Posted on 1 Comment

Bicep Exercises for Women

Not only do all gym-goers have different goals, needs and objectives, but so too do they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and background – women included. What we do know, is that it’s typically women that can be more intimidated by lifting weights at the gym, whether that’s from fear of judgement or concerns of gaining too much ‘bulk’ in their upper body.

However, there’s no reason for women to miss out on all the incredible benefits that come with a full body workout, including weights. Working out your biceps can boost your strength and confidence, and help you reach your fitness and wellbeing goals. It’s also a great way to start trialling the free-weights area in the gym, building confidence and learning that you have just as much right to be there as everyone else.

Here’s our guide to some of the best bicep exercises you can try yourself.

WHAT ARE BICEPS?

Bicep anatomy

The biceps brachii (more commonly referred to as just the biceps) is a two-headed muscle that’s particularly prominent on the front of the upper arm. It helps to control the motion of the shoulder and, more vitally, the elbow. It helps to flex and turn the forearm.

WHY SHOULD I BE FOCUSING ON MY BICEPS?

Biceps are essential for lifting, pulling and pushing, so are a key feature when it comes to stronger arms. If you’re a tennis player, for example, you’ll know how important they are, but they’re also key for everyday tasks such as carrying your shopping bags, lifting a pulling heavy items from a shelf or bending down to pick something up.

When it comes to building strength at the gym, you’ll invariably be using your biceps for most upper body-focused exercises. They’re also the key to toned, shapely arms. However, it’s worth noting that it can be really hard to see progress in your biceps, even if you’re seeing big improvements in your strength, so don’t be disheartened if you’re not seeing major changes to your appearance straight away, you’ll be enjoying a wealth of benefits that might not be visible to the naked eye.

You’ll also enjoy the benefits of increased stamina, a reduction in potential injuries and the development of strong bones.

You’ll also enjoy the benefits of increased stamina, a reduction in potential injuries and the development of strong bones.

Find out more about the benefits of arm and shoulder exercises with our guide.

WHAT EXERCISES WILL WORK OUT MY BICEPS?

As you’ll see from the exercises below, curls are key for strengthening your biceps. But you’ll also find a wide variety of options, even if you can’t make it into the gym for your workout.

  • Concentration curl

Great for definition, this movement isolates the bicep muscle. Sit on a bench or seat, with your knees spread apart in a V shape. Hold a dumbbell in your hand, resting your elbow on the inner thigh of the same side leg and with your palm facing upwards. Slowly lower your forearm towards your knee while inhaling and ease it back to starting position while exhaling.

These can also be done in a standing position. Keep feet shoulder-width apart and bend at your waist so your elbow is level with your knee. Holding a dumbbell with your palm facing up, bring your forearm slowly towards your chest before lowering to starting position.

Whichever version you choose, make sure to really focus on your biceps as you move the dumbbell. By slowly controlling the movement, you’ll be sure to see bigger benefits.

A simple exercise that helps to tone your arms. Take a dumbbell in each hand and stand with feet hip-width apart. Keep your elbows close to your body down at your sides and the palms of your hands facing forward. Keeping your upper arms pinned in place next to your body, bend your elbows and bring your palms up towards your shoulders before slowly lowering back to starting position. 

  • Hammer Curls

As well as helping to tone your arms, hammer curls are also great for your wrists, helping to boost your wrist stability and improve your grip strength too.

Take exactly the same stance as you would for bicep curls (stood with feet hip-width apart, arms tight at your sides, dumbbell in each hand) but instead of your palms facing forwards, instead have them facing inwards. Lift both arms keeping your thumbs on the top of your palms. Pull upwards towards your chest, before lowering in a controlled way back to starting position.

  • Resistance band hammer curl

No dumbbells? No problem! You can also complete sets of hammer curls using a resistance band instead, meaning you can still focus on your biceps, even if you can’t make it to the gym.

The stance is exactly the same, but instead of holding a dumbbell in each hand, you’ll be holding the ends of the resistance band, which is looped under your feet. Complete the hammer curls in the same way listed above.

  • Preacher Curls

If you can find a Preacher Pad at your gym then you can try preacher curls. This supportive bench will have a seat in front of padded arm rest that slopes away from your body at around chest height. Hook your arms over so you can lean your upper arms on the pad and take either a dumbbell in each hand, or a barbell in both hands and straighten both arms. As with a standard bicep curl, you will raise your forearms to around chest height, before gently lowering back to starting point, keeping your upper arms on the pad at all times. This means you focus just on your arm movements, without any momentum from leg drive.

Posted on 3 Comments

How To Get Back Into Weight Training And Lifting After A Break

Ready to return to weight training after a long break? Getting back into lifting after a while away from the gym? Here’s a guide to help you plan your return to the gym safely and effectively, so you can get your strength and fitness back.

START SMALL

After an extended break, it’s normal to have lost some strength and in your fitness levels, but the good news is, you can build up to the strength and fitness you had prior. Whilst you may feel like you lost all the hard work you put in before your break, those efforts were not all in vain. If you were regularly weight training or lifting, you’ll likely reap the benefits of muscle memory to help you get back on track.

