When you ask a beginner gym-head what was his (and sometimes, her) main inspiration to start going to the gym, they will most likely say: ‘to get big arms fast’. Sometimes, though, life throws a curve-ball at you and for one reason or another, going to the gym will not be a viable option. But fear not! The best biceps and triceps exercises can be performed in a home gym environment, not just just in a commercial gym setting.
Resistance training – paired up with a good diet and ample amount of rest – is a good way to build muscle mass. Doing resistance training at home has the added convenience of not having to be around other people and you can also significantly cut back on commuting times to and from the gym.
Even better, although you might have the best home gym equipment at your disposal already, working the arms doesn’t necessarily require a whole lot of different machines. If you are really tight on budget, a pair of the best dumbbells could suffice, although adding a few more bits to the mix can help targeting the biceps and triceps from different angles, making the workout even more effective.
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Protein is key to muscle gains
Many of us would not choose a bowl of brown rice with some kale, beans and grilled chicken breast over a double-stack hamburger and a milkshake, although I can’t even start to explain why the latter combination is just the worst in terms of nutrition and most importantly, gains.
If you want to build muscle mass quickly, you will need to be more mindful about your diet and it is especially true when working out at home. Considering you move less because you work/live/workout at home, your daily calorie needs drop so you will need less food in general. Having a smart scale at hand, like the Tanita BC-401 body composition monitor, can help you measure how many calories your body needs to function.
Once you know that, you can measure the extra calories you burn by wearing a running watch or a fitness tracker. Some higher-end Garmin watches, like the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, can measure active calories burned and by adding that to your resting metabolic calories (measured by the aforementioned smart scale), you’ll get a pretty good estimate of how much food do you need a day.
Also, add more protein to your diet and cut back on ‘bad’ carbs and fats. If you need more protein, you can consider having a protein shake or a low-sugar protein bar a day, to keep the levels topped up.
The best biceps and triceps workout for home gyms
Be extra careful when you work with heavy weights, it’s easier than you think to injure yourself if you don’t pay enough attention to your surroundings. Working out at home also means there are less (or no) people around you to spot/help you if needed, so taking some extra care is a good idea.
Warm up before your workout and do some stretches (more info here: Working from home – 5 BEST stretching exercises to get rid of neck and back pain) as well to get the muscles ready for the workout. Improving your joint mobility can help you in more ways than just being able to lift easier, so make sure you twist and bend all your body parts adequately.
IMPORTANT: if you are new to exercising or haven’t done much resistance training in recent years, it’s always best to get at lest one person to help you with your workouts, just to be on the safe side. Also, should have any concerns about your wellbeing or health, please consult a medical professional before you start working out.
1. Standing dumbbell curl
Equipment needed: dumbbells or kettlebells
Best for: bicep gains
Sets: 4 Reps: 10
Hold the dumbbells in your hands, arm extended and resting on the side of your thighs. Then, bend one arm from the elbow, lifting the dumbbell up to your shoulder. Following the same path, return to the starting position. Repeat with the other arm. One rep is when you finished the movement with both arms.
We applied a little change to transform this otherwise isolation exercise into a sort-of compound one: when you perform standing dumbbell curls, you need to engage your core to keep your body from swaying back and forth as you curl the dumbbell.
2. Standing overhead extension
Equipment needed: dumbbell or barbell (E-Z bar)
Best for: tricep isolation
Sets: 4 Reps: 10
Standing overhead extension is the best complimentary semi-isolation exercise to standing dumbbell curl: after working the biceps, it’s time to show your triceps some love. In fact, since the tricep is bigger than the bicep, you’ll need to show a lot more love to this muscle in order to have big arms.
Hold the dumbbell with both hands behind your head, elbows bent, arms pointing upward. Extend your arm so the dumbbell is over your head (be careful!), then return to the starting position.
Elbows need to point forward and not sideways as you extend your arms. It’s only the lower arm that moves, the upper arm is stationary as you perform the exercise. Also, keep your wrist straight and don’t let the weights ‘drop’ in your hands when the arms are extended. That way you would strain your wrist and we don’t want that.
3. Tricep dips
Equipment needed: home multi-gym or just an elevated surface (for the box-dip variety)
Best for: BIG triceps gains
Sets: 3 Reps: 8
There is one type of resistance training that’s always available to everyone: the one that uses your bodyweight, a.k.a. calisthenics. For beginners, this might not be the best option because pushing and pulling your bodyweight is pretty hard. There are some shortcuts, though, one of which we’ll explain here.
Triceps dips are not easy, performing them on a multi-gym or a dip-station will not only require some triceps strength but also strong core muscles. However, It’s far from being impossible to do and at the beginning, you can do box dips instead.
With box dips, you will need an elevated surface, like a chair or a piece of furniture that is high enough so you can lean against it and lower your body without your bottom touching the floor. It’s very important the object is secure and won’t slip as you dip, so take your time finding and adjusting the equipment before you start dipping.
Legs should be extended in front of you, heels on the ground, arms extended and palms placed on the elevated surface of your choice. When you lower your body, keep your elbows pointing backwards and not sideways. Focus on your triceps and if you feel pressure in your shoulders, try rotating your wrists out a bit. Also, you don’t have to dip super low either as long as you do the exercise in slower motion, even a less intense dip will provide ample amount of muscle activation.
4. Chin up
Equipment needed: home multi-gym or pull up bar
Best for: biceps and building a strong back
Sets: 3 Reps: 8
In depth: chin up vs pull up
Another calisthenics power move, chin ups focus on your biceps and back. In a home gym environment, there aren’t many easier alternatives, although you can try inverted rows, that work your biceps and back too.
Chin ups are probably a tad bit easier to perform than pull ups, mainly because in the case of chin ups, your arm muscles – especially your biceps – can be utilised more during the movement. For the same reason, chin ups are better to build arm definition and to really make the biceps pop.
To perform a chin up, grab the bar with an underhand grip (palms facing you), hands being shoulder apart. Even in the lowermost position, you should drop your shoulders completely and engage your core too. This will help you stabilise your body, especially on your descent.
At halfway point, your chin should be over the bar. otherwise it’s only a half-rep and you don’t want to half-rep. It is not only less effective but also promotes bad form as well.
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