The triceps are the muscles that extend along the back of the upper arm. Exercises that effectively train the three main areas of the muscle are essential to strengthen and tone it. Training these muscles does not require a big time investment, and there are many exercises that require no equipment. The American Council on Exercise conducted research to evaluate the most effective triceps exercises. For the best results, include these moves in your training plan.
The dip requires only a sturdy bench or chair. Another challenging exercise that uses your body weight, you may find it difficult to lower completely. Begin with a small movement and increase the range of motion as you get stronger. You can also make the move more difficult by extending your legs out in front of you and resting your heels on the floor.
Sit on the bench and grip it with your hands at each side of your hips. Walk your legs out slightly so that your bottom comes off of the bench. With legs bent and feet flat on the floor, lower your bottom as you bend at the elbows. Lower just until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and then push back up to the starting position.
Benches and chairs have a tendency to slide during dips, so it’s important to push them against a wall before beginning.
Rated the top triceps exercise, researchers believe the use of body weight is what makes this move so effective. It’s difficult to use momentum to carry the movement, meaning you are engaging your muscles more with each repetition.
Get into a push-up position on your hands and toes. Move your hands to the center of the floor, under your chest, so that your index fingers and thumbs touch to form a triangle. Keep your body in a straight line as you bend at the elbows and lower your chest towards the floor. Push back up to the starting position and repeat.
This is a challenging exercise so it is best to begin on your knees and move to your toes only after you grow stronger. You may also find that you can lower only a little at first. As you gain strength, it will become easier to lower yourself closer to the floor.
Triceps kickbacks can be performed with dumbbells or exercise bands. Stand to the left of a bench. Place your right knee and right hand on the bench, and keep your back parallel to the floor. Hold a weight in your left hand with your elbow bent at 90 degrees and your upper arm tucked close to your side and parallel to the floor. Move only the forearm to lift the weight and kick the arm back until your whole arm is parallel to the floor. Lower the weight to the starting position and repeat.
Triceps kickbacks can also be done without a bench. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend forward at the waist. Perform the movement as described above. To do the exercise with bands, step firmly on the band to secure it and complete the arm movement as you would with the dumbbell.
When life gets hectic, exercise is usually the first thing we scratch off the to-do list. Yet this is the time when we need exercise the most. It helps to ease stress and burns the extra calories from a mindless meal or unplanned snack. Don’t give up on exercise all together. Breaking your workout into short sessions that you squeeze in throughout the day adds up. While 30 minutes of exercise daily is recommended to improve health, a vigorous 10-minute session can blast calories and keep you on track when life gets crazy.
At the gym
If your gym is conveniently located, a quick stop is worth it. Queue up your favorite song and hop on a spin bike. Vigorously cycling for 10 minutes burns 119 calories. For a full body workout, hop on the rowing machine where you’ll burn just a little less at 100 calories for the same amount of time.
In your living room
Grab your favorite kickboxing video and commit to 10 minutes, or keep it simple and jump rope at a moderate pace to burn 120 calories. Pick a few of your favorite strength and cardio exercises and alternate between them for a 10 minutes circuit training session to burn 93 calories. Even just turning on music and doing a little hip hop dancing will burn 60 calories.
In the yard
Don’t discard seasonal yard work as part of your daily exercise. It keeps you moving and burns calories. Rake leaves for 10 minutes, and you’ll burn 44 calories. Manually trimming shrubs and trees burns 40 calories. Once the snow falls and you start shoveling, you can burn 66 calories in 10 minutes.
Around the neighborhood
A quick run around the neighborhood at a 10 minute per mile pace will burn 120 calories. Switch to roller blades and enjoy the crisp fall air to blast 146 calories. If you have access to stairs, walking up them for 10 minutes will burn 93 calories.
Strong calves support running and walking, but they are often skipped to focus on exercises like squats and lunges. You can easily incorporate calf work into your current exercise routine. Place your hands on a wall for balance, stand on one foot, and alternate raising and lowering the heel. Try 12 repetitions and then switch legs.
The rotator cuff is made of four muscles that provide stability to the shoulder and support rotation. This group of muscles plays a role in all types of arm movement from throwing a ball to painting a wall. There is a high risk for injury when the rotator cuff is not strong and flexible. Target the rotator cuff in your training by incorporating exercises like the Supine Rotator Cuff.
