Dumbbell Arm Exercises for Beginners

Photo Credit: Mauritsvink PD

Dumbbell triceps exercises focus on the triceps muscles on the back of the arms. Hold the a light weight, 2 to 5 pound dumbbell in your left hand with your palm toward your body. Spread your legs slightly with your right leg forward. Brace your body by placing your right hand on the thigh of your right leg. Keep your weight displaced evenly over both legs. Pull your shoulders down and back to straighten  your spine. Look at the floor in front of your right foot. Bend your elbow and raise your upper arm until it is close to your body. Keep your forearm vertical to the floor. Straighten your elbow and push your arm toward the wall behind you. Hold the position for a few seconds and return to the start position. Always keep your arm close to your body and avoid the urge to press your arm outward from your torso. Do 5 repetitions on each side. Increase the number of repetitions as you gain strength. 

Biceps curls work not only your biceps but also strengthen your rotator cuff. Sit on a weight bench or stand with the back of your arm resting on the bench support pad. Hold a dumbbell in your hand, arm extended,  with your palm pointing upward. Slowly curl your arm to bend your elbow using your biceps only. Avoid the urge to swing the weight upward toward your shoulder. Keep your wrist and forearm in a straight line and don’t bend  your wrist forward or backward. Slowly lower the dumbbell and your arm back to the start position. The key to successful biceps curls is slow, deliberate and controlled motion. Try to do 5 to 7 biceps curls using a 2 to 5 pound weight with each arm in the beginning. Increase the number of repetitions and increase the weight as your arms grow stronger.

Resistance Band Workouts for Beginners

Photo Credit: Velislav Panchev CC-BY-SA-3.0,2.5,2.0,1.0

Resistance bands can be used to exercise the whole body, arms, legs, back, abs, shoulders, and chest. There are some basic exercises that beginners should master before moving on to more strenuous resistance band workouts. A personal fitness trainer can help you choose a set of bands that will work for you and instruct you on how to use resistance bands effectively. Resistance bands are easier to use than exercise machines or even free weights. The level of the workout depends on how much effort you apply in stretching the band. You can also be more creative in your workouts using resistance bands. You can pull resistance bands from different directions and use with the arms, feet and legs. A great exercise for the biceps and forearm is to stand on the band with one foot and curl your bicep by stretching the band upward. Attach the resistance band to a door, a wall or to a heavy piece of exercise equipment, and use with the legs or to push down with the triceps. Resistance bands are versatile and effective for strength training. Before using resistance bands, warm up with a few minutes of cardio and some stretches. 
Perform a few chest presses with your resistance bands by looping resistance bands around a stable object or attaching them to a wall mount. Hold the handles in each hand with your elbows bent, back toward the wall and your forearms parallel to the floor. Step away from the wall just enough to take up the slack in the bands. Tighten your chest muscles and then press your arms out in front of you in a straight line. Relax and bring  your elbows back to your sides. Avoid locking your elbow. Do about 10 to 15 repetitions. Don’t forget to breathe out when you push forward and breathe in when you return to the start position. 
Bicep curls are performed using a resistance band by standing on the band with both feet and pulling the band using the handles. It may be easier for beginners to stand on the band using only one foot. Grasp the resistance band handles with your palms facing upward. Curl your arms up just as you would if you were using dumbbells. You can alternate curling one arm and then the other or both at the same time.  
Do some squats using resistance bands by standing on the band and holding the handles near your shoulders with your elbows bent and close to your sides. Begin with a medium resistance band and advance to a heavy resistance band, if the medium band does not offer enough resistance. Lower your body to a squat position and hold it for a few seconds. Return to a standing position, but keep your hands at your shoulders, grasping the handles of the bands. The band will offer resistance against your legs as your stand up and help increase the strength of your arms. Do 10 to 15 repetitions and increase the number of repetitions as you grow stronger. 

Different Kinds of Fitness: Which Is Right For You?

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When you lead an active life that includes exercise and a healthy diet, you look better and you feel better. Your are at a lower risk for disease, including heart attack, diabetes, some types of cancer, stroke and high blood pressure. Exercise can also help you feel better emotionally by improving self-esteem and creating a sense of well-being. Sometimes it can be hard to find the time to exercise or to find a type of exercise you not only enjoy doing but one that will be right for you. There are so many ways to exercise, but how do you know what kind of exercise program will work for you? Choose the type of exercise that fits your lifestyle and will help you reach your fitness goals. 
Muscle strengthening is a type of exercise where the focus is on stronger muscles and building muscle tissue. Stronger muscles can help you lift heavier objects or to work and exercise longer before tiring. Muscle strengthening exercises include push-ups, sit-ups, isometric exercises and lifting weights. 

