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Arm Workouts: The Top 10 Arm Moves

Individually, these biceps, triceps, and shoulder toners will amp up your regular arm workout. Done in a sequence a couple times a week, they'll leave you with sculpted, toned arms you'll be itching to show off.

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Chris Fanning
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Dumbbell Curl

The gold standard of biceps workouts in my book. Even when I'm only lifting 5 pounds, I feel like a super-jock by the sixth rep.

Do it:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand in front of your hips, palms facing out.
  • To begin, bend your left arm 90 degrees so your left arm is parallel to the floor.
  • Curl your right hand toward your shoulder. Then lower it back down to the start position while keeping your left arm in place.
  • Do 8 curls with your right arm, keeping both elbows close to your ribs.
  • Switch sides, doing 8 curls with your left arm.
  • Once you've done both sides, curl both arms simultaneously toward your chest and then bring back toward start position. Do 8 reps of this double curl.

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Forearm Plank

I do a set of these between every other machine on the circuit (and, um, while waiting for my super-slow podcasts to download at home).

Do it:

  • Get into a push-up position.
  • With your weight on your forearms and toes, align your elbows on the floor under your shoulders.
  • Make a straight line from your head to your heels, then hold this position for 20 seconds while breathing gently.
  • Rest for 30 seconds by placing your knees on the floor.
  • Repeat 3 times, working your way up to a total of 6 reps.

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Chair Dips

Hands-down, these are the best moves I know to work the entire backs of my arms. Confession: I have done them in airports to burn off nervous travel energy, at home to prep for a no-good phone call, and once in my cubicle. (Chair had wheels: Bad scene.)

Do it:

  • Sit on the edge of the chair with your feet together.
  • Place your hands on the seat on either side of your thighs and keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Bend your elbows 90 degrees and lower yourself toward the floor.
  • Straighten your arms, raising your body back to the start position.
  • Do 8 reps.

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Balanced Core Strengthener

I basically forget I'm working my arms in this move, which is a lot like remembering that the cranberry juice in a Cape Codder does count as fruit.

Do it:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Step forward with your left leg and lift your right leg behind you, bending forward slightly as you raise both arms over your head. Hold for 20 seconds, then relax for 30 seconds.
  • Keep your hips squared and your arms close to your ears. Lift your back leg up to hip height, or as high as you can.
  • Repeat 6-10 times, alternating legs in the lift.

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The Cobra

If you carry your stress between your shoulder blades like I do, this move may feel tweaky and, well, unpleasant for the first two reps or so. By the fifth, though, I always feel wrung out -- and by the 10th, the space between my shoulder blades feels wide open (and I'm less snarly).

Do it:

  • Lie facedown on the floor with your palms near your chest.
  • Lift your head, shoulders, and chest off the floor, pulling your shoulder blades down and together. Stay here for two counts and then lower down.
  • Repeat 8-10 times. (Need more? Try lifting your thighs and hips off the floor.)

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Pullovers with Dumbbells

I know my workout rocked when my armpits are a good kind of sore. This move gets me there.

Do it:

  • Lying on an exercise bench or large couch cushion, hold a 5- or 8-pound dumbbell in both hands with your arms extended over your chest.
  • Slowly lower the weight behind your head and return the weight back.
  • Do 15 reps. (Want it harder? Raise your legs and bend your knees 90 degrees.)

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Push-Up on a Ball

Once you nail the whole balancing-on-a-teetering-object thing, the actual push-up part of this exercise feels like a triumph. (Note: If you've had knee joint or nearby ligament injuries in the past, don't let the ball rest directly on your kneecaps -- the pressure plus lack of stability flares mine up if I'm not careful.)

Do it:

  • Lie with your abdomen on an exercise ball and walk your hands forward on the floor until the ball rests under your thighs.
  • Pull your navel in toward your spine, bending your elbows.
  • Lower your upper body to the floor. Hold this position for three seconds, and then push up so your elbows are straight, but not locked. Keep your head in line with your spine and your abs engaged.
  • Start with 5 reps, working up to 15. Once you've mastered 15 reps, rest for one minute and then do a second set.

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Sun Salutation Variation 1

The progression from tabletop to half push-up in this series sends a fiery zing (the good kind!) from your elbows up the back of your arms and ending between your shoulder blades. Ahh, progress!

Do it:

  • Stand tall with your feet together, arms at your sides. Raise your arms overhead, landing with palms facing together, fingers reaching for the sky.
  • Sweep your arms sideways, exhaling as you swan dive forward into a forward bend, head coming toward your shins, knees relaxed and fingertips or palms touching the floor.
  • Move into a flat back, bringing your torso away from your thighs, fingertips touching the floor.
  • Jump both feet backwards and move into a downward dog.
  • Bring your body into tabletop: Set your knees down, hips directly over them. Bring your hands directly under your shoulders.
  • With your arms close to your sides, bend your elbows 45 degrees in a half push-up. Repeat 8 times. Be sure to contract your abs and keep your head aligned with your spine.
  • Rest in child's pose: arms stretched in front of you, hips sent back toward your heels, dropping your head.
  • Move back into tabletop, then lift your hips into downward-facing dog.
  • Next, step forward into a flat back, and then bend low into a forward bend.
  • End with a reverse swan dive into mountain pose.

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Hover Rotation

This move only sounds like you need coordination to do it well. Its multiple simple steps are done in slow progression, so you have time to process each one (and not get frazzled by the "What's next?" factor).

Do it:

  • Start by lying faceup, leaning on your elbows with your legs extended and your knees slightly bent.
  • Lift your hips toward the ceiling, forming a straight line from your head to your heels. Stay for 8 counts.
  • Roll to your side, hips lifted with your right elbow and forearm on the floor to support your weight and help you balance. Maintain a straight line again, head to heels, holding for 8 counts.
  • Now roll into a plank position with your forearms on the floor and your elbows by your sides, knees lifted.
  • Hold for 8 counts.
  • Lastly, roll to your left side, supporting your body with your left forearm and elbow. Lift your hips in a straight line between your head and your heels, holding for 8 counts.
  • Repeat the sequence 8 times.

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Traveling Power Squat

I won't lie: It took me a bit to get my arms and legs synchronized to make this move work, and I nearly knocked out my dog in the process. Now that I don't flail like a nimrod as I jump, the fronts of my arms and tops of my thighs sear when I do it for more than 45 seconds.

Do it:

  • Stand holding a 5- or 8-pound dumbbell horizontally in front of your ribcage with both hands.
  • Lower your hips into a squat and hold for two seconds.
  • Then jump, explosively, as if you're reaching over a volleyball net. As you jump, lift the dumbbell over your head, fully extending your arms.
  • Return the weight immediately back to your ribcage at the bottom of the jump.
  • Beginners, start with 30 seconds. Intermediates, shoot for 60 seconds.

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