The muscles of the forearms are important for grip strength like that used while holding objects, as well in fitness activities such as rock climbing. This area is trained as a secondary muscle group during upper body exercises, but it’s beneficial to give it targeted attention. Add a few wrist curls to your workout by holding a dumbbell in each hand. Sit on a bench with your arms bent at the elbows and palms up with your wrists resting on your knees. Curl the weight up, bending only at the wrist and release. You can also complete the exercise with palms facing down.
When performing ab exercises, we are often told not to use the hip flexors because it takes the stress off of our abdominals. But this doesn’t mean we should skip training these muscles all together. Healthy hip flexors give power to your movement and improve mobility. Weakness in this area has been linked to hamstring, knee, and IT band pain. Training the hip flexors is as simple as sitting on a bench with your feet on the ground and raising the right knee toward your chest and hold for 2 seconds. Lower the foot back to the ground and repeat for 12 repetitions before switching legs.
A strong core is important to reduce the risk of back pain and to move easily, but we often put all of our focus on the abdominals. The lower back is equally important when it comes to a healthy core. Position yourself on your hands and knees. Raise your right arm out and reach towards the wall in front of you as you extend your left leg back. You should be supported by your left arm and right knee on the ground and your right arm and left leg should be extended and parallel to the floor. Lower to the starting position and alternate with the left arm and right leg.
Our understanding about improving strength and fitness is constantly evolving as new research emerges. It’s important to stay up to date on the most effective moves so that you can eliminate those exercises that are unsafe or that simply don’t work.
The leg extension is an exercise used to strengthen the quadriceps in the front of the upper thigh. Certified fitness trainers surveyed by the American Council on Exercise now believe that this machine may not be a smart option for building lower body strength. The exercise requires that you are seated with your lower leg under a padded lever. Raising the leg to straighten it, you work the upper thighs by lifting the lever and the weight stack. This is an unnatural weight lifting position that doesn't relate to functional fitness. The motion also puts added stress on the knee joint. Choose multi-joint moves like lunges and squats to train the quadriceps.
Lat Pull-Down Behind the Neck
The lat pull-down works the muscles of the upper back. It is typically performed by pulling the bar down behind the head to the base of the neck or to chest level in the front of the body. There is now proof that a lat pull-down to the front may be both safer and more effective. Pulling the bar behind the head requires flexibility in the shoulder that many people lack, putting you at risk for rotator cuff injury. This movement also makes it difficult to keep the spine aligned, and banging the bar at the base of the neck could injure vertebrae. Choose a safer movement and use a wide grip to pull the bar towards your chest as you lean back slightly, contract the abdominals, and move the shoulder blades together and down.
A leisurely workout is better than no exercise at all, but you shouldn’t fool yourself into thinking you will get results if you don’t give 100 percent. Railings and handles on cardio equipment make it easy to relax your form. You might slouch over the handles while you read a magazine or watch the television. When you use these safety features to absorb too much of your weight, you take the stress off of working muscles and make your workout less effective. Slouching could contribute to neck and back pain. A less challenging workout means fewer gains in your cardiovascular fitness and fewer calories burned. Stand up straight and use railings only to help with balance when needed, not to support your weight.
Strength training is a core component of fitness, and it can be accomplished in a number of ways. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, here are several reasons weight machines might be a good option for you.
You need to learn proper form.
When properly set up, weight machines keep your body aligned throughout the exercise. Machines can also be adjusted to help you increase range of motion without risking that you move beyond what is safe for your flexibility. When starting out, take advantage of tours and consultations with fitness staff. They are there to show you how to set up machines for your specific needs to keep you safe and make your workout more effective.
You want consistency in your training.
Seat and lever adjustments on machines are easy to track. You can make notes on the adjustment settings so that each time you workout you know that the equipment is set-up correctly for a consistent session. This allows you to focus on gradual weight increases knowing that you are performing the exercise in the same way from one session to the next.
You need small increases in weight.
The key to building muscle strength is a gradual increase in the amount of weight you lift. As you continue to challenge the muscles they will grow stronger. With free weights, you may be forced to increase your weight by five pounds when you move to the next set of available weights. Depending on your exercise level, a jump in that amount of weight may be too challenging. Many weight machines have attachments that can be placed on the weight stack that allows you to increase your resistance by only a pound or two at a time. This more gradual approach may be a better fit for you and your progress.
You exercise alone.
As you increase strength, the amount of weight you lift will increase too. When working with free weights, lifting heavy weights requires a spotter to help coach you through your movement and assist if you should get stuck lifting a weight. If you want to lift heavier weights and can’t find a spotter, machines are a safer option.