Training Your Biceps And Triceps

While your arms are made up of many muscles, the biceps and triceps are the muscles that most people think of when talking about weight training. Some women feel like they have weak arms but fear lifting weights because they don’t want to get “bulky.” It takes a very specific style of training for your arms and a very specific way of eating (which involves a lot of calories) for women to get bulky. This applies to a woman’s body in general but is also true of the arms specifically. Weightlifting will help you tone your arms and gain more strength. Do you want to be able to carry items with ease and comfort or convincingly flex your arms as you tell someone they have 3 seconds to back away from you? If your answer is yes to either of these scenarios, this is the article for you.

The biceps are the muscles of your arms that face the front when your arms are at rest at your sides. The triceps are the muscle group in the back of your arms when your arms are at rest. You have two bicep heads and three tricep heads. This is why one group is named “bi-” and the other “tri-.” The two heads of the biceps (biceps brachii) are the long head and the short head. The long head and short head originate from two different points of the scapula to assist in slightly different movements. 

The three heads of the triceps (triceps brachii) are the long head, lateral head, and medial head. The lateral and medial heads originate from different points on the humerus (arm bone), and the long head originates from the scapula. This means that each tricep head moves the arm slightly different from another. The biceps and triceps work opposite of each other. 

Biceps flex your elbow, and the triceps extend your elbow. This means that your biceps and triceps are active whenever you do any type of push or pull movement, such as push-ups, chest presses, pull-ups, and rows. It’s more effective to work your arms as a part of working a larger muscle group, as you’ll burn more calories using large muscle groups. However, if you are specifically looking to build extra definition in your arms, then it is recommended that you do a few isolated arm exercises.

Before You Lift:

Remember to keep your core engaged while executing the movements in this article. You can also perform each of these movements in front of a mirror, or record yourself, to double-check your form.

UP-DOWN PLANK

This movement is a great way to increase your heart rate and get blood flowing to your arms. The up-and-down movement will help prepare your arms for your weightlifting sets.

  1. Begin in a low plank position on the floor with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your toes on the ground, hip-width apart.
  2. Walk yourself up onto your right hand, as you leave your left forearm on the ground. You should be in a half push-up position.
  3. Walk up onto your left hand so that you are now in the top of a push-up position with both hands on the ground under your shoulders.
  4. Lower one arm back to the ground so that you are on one forearm once again.
  5. Lower the other arm down so that both forearms are on the ground and you’re back in a low plank position.

TRADITIONAL BICEP CURL

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Forearms

This type of curl is great for developing extra definition and strength specifically in the biceps of each arm. It’s also great for increasing the strength in your biceps so that you can lift heavier weights when performing back exercises.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a barbell in front of you at your thighs, palms up. You can also use dumbbells for this movement. Hold the dumbbells at your sides.
  2. Slowly bend your elbows and raise the weight up toward your chest. Stop just in front of your chest.
  3. Extend at your elbows to lower the weight back down to tap your thighs.

Lift Safely: Relax your shoulders and neck as you perform this exercise. Keep your elbows at your sides throughout the movement. They shouldn’t shift forward or back. In addition, it is important that you stand with your knees slightly bent and not locked, in order to avoid circulation issues.

Make It Harder: Take 1 second to bring the weight up and then 3 seconds to bring the weight back down. The reason for taking more time to lower the weight is that you build more muscle on the downward movement. Alternatively, use dumbbells to isolate each arm. If you are using dumbbells, externally rotating the dumbbells as you curl will better target both the short (inner) and long (outer) heads of the bicep muscles and activate more muscle fibers, which builds more muscle.

HAMMER CURL

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Forearms

Hammer Curls work a different part of your biceps than Traditional Bicep Curls. They target the long heads of the biceps, the brachioradialis (a forearm muscle in charge of external rotation), and the brachialis, which is another muscle that sits in the arm but is different from the biceps. Hammer Curls will help your biceps build more strength and size while also strengthening your wrists.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand at your side and with your palms facing inward.
  2. Bend your elbows and raise both weights up until they reach your chest. Keep your palms facing inward toward each other. (The movement is the same motion you would use to raise a glass for a drink.)
  3. Lower the weights back down to your sides.

