There are all sorts of isolation workouts for the biceps and triceps, but I’m a huge fan of doing compound, functional movements that fire up bigger muscles too. Here are my two favorite exercises for strengthening the triceps and biceps that you can do at the comfort of your home.
1) NARROW PUSH-UPS
The push up is the queen of workouts for strengthening your chest, delts and triceps. When you engage your abs and focus on keeping your spine from rounding or arching too much, the push up becomes a great core workout too. Skip the knee push-up though; if you want to get strong fast, do the full version. Form suffering or wrists hurting when you’re on the floor? Get your hands on a table top, practice engaging your core and legs, and go to progressively lower surfaces as you get stronger.
Place your hands about shoulder width apart on the table. Start with your arms fully extended and slowly lower yourself to the table top. Keep your elbows shoulder-width apart instead of splaying them out to the side.
Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps twice a week. Once you can do more than 12 with good form, go to a lower surface such as a sturdy bench or a stair step
Stair step push up- same general instructions. The lower the surface you use, the more mindful you should be about engaging your abs and legs to keep from dumping your weight on your shoulders and wrists. You may opt to hover for a few seconds with your arms at a 90-angle to practice chaturanga form. If there is no elbow or wrist pain, try lowering until your chest touches the table, bench, step, or floor before pushing back up.
2) INVERTED ROWS
Although the main muscles recruited by the inverted row are your latissimi dorsi (literally, broad/broadest back), the biceps always get a huge workout in any pullup variation.
Grip the doorknob and place your feet on either side of the door. Start with your arms extended, and slowly pull yourself towards the door, keeping your elbows shoulder-width apart.
Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps twice a week. Once you can do more than 12 with good form, try hanging from a lower surface.
Bent-knee inverted rows/Straight leg inverted rows with an adjustable pull-up bar or squat rack – grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Lean back until your arms are straight, and have the back of your skull, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in one long line (think plank form). Depending on the height of your bar and your current level of strength, you may have to start with your knees bent (easier) and straighten them as you stand up. Feel free to begin with straight legs as long as your form is consistently good – see tips below!
No equipment? No problem. Grip the edge of a strong table, or rest a very sturdy rod on the back of two chairs. Or go to your neighborhood playground and get back in touch with that inner child that loved to play on the monkey bars.
If having your feet on the floor is starting to feel easy even with strict form, try propping your legs up on a box or chair for more challenge. If even elevated rows are getting easy, consider starting a full pull-up routine…but that is a discussion for another day!
1. keep the abs engaged and think of your body ascending and descending in one line.
2. Draw the shoulders out of the ears.
3. Go for large range of motion: start with the arms fully extended with the arms plugged firmly into the sockets and end with your chest close to whichever surface/hanging implement you’re working with.
4. Breathe. Inhale to lower, exhale to pull/push yourself up.
This is an article about biceps and triceps, but make sure to incorporate these moves in a balanced weight lifting or bodyweight-training routine. That is, remember to work other body parts too! Push ups and pull ups already work a whole lot of upper front, back body and core musculature, so add squats, lunges and deadlifts for a lower body that is equally strong.
Mel Torre is a yoga teacher, Barre 3 instructor, seasoned marathon runner and part of an awesome all-female trio band, Baihana. She teaches FNR, vinyasa flow (for all levels) and Stress Free Gentle Flow classes at Urban Ashram Yoga. Her soothing voice will surely help restore your mind, body and soul.