6 Exercises for Amazing Arms

By Molly Galbraith
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OK, OK, OK... so we may have been a little sneaky with the title of this article. Yes, it's called, "6 Exercises For Amazing Arms," but what we are really going to give you are six exercises that are awesome for your entire upper body, and several of them are great for core and trunk stability as well.

Many times when people think of "arm" exercises, they think of small isolation movements like biceps curls and triceps kickbacks.

While those exercises have their place in some programs, we really love having big-bang-for-your-buck exercises as the meat of our training programs.

These are six of our favorite upper body exercises—some are more common, and some are slightly less common. A few require equipment, and a few don't. Take your pick!

1. Inverted Row

Equipment: You can use rings or another unstable surface trainer, or a barbell in a squat rack.

The inverted row is one of our favorite exercises. It's fantastic for strengthening your upper back and biceps, but it also requires an element of core stability in order to keep your body in the right position. Oh, and you should be squeezing your glutes, too!

Unfortunately most people do more work for the front of their body (the muscles they can see in the mirror) like biceps, pecs, quads, and don't do nearly enough for the backside of their body (upper back, glutes, hamstrings). This row variation is one of our go-to upper body exercises.

We also like it because it's an effective regression for a pull-up. Pull-ups and chin-ups are great, but many women struggle to perform them. Doing inverted rows a couple of times a week will help you build the upper body strength to hoist yourself over the pull-up bar in no time!

2. Bear Crawl

Equipment: Just your body, (unless you want to load the bear crawl with a weight vest or chains, for example).

This is another one of our favorite exercises. And again, it's pretty sneaky because not only does it work your shoulders, chest, back, and triceps, it's also killer on the core—if you do it right.

You can load it up heavy for strength work, or for a conditioning challenge, do it with just your body weight for distance.

3. Pull-up/Chin-up

Equipment: Pull-up bar, rings, monkey bar—basically anything you can use to pull yourself up!

Pulling yourself over a bar is just about one of the coolest things a woman can do. If you haven’t gotten to your first unassisted chin-up or pull-up yet, don’t despair!

"I remember feeling like a complete badass the first time I did it, and to be honest, that feeling has never subsided!" — Neghar Fonooni

As long as you are practicing them regularly (and preferably with a band as opposed to the assisted pull-up machine) you will get there. Here are some tips to help you increase your chin-up efficiency:

  • Make sure you carefully judge the distance between your hands. Too narrow or too wide can make getting over the bar unnecessarily difficult. For pull-ups, just outside of shoulder distance is generally a good grip, and for chin-ups, just slightly narrower than that.
  • Think about drawing your elbows down into your sides as you pull up. This will encourage the use of your lats.
  • Keep your whole body engaged! A tight, coordinated body is much easier to pull up than a loose, disconnected one.
  • Get all the way over the bar (neck to bar) and all the way down (elbows mostly straight) in order to encourage full range of motion.
  • Don’t hold your breath! Breathing out at the top helps give you an extra push.
  • To protect your joints with frequent practice, change your grip up. Some days use an underhand grip, and other days an overhand or neutral (parallel) grip.
  • And most importantly, bring a great attitude to your training sessions. Mindset is more important than any training program.

4. Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Equipment: You can use a yoga mat if you'd like. Just make sure the surface is comfortable for your hands.

This asana is really quite invigorating once you learn how to fly! Here’s a quick how-to from Neghar to get you started:

5. Angled Press

Equipment: Barbell, Weight Plates (for an optional, additional load), Landmine (preferred, but securing the bar into a corner will work too)

amazing-arms-angled-press-alli-433x302The standing angled press has a functional and athletic element to it. Depending on what you're after, you can be more strict with the press or you can add more push from the lower body and hip swivel for a more dynamic variation.

It's unilateral, varies the plane of pushing (versus horizontal or vertical), and you're getting a good bit of core work through the effort. The angled press is also shoulder-friendly. It doesn't take the shoulder to end range of overhead motion and therefore places less stress on the AC joint, reducing of compression and likelihood of impingement.

The half-kneeling variation is a bit more difficult because the load becomes harder to press due to the angle of the lever arm. It also requires more core stability. Adding a foam pad under the knee takes away a little bit of stability as well.

To perform the exercise:

  • As always, pick up the barbell carefully.
  • With a split stance, hold the barbell in the hand opposite the forward leg. The press begins at your shoulder (hold at the end of the barbell) and press away and up to full extension of your arm. Repeat for given amount of reps.
  • Switch and perform on the other side.
  • Return to the ground carefully, gripping the bar with both hands.

6. Half-Kneeling Angled Press

Place one knee down on a foam pad. Opposite knee forward. Set up to press with the arm on the same side as the down knee. The pressing pattern is the same. This variation requires more stability.

So... where are the push-ups?

You're probably wondering, "Where are the push-ups?" We love push-ups, but wanted to introduce you to some other exercises you may not be as familiar with.  Read more about how to do a perfect push-up here.

These six awesome "arm" exercises will have you looking and feeling strong in no time, but there's a whole lot more where this came from! If you want a little (or a lot) more guidance with your training program, we can help!

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About the author:  Molly Galbraith

Molly Galbraith, CSCS is co-founder and woman-in-charge at Girls Gone Strong, a global movement of 800,000+ folks passionate about women’s health, fitness, and empowerment. She’s also the creator of the The Girls Gone Strong Academy, home of the world’s top certifications for health and fitness pros who want to become a Certified Pre-& Postnatal Coach or a Certified Women’s Coaching Specialist.   The GGS Academy is revolutionizing women’s health and fitness by tackling critical (and often overlooked) topics like body image struggles, disordered eating, menopause, amenorrhea and menstrual cycle struggles, PCOS, endometriosis, osteoporosis, pre- and postnatal exercise, incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse, postpartum recovery, and much more.   Learn more about Molly on her website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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