Do you want toned arms?
You want them to be
shapely. Get rid of the wobbly bingo wings. Feel confident wearing
vests in the summer.
But where do you
You haven’t got
any weights. And the last thing you want is bulky arms. You don’t
want to look like a man.
Don’t worry. With
these calisthenics exercises you’ll be showing off your, toned,
sexy arms in no time.
And the added
bonus...these exercises are all bodyweight exercises. You don’t
need any special equipment.
Let’s do this...
Before we go any
further, I want to put your mind at rest about one thing...your arms
won’t look bulky, or man like with these exercises.
It’s a concern a
lot of my clients have when they start strength training.
‘I don’t want to
look like a man’.
But don’t worry,
strength training won’t turn you into a bodybuilder. In fact,
you’ll only become a bodybuilder, and look like a bodybuilder, if
you work really, really hard at it.
It doesn’t come by
accident. It comes with dedication.
Muscle needs a few
things to grow big.
It needs an impetus, a reason to grow. That is covered with training. A progressive programme that increases the load on your muscles. Yes, bodyweight training will do this, but, your muscles won’t be as loaded up as they would be with weight training.
It is still a great way to build strength. But big muscles won’t happen, because the load on your muscles isn’t sufficient.
It also needs a
carefully regimented caloric intake. Just like anything else, muscle
needs energy to grow, so you’d need to eat enough of the right type
of calories to help it grow really large. Carefully controlled
protein, carbohydrate and not too much in the way of refined sugar.
And it needs
testosterone. Muscle needs testosterone to grow. And whilst us women
do have testosterone, we don’t have it in the same quantities as
men do. We really don’t have enough to make our muscles really big.
So, please stop worrying about strength training. It will help you get stronger. It will help you build muscle. But it won’t make those muscles really big and bulky. And bodyweight training, certainly won’t.
So, what exactly are
we talking about when we talk about arm muscles and exercising them,
making them stronger?
When we work our arm
muscles, we usually concentrate on the main muscles of the upper arm,
the biceps brachii and the triceps brachii.
We tend not to focus
too much on the other muscles, the brachialis and the
brachioradialis. That’s because when you work your arms, they’re
going to be activated. They will be getting a workout.
So, let’s look at the two main, different muscle groups.
Your biceps are on
the front of your upper arm and they run between the shoulder and the
elbow. It’s a two headed muscle, hence bi, the long head and the
short head. Both heads start on the scapula, but then they come
together to form one muscle belly before it joins to the elbow.
It’s main function is elbow flexion. To bend the elbow. Think bicep curl.
The triceps, or the
triceps brachii, are on the back of your arm. Roughly opposite the
biceps. You may have guessed from the tri, it’s a three headed
muscle, the medial, lateral and long head.
All of the heads
start in different places, but they come together to form one muscle
belly and join at the elbow.
It’s main function
is to extend the elbow. So, straighten your arm.
The biceps bend your
arm, the triceps straighten.
The exercises I’m
going to talk about below will work both the biceps and the triceps
very well. But, that’s not all they’ll do.
They are, what we
call compound exercises, so they work a few different muscle groups
at the same time.
As I’m describing the exercises, I will highlight which muscles are being used.
Just a few more
points before we get on with the exercises, all of these are
bodyweight exercises. You don’t need any special exercise
equipment, or heavy weights, to get them done. You just need your own
As you progress to
an advanced level you might want to invest in resistance bands, a
pull-up bar, possibly some gymnastic rings. But they are not needed
Just with the
calisthenics core exercises, there are some really cool moves you can
do, once you get to an advanced level, front lever, one-handed wall
pull up, for example. I’m not going to concentrate on them.
It’s much better
to concentrate on the basics. Get strong in those and then move on.
Don’t jump in to the advanced stuff too soon, it’ll just end in
Whatever your level, it’s always worth spending time of the basics. There is a reason these exercises are good.
Ok, so there are
three main bodyweight arm exercises. The push up, triceps extension
and the bodyweight row.
They are all amazing
at their jobs, working your arm muscles and your back, helping you
get stronger arms and a stronger upper body in general.
There are obviously more exercises that work, and that will strengthen your arms. I’m concentrating on these, because I think they’re the best. And getting stronger in these movements will help you massively in other areas. Training wise and just general life.
The push up is not
an easy exercise to master.
It’s a tough
movement. And to do it properly, requires lots of strength in your
upper body and your core.
Yeah, it’s not
just an upper body exercise. It’s a core movement too.
