Whether you pull through cruxes, paddle against tides, or hike with trekking poles, arm strength is essential for forwarding movement. Even for leggy sports like running, hiking, and biking, a strong upper body provides balance, efficiency, and resilience against injury.
If you’re hoping to build upper-body strength, incorporate these seven exercises into your workout routine. The moves, recommended by Doug Lawder, a personal trainer of 27 years and the owner of Railyard Fitness in Santa Fe, target the arms’ major muscle groups—the biceps, triceps, and deltoids (shoulders)—as well as they’re much smaller, stabilizing muscles.
Mix them into your existing routine, or complete the workout on its own as a circuit, moving from one exercise to the next, with a minute or two of rest between each exercise and five minutes of rest between each set. For the first round, do each exercise for 30 to 60 seconds, using lighter weights (if applicable) and a moderate range of motion to increase your heart rate, get the blood pumping, and warm up your joints and muscles.
Strict (Military) Push-Up
What it does: Primarily targets the chest and triceps and also strengthens the shoulders, biceps, and core muscles.
How to do it: Start in a high-plank position, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your arms fully extended—hands, elbows, and shoulders all in line. Keep your feet together or no more than 12 inches apart. Engage your core muscles to keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.
What it does: Primarily targets the biceps and also strengthens muscles in the forearms and shoulders.
How to do it: Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms at your sides, palms facing in. Stand tall, with your shoulders back and down and your core engaged. One arm at a time, slowly lift the weight, rotate your wrist 90 degrees to the outside, and continue curling the dumbbell all the way to your shoulder to flex the elbow joint through its full range of motion.
What it does: Targets the triceps in isolation while training strength and stability in the shoulders and core.
How to do it: You can do this move using either a TRX suspension system or resistance bands. If you’re using TRX, adjust the straps to midlength so the handles are between hip and chest height. Grab the handles, palms down, and stand beneath the anchor point with your feet hip-width apart. Straighten your arms, and hold them parallel to the floor at chest height.
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