The Quest for Amazing Arms
Wish you had amazing arms? Well, join the club. “I hear that a lot from my female clients,” says Kurt Beronilla, fitness specialist and personal trainer at Virtua’s William G. Rohrer Center for HealthFitness. “Women are often unhappy with their arms, especially with excess fat that accumulates on the backs of their arms, where the triceps are.”
Unfortunately, says Beronilla, women are often far too concerned with the appearance of their arms, and not concerned enough with whether their arms are strong enough for their day-to-day tasks. As he tells it, what puts the “amazing” in amazing arms is not how good they look in spaghetti straps, but how easily they can lift a heavy box from a high shelf.
What’s more, focusing on the appearance of just one small part of your body, like the backs of your arms, is going to set you up for frustration. “You’ve probably heard this before, but you can’t ‘spot reduce’ a certain part of your body,” says Beronilla. When you watch what you eat and exercise, (i.e., when you burn more calories than you take in), your body will not be coerced into burning fat cells from just your target area. That said, your quest for amazing arms should be only one part of a whole body strength and resistance training plan.
So while the following arm exercises do not guarantee miraculous results in terms of appearance (“Michelle Obama arms in just minutes a day!”), they are guaranteed to make your arms stronger. Here, Kurt Beronilla shares four of his favorites:
Push-ups: “To me, a push-up is pretty close to a perfect exercise,” says Beronilla. “You can do it anywhere, you don’t need any special equipment, and it targets your arms, back, shoulders and core."
Chin-ups: “A chin-up can be a very difficult exercise for women and beginners, but it’s one of the best for complete upper body strengthening,” says Beronilla. With hard work and patience, you can get there. But if you’ve never done one before, expect to train for anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months to finally lift your chin over that bar.
Tricep extensions: There are several ways to perform a tricep extension. Beronilla recommends starting from a standing position, leaning one hand on a chair or weight bench for support, and holding a dumbbell in the other. Start with the elbow bent, and then extend your arm backward.
Overhead presses: To perform an overhead press, first stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold two dumbbells (one in each hand) or one barbell. Raise the weight(s) to shoulder height, and then overhead.
You may have noticed that Beronilla doesn’t specifically tout machine-based exercises. That’s because he feels functional exercises, with practical application in day-to-day life, are a better bet. “People often gravitate to the new, high-tech machines when they go to the gym,” he says. “But I say simpler is better.” Body-weight and free-weight exercises have the added benefit of improving posture and balance, and they make every day lifting, pushing and pulling tasks much easier. Machines may have their place, but relying on them exclusively will not give you the best possible results.
As for how much weight to lift, or how many reps to perform, “that’s going to vary from person to person. With my clients, I always start with three sets of 10, and we revise the weight and reps from there.” You want to be careful not to overdo it, but then again, underdoing is also going to keep you from seeing results. You should feel sufficiently challenged, and add more weight and reps as your exercising begins to feel easier.
Beronilla’s parting words? Move away from the mirror, and embrace the empowerment that comes with getting fitter and stronger arms. “This is not just about making yourself look better. It’s about making yourself better.”