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The large amount of muscles in the shoulders makes it hard for an exerciser to avoid engaging them in an arm workout.
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
Many exercisers, especially women, like the look of firm arms but don't want them attached to broad, truck-like shoulders. Luckily, by designing your exercise routine carefully, you can add muscle to your flabby arms while decreasing the possibility of gaining huge shoulders in the process.
Curling: Not Just a Sport
The muscle in the arm most people think of is the biceps brachii, which runs down the front of your upper arm. Exercises that work the biceps brachii tend to focus on flexing the elbow to move your forearm upward. This movement allows the elbow to be flexed and the forearm to move closer to the shoulder. Depending on which biceps exercise you choose, you might not even need to engage any shoulder muscles in the overall movement. For example, the lever curl, which you perform on a gym's curl machine, doesn't engage shoulder muscles. As an alternative, the barbell curl engages some of your shoulder muscles, but only to stabilize the movement.
"Brachialis" Sounds Delicious
Beneath the biceps brachii sits the brachialis, a small but important muscle in your arm. Exercising this muscle can improve the tone of your arms, as it helps push your biceps outward, increasing the вЂњfullnessвЂќ of your upper arm. Like the bicep, the brachialis is engaged in elbow flexing, but to work it specifically, you must rest your upper arm and elbow in a stable position, known as the вЂњpreacher position.вЂќ Any preacher-curl exercise can work this muscle in tandem with your biceps and forearms, while not engaging any shoulder muscles.
For Your Forearms
Most exercisers tend to emphasize the upper arms, but the forearms can also have fat deposits or loose skin that could benefit from more muscle tone. The forearm has two main muscle groups running from your elbow to your wrist, one on each side of the forearm. The wrist flexor muscle group runs to your palm while the wrist extensor muscle group runs to the back of your hand. Exercises for these muscle groups do not engage shoulder muscles. You can work the wrist extensors with reverse wrist curls; you can work the wrist flexors with wrist curls. A smaller but still important forearm muscle is the brachioradialis, which you can work with reverse curls.
Try Your Triceps
Arm flab often seems most visible on the вЂњunderarm,вЂќ the area on the backside of your upper arm. You can add muscle tone to this area by working on your triceps, the muscle beneath that area. Unfortunately, due to this muscle's proximity to the shoulders, most of the popular exercises for the triceps, such as the dip, engage multiple shoulder muscles. But you can still work your triceps without engaging your shoulders by using lesser-known triceps exercises, especially those that allow your shoulders to rest on a bench, like the lever incline triceps extension or the cable incline pushdown.
Knowledge Is Half the Battle
Just knowing what muscle areas to work will do nothing if you don't apply that knowledge. When designing an arm workout while deemphasizing your shoulders, choose one or two exercises that engage each muscle of your arms but few of your shoulder muscles. Perform three to five sets of each exercise at five to 12 reps each. Rest for a few minutes between each set. Begin with low weight, and increase the weight only when you feel your original weight is too easy. Also, be sure to eat well and get plenty of rest between workouts. Eat plenty of lean protein so that you can give your muscles what they need without storing excess fat that contributes to flab. Always consult a physician before starting a new diet or exercise routine.