So the Oscar's were three days ago and shortly after I received a call from a writer at The Daily Mail asking for a comment on how women can improve the appearance of their arms.
I gave the writer a tonne of good tips but last minute the article was re-written and the main points I wanted to get access were removed, I guess it wasn't showbiz enough for them? However, that doesn't mean you should miss out on the secrets I gave the first writer.
Best Kept Secrets Found Below
They key to getting better arms is the same as with any body part - you need to grow the muscle and reduce the fat. But the toughest, most annoying part is that you can't spot reduce fat loss. What this means is that you cannot specifically choose where your body burns the fat from. You have to reduce the total amount of body fat you have across your whole body, this will help your arms to get smaller in circumference. It's a great start but, in order to get the shaped look you want, you'll need to add lean muscle tissue. Don't let that scare you, you aren't going to have Arnie sized arms within a few weeks, that takes years of heavy lifting and dedication.
Back to the point at hand, an added benefit of growing more muscle is that for every kilo of lean muscle tissue your body has, you burn 50kcal per day. So the more muscle you build, the more calories you burn and the quicker you'll get leaner. A win win situation in your search for better arms.
Your Fat Loss Principles
First things first, we need to get the principles in place for fat loss. These aren't always easy to follow but they are simple.
In order to burn body fat and increase lean muscle tissue you need to make sure you are eating adequate protein each day. My recommendation is at least 1-2g per kilogram of body weight. 20-30g of protein at each meal will suffice. The key is to base each meal around a protein source and then add in your veg, carbs and fats afterward keeping your carbs around your workouts or in your evening meals.
1g per kilo should be the bare minimum you eat each day but the higher you can push to 2g per kilo, the better. Check out our blog post here for more on protein.
Once we've sorted the protein, we need to sort out carbohydrates and fats but did you know, women have different requirements to men? Read our blog about it here!
Building The Muscle
Now we've covered the diet, it's time to focus on the muscle and how to build those shape arms you've always dreamed of.
As important as exercise selection is, exercise execution is our main priority here. In order to encourage our muscles to grow we need to apply appropriate load in a stable and controlled environment. Luckily when it comes to training arms this is more easily achieved. Why? Because the elbow is a hinge joint and our biceps and triceps are an antagonistic pair. What this means is that when one muscle is contracting/shortening the other is stretching/lengthening. For example, when you contract your bicep bringing your hand up toward your shoulder, your tricep is stretching as it lengthens in a counteraction.
The best exercises for isolating the arms are the bicep curl and the tricep extension. My advice, would be to superset these two exercises together using a cable machine at the gym. A superset is when you complete two exercises back to back with no rest in-between.
Complete 1-2 warm up sets of 12-15 reps on each exercise using a weight that you would consider to be 50% of your maximum. For example, if the maximum weight you can life for 12 reps is 10kg, you'd use 5kg as your warm up weight. After this, do 3-4 working sets of 8-12 reps at 70-80% of your maximum. So, if your maximum weight for 8-12 reps is 20kg, you'd use 14-16kg as the weight for your working sets. Remember to squeeze your muscles and make sure the eccentric phase (the lowering phase) is slow and controlled (roughly 2-3 seconds).
As well as doing this isolation superset, I advise my clients that compound lifts also help your arms to grow as your arms have a role to play in all upper body compound lifts. Albeit it a secondary role as opposed to being the star.
For example, with the chest press; bench press or with press ups, your triceps are used as a secondary muscle with the chest primarily getting the focus. This is the same for the lat pull down or any row variations (seated or standing), the biceps are used as a secondary muscle with the back primarily getting the focus.
Start implementing these tips into your routine and start to see the difference but remember, don't over kill it. 3 workouts per week with at least 24 hours recovery is the best practice.
Example Workout: 3 sets of 8-12 with 1-2 warm up sets. Do this on Monday's, Wednesday's and Fridays.
1A Chest Press
2A Lat Pull Down
3A Seated Shoulder Press
4A Rope Tricep Extensions
4B Rope Bicep Curls
Top Tip: If you squeeze your bicep at the top of a tricep extension and squeeze your tricep at the bottom of a bicep curl, you can increase the muscle contraction by fully lengthening the opposing muscle. This is called a myotatic stretch.