marine Corps doing physical training and writing fitness articles since 2008. She holds personal trainer and advanced health and fitness specialist certifications from the American Council on Exercise and a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and exercise physiology from California State University-San Marcos.