Aerobic exercise helps improve your lungs and your heart. Aerobic exercise increases the amount of oxygen to the cells of your body, especially to your muscles. Exercise that increases your breathing and heart rate is aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is most effective when you sweat and exercise for 30 minutes or more. Examples of aerobic exercise include dancing, running, jogging and bicycling. 
Flexibility is important to help you avoid injury and remain active without becoming sore and stiff. Stretching exercises help to improve flexibility. Stretching before exercise can help you to avoid injury during your workout. Stretching after a vigorous workout helps your body cool down and may help you avoid sore muscles.
Balance exercises help improve your posture as well as  your balance. Good balance can help you avoid injury during exercise. Poor posture can lead to back pain.Examples of balance exercises include standing on one leg for 30 seconds or longer, standing on your toes, balancing your body on your heels and standing on a balance board or a foam stability mat.  
The best fitness program will include all four types of exercise. Some activities, like swimming, bicycling, sports and yard work, include aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance exercise. When you choose activities or select an exercise program, do what you enjoy. You will be more likely to make exercise a habit if you have fun doing it. 

Strengthen Your Back

Back pain is a common ailment for many adults. Usually mild back pain, such as an achy feeling or soreness, is caused by overuse of the muscles or muscle injury. Most back pain can be alleviated by staying active, exercising and stretching. More serious pain or numbness may be caused by bone, disk or nerve injury or  another condition that should be treated by a doctor. See your doctor to rule out a serious back injury before you start or continue exercising.

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Hand-walk on a stability or exercise ball to strengthen your upper and lower back muscles as well as your arms and shoulders. Use a medium to large exercise ball. Lie across the ball on your stomach and stretch your arms out in front of your body. Place your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders. Make a straight line with your neck and back toward your feet. Tighten your stomach and slowly walk forward on your hands until your feet and legs are lifted off the floor. Continue walking forward until your thighs or knees are resting on the ball. Slowly walk back on your hands until the exercise ball is under your stomach again. Keep your body straight and rigid when hand walking forward and backward. 
Stay on the ball on your stomach and try some exercise ball push-ups. Place your hands on the ball under your shoulders and stretch your legs out straight and hold your lower body up with your toes.. Keep your body rigid and tighten your abdominal muscles. Push your upper body up from the ball, hold the position for 5 seconds and lower your chest back toward the ball. Try to do 10 to 15 push-ups.
Raise and lower your back while resting your weight on your hands and knees to strengthen your back muscles, as well as your biceps and rotator cuff. Begin on your knees and place your hands underneath your shoulders with your fingers pointed forward.  Look at the floor and make a straight line with your body from your head to your buttocks. Pull your shoulders back toward your hips and tighten your abdominal muscles. Breathe out and arch your back upward as far as you can. Keep your palms and knees on the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds and return to the starting position. Next, lift your hip bones toward the ceiling and arch your back so that your belly is drawn toward the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds and return to the start position. 

Are You Ready for Home Based Boot Camp?

Photo Credit: Exey Panteleev CC-BY-2.0 2011
The cold winter weather can discourage even the most dedicated exercise enthusiasts. Snow, wind and cold rain can prevent you from your daily run or jog around the block. Bad weather is dangerous when it comes to driving or even walking to the gym. Don’t let cold, wet or snowy weather deter  you from exercising. You can continue your current exercise program or start a new exercise program right at home in your own living room. How about trying some boot camp exercises at home? You don’t need equipment and you don’t need to drive to the gym to get all the benefits of a home-based boot camp style exercise program. Start your day with 10 minutes of warm-up exercises. Drink a couple of 8 ounce glasses of water, eat a good breakfast with plenty of protein, whole grains and heart-healthy fats. Next, stretch your body and walk in place to prepare your mind and your body for a really intense home boot-camp style work out. Choose some strength and toning exercises that will work most of your major muscle groups and get moving!
Begin with some push-ups. Push-ups work your entire upper body, including your arms, neck, chest and shoulders. This is a great exercise to help you feel energized and ready to take on the world. Beginners should start with push-ups with the knees on the floor. Position your hands under your shoulders and rest your body weight on your knees and hands. Lower your upper body to within a few inches of the floor and the push straight up until your arms are completely extended. Keep your head and spine aligned in a straight line. When you get stronger, extend your legs and rest the weight of your lower body and legs on your toes. Do at least 20 push-ups each morning and another set of 20 in the evening. 
The bridge exercise will strengthen your abdominal muscles, your hip joints and muscles and your buttocks. Lie on the floor on your back with your knees bent. Place your feet flat on the floor and place your hands, palms down, by your sides. Squeeze your abs and lift your hips as high as possible. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then lower your body back to the floor. Repeat this exercise at least 20 times, if possible. 
One of the most effective exercises for your buttocks and hips is the squat. Beginners should hold on to a sturdy chair when performing squats. Those with more balance can stretch their arms out in front of their body or hold their arms relaxed at their sides. Keep your eyes forward and your spine in a straight line and slowly lower your body to a “seated” position by bending the knees. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and then press upward with your legs until you are standing upright again. Do 20 repetitions each morning and again in the evening.  
Work in some high intensity aerobic exercises by marching in place or performing jumping jacks. Jump as high as you can for 10 minutes and then walk in place for another 10 minutes to cool down. Exercise for 10 minutes and then cool down by walking around or marching in place for 10 more minutes. When your heart rate returns to normal after a vigorous workout, stretch to relax. 

