Along with tummies and legs , the upper arms can be a tricky area to train. If your gym workout is not quite delivering the strength and definition you’re looking for, try these simple home workout upgrades, videos and classes to sculpt biceps, triceps and deltoids.
The no-equipment arm blaster: pumped up push-ups
“Push-ups are great as there are so many ways of doing them,” says personal trainer and Methodology X creator Dan Roberts . “I always recommend varying them as the body develops best when it’s kept guessing!”
All push-ups work your pectorals, deltoids and triceps, but a few tweaks can help focus your efforts. Try placing hands closer together. “The pecs are put in a weak position so the triceps help out more,” he says. Doing this on the floor is very hard, so place your hands on a chair or bench. “This is far better than using your knees because it's harder and so better for tricep development and secondly, you get to engage and improve your core.”
Another variation is the incline tucked press-up, as above but with the hands shoulder-width, keeping your elbows tucked into your sides. “Lower your body and keep your back flat and your elbows tucked into your side. Go as low as you can, even if it’s just a few inches.”
How many should you do? Don’t fixate on numbers of reps, says Dan. “Muscles don't keep count - if they are pushed and if it's intense enough, they will adapt. Do four sets of as many reps as you can.” If you can’t do more than five then it's too hard for you and you should vary things (have hands wider or higher). If you can do more than 20 reps it’s too easy.
Have 90 seconds rest between sets. "If you really want to focus on push-ups, then do them every single day. They are small muscles so they recover pretty quickly,” says Dan.
We also rate Tom Daley’s 6-minute no-equipment arms workout on YouTube . It packs in a wide variety of moves from traditional to raised and elevated reverse press-ups to leave you both stronger and significantly sweatier.
Best upper arm workouts with weights
Weight training helps you build more lean muscle, speeds up your metabolism and combats bone loss associated with ageing.
If you’re new to weights, it’s best to book into a weights class first or asking a PT to assess your technique to reduce the risk of injury. Try Body Pump classes - we like Virgin Active’s as you can improve stamina too.
Define London’s Arm and Ab Express class is a 30-minute workout created for women short of time who want to target “the ‘jingle jangle’ of the arms or lose an inch off their waist” says founder Ashley Verma. It’s a cardio class too and can be done with or without weights in the studio or online. “We also advise clients on what they can use when away and taking our online classes, for instance, a cushion as a ball and wine bottles for weights.”
Once you've honed your technique, a good at-home weights workout is this 'Upper Body Workout with Dumbbells’ one on The Body Coach TV by Joe Wicks . You’ll do four rounds of six moves from bicep curls to bent over rows and seated shoulder presses. Each move lasts 30 seconds, with ten-second rests.
Popsugar’s ‘10-minute Ultimate Arm and Shoulder Workout’ (below) uses weights to target arms, chest, shoulders and back. It challenges core and balance too.
Which dumbbell weight to choose? Heavier doesn’t necessarily mean better when it comes to building additional muscle and strength. Harold Tackie, boxing coach at BXR London explains: “It all comes down to a moderate weight that works best for you and your personal fitness level - you will find that you gain more through intensity rather than duration.”
RESISTANCE BAND BASICS FOR GREAT BICEPS
The resistance band is the budget piece of kit that works every body part - especially the arms.
These Bestope Fitness Exercise Bands , £9.99, are personal trainer Shona Vertue’s go-to for upping the ante on press-ups and bicep curls. Check out her 15-Minute Strengthening & Sculpting Arm Workout on YouTube (below); it hits delts, triceps and biceps in one fell swoop.
Best TRX tricks for arm toning
“The TRX is one of my favourite bits of workout equipment - particularly for gymnasts, yogis and anyone that wants to move like a badass and save Gotham,” Shona Vertue writes on this recent Instagram video (below). It gets you one step closer to your chin up and pull-up goals by strengthening “lats, rhomboids, biceps and (more commonly overlooked) forearm and grip strength” she says.
From personal experience, it can be a complex piece of equipment to get your head around though - Shona notes that she’s seen so many people in the gym misuse it. She recommends following TRX and functional fitness boutique studio, Equilibrium In Balance ( @weareequilibrium ) – she describes them as “the real MVP of suspension training,” enough said). Their Beginners Guide and 4 Week Workout Plan costs £20 and comes with videos.
If you prefer a class environment, try Third Space’s TRX and TRX Max classes which incorporates TRX moves into a high energy circuit full body workout.
USE BOXING TO PUNCH YOUR WAY TO BETTER ARMS
One look at Nicola Adams’ arms shows that boxing packs a punch in the conditioning department. SPARR at DW Fitness First is a high-intensity class that combines cardio and resistance training. “The combination of boxing jabs, crosses and hooks will leave your arms burning!” Jamie Luis, Health & Fitness Manager at DW Fitness First Angel tells me. “As boxing makes you work across three planes of movement, your core is constantly engaged too. With SPARR, expect to get stronger and leaner in super-quick time. The non-stop nature of our SPARR class ensures it's great for weight loss and toning.”
Other boxing classes worth booking into include Boxing ‘Skills’ at Sweat by BXR and Punch at Virgin Active .
Read more: Why rowing is the new running.
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