You may be tempted to get straight back to your usual weight training routine but it’s important to restart lifting at a reduced capacity, particularly in the first few weeks to allow your body to get used to weight training again and to prevent injury. How much you reduce this by will depend on how long you’ve been away from the gym. 

As a general guideline, if you’ve not been weight training for 4 weeks or more, you can start at give or take 50% of what you would have normally done in the first session. This session should primarily aim at getting used to being in the gym again and focus on your movement pattern when lifting weights, not about going hard and seeing how much you can lift. Reflect on the session over the next few days, checking in with how you’re recovering, and make sure to allow enough time for your body to recover.

By starting small you can always gradually build up and continue to make progress, which can also boost your confidence and build you up mentally in getting back into your weight lifting routine.

Remember to work at your own pace – keep in mind that getting back into things faster doesn’t necessarily mean that your results will be better or more sustainable.

SET SOME LIFTING GOALS

When getting back into weight training, it’s useful to set some goals you really want to achieve to help you stay motivated and allow that to direct what you do in the gym. Whether it’s a performance based goals such as achieving a 100kg back squat, an aesthetic goal such as building muscle on our back, or a goal based on neither – set ones that you want to achieve or gives purpose, and set some timeframes for when you can realistically achieve them by. Try to avoid spreading yourself too thinly by setting loads of goals – pick key ones you want to focus on now and break those down into smaller goals that you can implement into each session or on a weekly basis.

If you need some help with this, check our how guide on how to set fitness goals

CREATE SOME STRUCTURE

Now that you’ve decided on the goals you want to work on, you know your reason to train ( i.e. your purpose) and you’re prepared to get back into lifting, it can be helpful to give some structure to your weight training, based around your weekly schedule and needs.

Have a think about what commitments you might have, what your priorities are – taking into account things like your work life, time for family and friends and any other things that are important to you. Build your fitness routine into this so that you can address all your important things, and also do your fitness alongside.

Whilst we all may have 24 hours in a day, we all will have different priorities, needs and things going on in our lives. What matters is how you fit fitness into your life, not the other way around. If you can only realistically make it to the gym 3 times a week whilst you used to be able to go 5 times a week  – allocate 3 days in your diary for weight training. Ideally you would want to leave a rest day in between for this case if you can, for example training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Having these set days to train, which fit around your schedule can help you get back into your lifting routine, and you can always adjust if necessary.

Posted on 3 Comments

The Benefits of Being Active

There are many benefits when it comes to staying active. From improving mood to getting better sleep, here’s why staying active is the best thing you can do today…or any day.

WALK YOUR WAY TO FITNESS

Walking for just 25 minutes a day can add a whopping 7 years to your life, according to the European Society of Cardiology Congress. Walking can be a way to take a break from work if you are working from home. At the time of writing, in the UK, we are allowed to go out once a day (alone or with members of household) to exercise provided we have at least 2m distance from anyone. This could change so please make sure that you are check the latest Government guidelines before stepping out the house.

GRAB A BUDDY

We know that working out with friends is one of the best ways to stay motivated. Whilst it may not be possible in the current situation to see a friend, you can always do a video call and spur each other on through a workout together! Not only is it more fun exercising with friends, research suggests we work out for six minutes longer with friends than when alone, plus we burn an extra 40 calories. That’s because time flies when you’re having fitness fun with friends! If there is someone at home you can workout with, then you can encourage them to do your workouts together too.

ON SMALL STEP, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR FITNESS

You don’t have to make huge changes to your lifestyle to reap the benefits of exercise. Here are a few of our favourite healthy habits that are easy to implement and will make a big difference to your physical and mental wellbeing.  

Every step counts. Never forget that some movement is better than no movement. Even if you don’t have 30 minutes free for a full workout, short bursts of movement throughout the day will bring immense health benefits. The problems of sitting for long periods are said to include an increased risk of diabetes or heart disease, and shorten your lifespan. So, try setting an alarm to go off hourly but keep the alarm in another room or away from your desk, forcing you to get up and stretch your legs just to turn it off. Walking also makes us happier as it releases feel-good endorphins, so your three sets of 10 minutes will leave you with a natural high throughout the day.

Say goodbye to shortcuts. Sure, when you’re in a hurry, shortcuts are your best friend, but there are no shortcuts to getting fit. So, where possible, when going somewhere by foot take the long way round so you’re moving for longer. Sure, it might take a little more time to get to your destination but all of the extra steps will turn into healthy benefits.

Stairway to fitness.  Climbing stairs increases your core muscle strength, helps lower your bad cholesterol level, and burns 15 calories for every three flights of stairs, according to research by The University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center. If you have stairs at home you can use this as a tool to get your steps in! 

Stand up for fitness. Try and sneak more reasons to stand into your day. For example, use a smaller cup or water bottle so you have to get up more to re-fill it. 

Step it up a gear. Once you’ve introduced regular walking and movement into your life, take your fitness up a gear by increasing the speed of your walk or take two stairs at a time instead of one. Just make sure to follow the Government guidelines throughout this period.