Functional Training

Functional training can improve how you perform every day activities. Ordinary tasks, such as lifting groceries into the car, carrying a child, rearranging furniture and lifting laundry baskets, are activities that require functional strength. The purpose of functional strength training is to increase the strength and endurance of muscles involved in ordinary activities. Functional training can help you recover from an injury, increase range of motion or improve your overall strength, agility and balance. Functional training is especially effective to rehabilitate joints and muscles following injury or surgery. 
Photo Credit: Slyngebehandling CC-BY-SA-3.0 2007
Functional training involves repeating the same movement to improve your performance of that movement. For example, a worker who lifts boxes all day can benefit from functional training exercises that improve the strength of the arms for lifting and the legs for supporting extra weight. Lifting free weights helps strengthen the upper body and legs for more efficient lifting with reduced risk of injury. A professional basketball player can benefit from jumping, running and stretching exercises to improve his or her performance on the court. Golfers can benefit from functional training that strengthens the arms, upper body and improves range of motion in the arms and shoulders. Function exercises can be tailored to meet a specific need by working the major muscle groups involved in performing a task. A whole body approach to functional training is better than working isolated muscles if you want to improve your overall strength and endurance. 
Exercises that use your own body weight with normal movements are a good way to begin functional strength training. Pulling, pushing, sitting and standing up from a seated position are activities that most people perform many times throughout the day. Push-ups, pull-ups and squats involve a wide range of muscles and muscle groups and can increase your strength and endurance for most daily activities. A fitness trainer can help you develop a functional exercise program tailored to your specific needs. 

For more information about functional strength training, see:

Strength Training for Older People

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How many times each month do you lift a basket of laundry, load the car with heavy bags from the market, pick up a small child or move furniture to clean underneath? Daily activities like these require strength and endurance. The old adage “if you don’t use it you lose it” definitely holds true for muscle mass and strength. As we age, we can lose muscle mass if we become or remain inactive. Inactivity combined with aging can result in increased body fat, small, weak muscles and a loss of bone density. Even if you have already experienced some muscle mass loss and decreased bone density, exercise and strength training can help restore some of your lost muscle and bone. Regular exercise that includes strength training can also help reduce the risk and symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, obesity and chronic back pain. If you have been inactive for several months or if you have never practiced a regular exercise and strength training regime, see your doctor for a complete physical and advice about the best strength training program for you. 
You don’t need to join a gym or use expensive exercise equipment to start a strength training program. Push-ups, crunches, squats and lunges are all exercises that you can do using only the weight of your own body for resistance. Warm up and prepare your muscles for strength training exercises by stretching. Start out slowly and perform only a few body weight resistance exercises. Try to complete 5 repetitions of each exercise for the first few days. Gradually increase the number of repetitions until you can perform 15 repetitions without becoming exhausted. You can continue to increase repetitions or increase the amount of time devoted to each exercise. Perform each exercise for 3 minutes every other day for the first week. Don’t focus on the number of repetitions, but each exercise continuously for a full 3 minutes. Add one minute to each exercise each week until you can exercise for a full 30 minutes without becoming exhausted.
Try some free weights like dumbbells or add some resistance band exercises after your begin to see results. Resistance bands are rubber tubes that stretch and offer resistance when you pull on them. You can stand on a resistance band and pull it upward with your arms for triceps, biceps and upper body strength training. Free weights can also help increase arm and upper body strength. 
Begin any new strength training program slowly and carefully. Always take a full 24 hours of rest between strength training exercises to allow your muscles to recover and repair. The goal in strength training is to gradually increase your strength and endurance. Stop exercising immediately if you feel any pain in your muscles or joints. Pain is an indication that you are over-exerting your body. You may feel a bit sore after the first few days, which is normal as your muscles and joints are not accustomed to the extra work. See a doctor immediately if pain persists or if there is swelling. 

For more information about strength training, see:
Centers for Disease Control, Why Strength Training?