Here is a subject matter that can really use some facts and recommendations…..

When we look at overall health and fitness, we tend to focus on cardio training and diet as much as anything else. As time has moved on, however, we now know that maintaining lean mass (muscle) is as important as anything.

The next hurdle we encounter is addressing the aesthetics of training.


How do we look?

Well it’s okay to be worried about how we look. To have a bit of ego is perfectly normal. After all, everyone wants to look their best!

In my 30-plus years of training, I cannot begin to count the number of times a female client will express a concern about getting too muscular or “big”.

That’s fair enough…..

Truth is……females cannot really get muscle-bound. They do not have enough testosterone in their internal chemistry (they DO have a small amount). As we all know, training requires different phases or “periods” to fully hit the muscles. One of those “periods” is Hypertrophy….the manufacturing of muscle fiber. On a man, this can result in a very muscular look, however on women it manifests itself more as “shape”.

We have all seen runway models and even everyday women with very slender arms. Some are simply too skinny. They don’t have much lean mass in the arms…..and therefore No Shape!

A shapely arm is very nice looking! So how do we get that look?

First, let’s take a look at the arm muscles. I’ll break it down into three areas: Upper Arm Front, Upper Arm Back, and Forearm. For this discussion we’ll just focus on the Upper Arm Front: The Biceps, and a small bit on the forearm.

The biceps of course contract to flex or bend the elbow.

But they also perform a second movement:

Supination….the twisting of the forearm from palms-down to palms-up. Try this: Bend your elbow 90 degrees, grab your biceps with your opposite hand, then twist the forearm to palms-up position. As your palms move toward the Up position, you’ll feel the biceps squeezing. So we will want to work the biceps in both positions.

effective bicep workouts2

Great bicep workouts for women will consist of two simple movements

#1: Palms-up dumbbell curls:

I prefer a seated position here to keep the body from swaying. Use a moderate weight dumbbell, arms hanging down to your sides, palms forward. Using both arms simultaneously, curl the dumbbells up. Be sure to keep the elbows frozen against your sides. Do not allow elbows to move forward. In addition, let the wrists unfold and bend downward slightly as you curl. This will keep your elbow-to-palm “lever arm” longer which will require more torque and effort. This means you’ll be able to get more out of a lighter (safer) weight. We’ve ALL seen the guy at the gym swinging his arms all over the place…essentially “throwing” the dumbbell upward. That’s just cheating. Use more controlled movements with lighter weight and you’ll get great results.

Now, you’ll notice that this is a palms-up position which puts the biceps in a contracted state even before the curling motion begins… next……

#2: Palms-neutral dumbbell curls:

This is the same movement as #1, however do this with the palms facing inward toward each other. This is called a neutral or “hammer” grip (like you’re using when you hammer a nail), so the biceps are not squeezed into a contracted state prior to the movement, rather they are a bit more slack. In this position, the curling motion activates the muscles BELOW the elbow…the Brachioradialis particularly (this is the muscle on the front of the forearm). The reason we use this motion is to avoid an imbalance of muscle from the upper arm and forearm. Nobody would want a shapely upper arm and a skinny “buggywhip” forearm, rather we want to see good shape over the entire arm.

A couple of pointers: do not be concerned how “high up” the dumbbells travel, rather just concentrate on how hard the biceps are contracting and squeezing. Once they are fully contracted…that’s as high as the dumbbells will go. Many people make the mistake of continuing to move the dumbbell higher when in reality their elbows are just moving forward. As I said above, keep the elbows pinned against your sides so they’ll only bend, not travel forward.

Secondly, a free weight dumbbell is the best equipment to use. Machines have swinging “arms” that may not be the same length as YOUR arm and will perhaps put odd stress on the elbow. Stick with free weights here for the best/safest results.

Pretty simple…..but very effective.

I will offer a future article addressing the back of the upper arm (triceps) as well. Together, these arm muscles will leave you with a nice shape you can be proud of!


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Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
Lost 13 Kg in Total
Mel, 32y Location: London, United Kingdom Working with Pollyanna changed everything. I lost 13kg, got toned and have more energy than ever! Get same results!


Chriz Zaremba Fitness Consultant
Lost 45 Kg in Total
Chris, 50y Location: London, United Kingdom Lost 45kg after the age of 50 and now competes and wins physique competitions and runs marathons Check our weight loss plans