Lift Safely: It is important that you stand with your knees slightly bent and not locked in order to avoid circulation issues.

Make It Easier: Lift one arm at a time. Doing this will feel easier than when you try to lift both at the same time.

Make It Harder: Take 1 second to lift the weights and 3 seconds to bring them back down.

TRICEP KICKBACK

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Forearms

This is an excellent exercise that targets the backs of the arms. Isolating the work in each arm with dumbbells means neither side is compensating for the other, and you may notice that your triceps muscles are stronger in one arm.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the dumbbells at your sides with palms facing inward toward your thighs.
  2. Hinge from your hips and drop your chest down slightly. Hold this position, looking a few feet in front of you at the floor to keep your spine long.
  3. Bend your elbows and, at the same time, bring your elbows up behind you so that the weights are up next to your upper ribs.
  4. Extend your elbows straight back without lifting your chest or moving your shoulders to bring the dumbbells toward the ceiling.
  5. Flex your elbows to bring the weights back to their starting position.

Make It Easier: Lift one weight at a time instead of trying to do both at the same time.

Make It Harder: Hold your position for 1 second once you’ve extended your elbows fully before releasing. You can also slow the movement down to make it more challenging.

TRICEP OVERHEAD EXTENSION

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Forearms, Shoulders

By extending your arms overhead for this exercise, you target your triceps muscles in a different way and work the shoulders a bit more by holding them in place. This movement will also help improve your shoulder mobility. However, if you have a shoulder injury or lack of mobility, choose one of the other triceps exercises mentioned.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Extend your arms overhead, holding one weight in both hands by making a diamond shape between the palms of your hands.
  3. Bend your elbows so that the weight comes directly behind your head.
  4. Straighten your elbows to bring the weight back overhead.

Lift Safely: Do not arch your back while performing this exercise, and keep your rib cage down. (Think about not puffing out your chest.)

Make It Harder: Add a 2-second hold at the top of the movement before lowering the weight back down behind your head.

OVERHEAD PULL

ADDITIONAL MUSCLES WORKED: Core, Shoulders

This is an excellent exercise for improving your shoulder mobility and core stability as you work your triceps. It’s three great benefits in one movement!

  1. Lie on the ground on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold one weight above your chest by extending your elbows and making a diamond shape between the palms of your hands.
  3. Bend your elbows slightly, then extend the weight back overhead as far as you can go without allowing your lower back to arch or your rib cage to lift up.
  4. Pull the weight forward to bring it back over your chest and return the shoulders to the starting position.

Lift Safely: Do not let your lower back arch while performing this exercise, and be sure not to overextend your shoulders. Only work within a comfortable range of motion until your shoulder mobility improves.

Make It Harder: Bring your knees over your hips and lift your feet off the ground. This will require more core stability.

STANDING BICEP STRETCH

This is one way to stretch your biceps so that you don’t catch a cramp following your isolated weightlifting. You may notice your elbows staying in a bent position after a bicep workout because your biceps have shortened. It’s important to stretch your biceps to restore them to their original length. Tight, shortened biceps can cause your shoulders to round forward, which in turn will affect your shoulder mobility.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place your hands behind your back, interlace your fingers, and rotate your elbows inward to move your palms into a ground-facing position.
  3. Extend your shoulders and raise your arms up behind you until you feel a stretch in your biceps.
  4. Return your hands to the starting position.

OVERHEAD TRICEP STRETCH

Perform this stretch directly following a triceps workout to avoid cramps in the back of your arms. You’ll also want to do this stretch to avoid tennis elbow—this is pain felt in the elbow joint due to overusing the forearms or performing repetitive elbow flexion movements.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Reach one arm overhead and bend that elbow so that your hand is close to your shoulder.
  3. Reach the opposite arm up and press down and back on the elbow of the bent arm until you feel a nice stretch in the triceps.
  4. Release and repeat on the opposite side.

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