If you think about
the motion of a push up, which I’ll go into detail on in a moment,
you really do have to stabilise your core. Especially when you’re
pushing away, back up to the starting position.
The likelihood is,
you’re going to struggle with push ups.
I don’t say that because I think you’re not strong, I say it because I know how tough the exercise is, and how tough it is to do it properly.
The common mistake a lot of people make with push ups is thrusting their faces towards the floor, thinking they’re getting ‘close to the floor’. But, it’s not your face we want close to the floor, it’s your chest. That’s the important part.
Your neck should be
in a neutral alignment and your gaze should be down at the floor. If
you can see your toes, it’s likely that your head is too close to
the floor and you need to take it back slightly.
Another key mistake
people make is splaying their arms out to the side.
Your arms, your
elbows should stay firmly by your side.
Yes, these pointers
will make the movement harder, but, they will make the movement
So, how do you do a push up?
Starting in a high plank position with your hands under your shoulders engage your core, bend your elbows and slowly lower yourself to the floor. Your body should remain in a straight line.
concentrate on getting your chest as close to the floor as possible,
but you shouldn’t go all the way down.
Hover just above the
ground for a second and then straightening your arms, push back up to
the starting position.
The great thing
about push ups is that there are tons of variations and they can be
scaled easily depending on your fitness level.
If you’re struggling with them you can drop your knees to the floor. Everything else remains the same, but your knees will stay on the floor throughout the move.
This makes a push up easier as you won’t have to push up your whole bodyweight. The floor and your knees are helping you out.
You might be keen to
get off your knees to do a proper push up, if that’s the case, I
applaud your determination. But, it’s better to stay on your knees
for a little longer and focus on getting your chest to the floor and
keeping your elbows at your side.
If you’re at a
more advanced level you could try a reverse grip push-up. This is
where your hands are pointed towards you instead of away. Or, perhaps
a single arm push up, a diamond push up, a dive bomber push up. Or a
negative push up.
Negative push ups
are a great way to build muscle strength in a particular move. So it
would be great if you’re keen to progress to a proper push up.
The idea is you’d
make the downward movement harder, but the push movement a little
easier. So, that could look like, full push up for the downward
movement, drop your knees to the floor for the upward movement.
Or, slowing down the downward movement, doing it for a count of 3, whereas the upward movement would be straight up.
The bodyweight row
is the perfect accompaniment to the push up.
And that’s because
the push up is a pushing motion, the row is a pulling movement. Now
for this one a bit of equipment might make the movement easier.
It’s not essential
because you can use your coffee table or a towel secured in a door
frame. But, if you had a suspension trainer, like a TRX, or even a
sweeping brush extended over two sofas, it might help.
got, bodyweight rows are a great exercise and should be a must do in
your workout routine.
So, if you’re
using your coffee table, you’ll need to squirrel underneath it,
lying down facing upwards. Grab the sides of the coffee table, engage
your core and lift your body up towards the table, keeping everything
in a straight line. Only your heels remain on the floor.
Hold at the top
briefly and then lower back down.
movement make sure your core is engaged and every stage of the
exercise should be done in a controlled manner.
As with most
strength based exercises, workouts, focus on control over speed.
The muscles used in the bodyweight row are… the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids, as well as your pectorals and your biceps.
The last of my
calisthenics arm exercises is the triceps extension, or triceps dip,
as they’re commonly called.
classic and probably the best known of the tricep exercises.
You will need
something to lower yourself down from. Think stair, chair or sofa.
Sitting on the edge
of the stair, extend your legs out straight, so that your heels are
on the floor. Your hands should be by your side on the stair, with
your fingers curled over the edge.
When you’re ready,
engage your core and shuffle your bum off the step.
Lower your bum down
to the ground, without going all the way to the ground, hold there
for a second and then push back up to the starting position.
This is another one
that can be scaled depending on your fitness level.
For example, if
you’re struggling with that version, bring your feet in closer to
the step, bend your knees and have your feet flat on the floor.
On the other hand,
if you’re stronger, you might want to try a triceps dip between two
bars, or even a weighted triceps dip.
They get very tough very quickly though, so make sure you feel strong in the version I’ve described above before you try anything more advanced.
workouts are a great way to get a strong and toned body. And your
workout plan doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy.
The best exercises
are often the basic exercises.
easy. And if they start to feel a bit easier, there’s always a way
to toughen them up again.
So, don’t be put
off by bodyweight stuff. It can be really effective.
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