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Building arm strength a must for routine tasks

Looking good in sleeveless clothes isn’t the only reason to have toned arms. Having stronger arms can add strength and power to your golf swing and tennis stroke.

The 23 muscles in each arm are often taken for granted until the day we find it difficult to get up from sitting in a chair or on the floor.

Meet your biceps, triceps and forearms

The biceps are involved in many daily upper-arm movements, such as carrying and picking things up. They are located in the front of the upper arm, between the shoulder and the elbow. The triceps, the “flabby muscle” that women love to hate, are in back of the upper arm, directly behind the biceps. Whenever you push anything, you are using your triceps. The biceps and triceps work as a pair; when biceps contract, the arm bends, and when the triceps contracts, the arm will lengthen. You need to strengthen both muscle groups. When one muscle group is stronger or weaker than the other, you create a vulnerability for developing injuries to the arm and shoulder. The muscles of the forearm, located between the elbow and wrist, extend and flex the wrist, plus rotate the forearm. They play a big role in providing you with a strong grip.

Doís and doníts

Vary weights. Your biceps muscles are relatively small, so you will not be able to use as much weight as you do for your chest and back.

Avoid jerking and swinging. The proper way to perform any isolated arm exercise is to not move the lower body, chest or back; you want to move from the elbow joint only.

Don’t rock and roll. Rocking back and forth while lifting the weight generally indicates the weight is too heavy and could strain your back.

Use the right weights. For beginners, women should use 3- to 5-pound weights. Men should use 8- to 10-pound weights. Increase weight gradually, performing 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions.

Don’t rush the moves. Lift and lower weights with a controlled motion, rather than using momentum, as this will add more muscle power by maintaining tension on the muscle. It also protects the elbow joint.

Exercises

Hammer curls. Standing with feet hip width apart, hold weights at your sides with palms facing inward. Begin with weights slightly behind you. As you lower into the squat position, begin to curl weights upward, elbows pointing downward. Holding that arm position, stand up, then slowly lower the weights. Repeat 1-3 sets of 8-15 reps.

Frontal raise with overhead triceps extension. Sitting with back straight and abdominals contracted, hold light-medium weights with palms facing inward. Raise arms shoulder height, elbows slightly relaxed, pause, continue to raise straight arms overhead, pausing once again. Bending elbows, lower weights behind head, elbows framing face and chin lifted. Straighten arms from elbows and return to original position. Repeat pattern 1-3 sets for 8-15 repetitions.

Lateral raise. Sitting or standing, contract abdominals and maintain a straight back. Holding light-medium weights at your sides, raise arms with elbows slightly bent and pointing to the back, to shoulder height, not allowing wrists to bend down. Raise and lower arms with a feeling of control, repeating 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions.

Wrist curls. Sitting with feet flat on floor, rest forearms on thighs. Holding weights with palms facing upward, allow wrists to hang over edge of thighs. Without moving forearms, curl wrists upward. Slowly lower wrists back down to original position, moving only from the wrist. You also may focus on one arm at a time.

Reverse wrist curls. Simply change wrist position, holding weight with an overhand grip. Drop wrists and raise weight upward as high as possible, repeating desired number of times.

Wrist circles. Make your hands into a fist and make circular motions, left and right.

If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

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