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The Best Arm Exercises For Women

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In 2016, Tig Hodson and Sam Prynn founded StrongHer (opens in new tab), a fitness community just for women. It emphasised the benefits of resistance training – and there are many, many benefits. Benefits so big even the NHS recommends (opens in new tab) everyone does strength exercises at least two days a week. And besides the improvements to your physical health, more benefits come in the form of the self-confidence that can come with weight training. It’s an undeniably pleasant experience to look at your arms and think, “Nice, looking good, keep it up arms.”

StrongHer was about to launch a women-only training space in London just as lockdown hit. It’s now due to open on Monday 3rd August and – in addition to their online strength programmes, virtual classes and an on-demand platform – Hodson and Prynn have also agreed to recommend exercises they know hit home with women. Here’s their pick of the best moves in their own words.

StrongHer’s Best Arm Exercises For Women

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(Image credit: Unknown)

Many of us women have a “thing” about our arms, especially when it comes to some sleeveless action. We always say that the big compound movements like the bench press or bent-over rows which use your arms are essential to any real change, both physically and mentally, but the following three accessory exercises are our favourites for arms when completed alongside the big moves.

Arnold press

This one move hits your biceps, triceps and shoulders, so it’s an absolute must. It’s a move that can be done with dumbbells or a resistance band with handles.

Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding the dumbbells by your sides. The first part of the movement is a biceps curl. Keeping your elbows 1in (2.5cm) away from your waist and only moving your forearms, lift the dumbbells towards your shoulders. From here, press the dumbbells above your head, rotating the dumbbells so at the top of the movement your palms are facing forwards. Reverse the move back to the start, so you lower the dumbbells to your shoulders and “un-curl”.

A good place to start with these is in the ten to 12 rep range for three sets – pick a weight that lets you perform all the reps with good form.

Skullcrusher

This is one of our favourite isolation exercises for triceps because there is a clear start and midpoint, which makes it easier to do it correctly.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Make sure your back is fully in contact with the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand above your shoulders, with your arms extended and palms facing each other. Bend at your elbows, slowly lowering the dumbbells until they touch your shoulders, keeping your elbows parallel so there’s no flaring out. Once the dumbbells touch your shoulders, imagine you are doing a two-handed overhead netball throw and extend your arms back to the starting position.

Because this is an isolation exercise doing a higher number of reps, eg 15 for two to three sets, would be a great place to start. Don’t overestimate the weight you can manage with this one. Start with 2-3kg and maintain good form and tempo.

Banded isometric biceps curl

You ideally need a resistance band with handles, but if you don’t have one you can use a weight – there is no getting out of it! Bands are great to use because they add a different type of resistance. With this move you will be holding your biceps muscles in their contraction – this is what isometric means, holding the contracted muscle.

Stand on the band with both feet and hold the band using an underhand grip. Curl the handles up just past halfway and hold that position for 20 seconds Rest for five to ten seconds, then repeat that four to five times. Enjoy!

Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.