Ultimate Arm Workout for Crossfit Junkies

Arm strength is key for cross fit success. However, many arm workouts are just dull and frankly ineffective. Read on to find out how you can get the most from your arm workout, and also what bodyweight alternatives there are if you can’t get to the gym!

So, to start with it is important to know a little bit about the anatomy of your arms. The two main muscles that make up the arms are: the biceps (biceps brachii) which are a two-headed muscle, and the triceps (triceps brachii), a three headed muscle. In addition to these large muscles, the biceps brachialis are also present. This muscle group, which is found beneath the biceps, is often forgotten in arm workouts. However as the brachialis muscles help with flexing the arm at the elbow- important for so many crossfit exercises, your training should include specific exercises to strengthen them.

When doing arm workouts, the biceps are given far too much focus. In actual fact they are a relatively small and weak muscle group. The triceps are often not focused on enough and therefore many cross fitters have small triceps, resulting in disproportionate arms, which lack strength, regardless of the size of the biceps. A good arm workout should train all the muscles in the arms, ensuring that the biceps, biceps brachii and brachialis, and triceps are all exercised equally. In order to build strength and definition your arm workout should ideally focus on heavy weights.

As being a crossfit athlete is all about becoming as fit as you can be, building strong, defined arms that you can be proud of is surely something to consider. By incorporating this arm workout into your routine at least one per week, then you will be able to develop toned, strong, muscular arms that you can be proud of in no time.

 

The Workout

After 10-15 minutes of cardio such as cycling or jogging to warm up, pick either the weighted or bodyweight workout to get your arms working hard!

 

Workout with Weights Bodyweight Alternatives
1.      Barbell Curl (Biceps exercise)

a.      Warm up and 3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Rest 60 seconds

2.      Close-Grip Bench Press (Triceps exercise)

a.      Warm up and 3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Rest 60 seconds

3.      Dumbbell Hammer Curl (Biceps exercise)

a.      3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Rest 60 seconds

4.      Dips (Triceps exercise)

a.      3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Rest 60 seconds

5.      Dumbbell Curl (Biceps exercise)

a.      2 sets of 6 – 8 reps

Rest 60 seconds

6.      Dumbbell Overhead Press (Triceps exercise)

a.      2 sets of 6 – 8 reps

1.      Chin Ups (Biceps exercise)

a.      Warm up and 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Rest 60 seconds

2.      Push Ups (Triceps exercise)

a.      Warm up and 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Rest 60 seconds

3.      TRX/ Upside down chin ups (Biceps exercise)

a.      3 sets of 8-10 reps

Rest 60 seconds

4.      Dips (Triceps exercise)

a.      3 sets of 4 – 6 reps

Rest 60 seconds

5.      Inverted rows (Biceps exercise)

a.      2 sets of 6 – 8 reps

Rest 60 seconds

6.      Handstand pushups (Triceps exercise)

a.      2 sets of 6 – 8 reps

By alternating between biceps and triceps exercises, and taking 60 secs rest, your muscles will be given time to recover, and recoup their strength. This will ensure that you can give your maximum effort each set which will help you to gain strength faster.

 

The Exercises: Hints, Tricks, Techniques and Alterations

Here is an explanation of why the exercises have been included in this workout, tips for ensuing your technique is on point, ideas for how to reduce intensity of the exercises, and alternatives to try if you don’t have access to weights, or if you’ve been using weights for awhile and aren’t seeing results, because bodyweight alternatives can spice things up and help to reawaken your muscles!

 

  1. The barbell curl is a classic exercise that has been around for years mainly because it is one of the best all-around bicep exercises you can do, working the muscles fully. This exercise also works the biceps brachialis muscles.
    1. If you need to reduce the intensity, switch to the E-Z Bar as this will give your wrists and elbows a break- but it will target slightly different muscles.
    2. If you are at home, you could use TRX bands, or do a chin up as both will target the biceps. If you want a simpler alternative then using bean cans, or bags of flour can be a great exercise.

 

  1. The close grip bench press is probably the best triceps exercise out there. This exercise involves a compound movement which allows you to safely push a heavy weight. This exercise also works your chest, which is always a good thing!
    1. When doing the close-grip bench press, you should aim to have your grip slightly narrower than shoulder-width, but no closer than that as it will put unnecessary stress on the shoulders and wrists, which could increase your chances of injury.
    2. If you need to reduce the intensity, increase the distance between your hands, but still ensure that it is slightly narrower than shoulder width. Alternatively simply reduce the weights on the bar.
    3. If you are at home, you could do a traditional push up instead, as this will target the same areas of the arms and shoulders as the bench press. If that is too easy, then how about clapping pushups? Alternatively, if you just want to work on technique to get you started, then you could use a broom handle!

 

  1. The dumbbell hammer curl is a great exercise to build stronger biceps and for developing the biceps brachialis. When doing this exercise, focus on keeping your elbow still and only moving your forearm as this will ensure your biceps get the most benefit.
    1. If you need to reduce the intensity, you could sit down with a back support as you conduct the exercise, do a preacher curl, alternate between arms, or simply reduce the weight.
    2. If you are at home, you could use TRX bands, or why not try out the upside down chin up using a pull up bar? Both these exercises are great bodyweight alternatives to the hammer curl that will target your biceps in a similar way.

 

  1. You can either do the bench dip or the upright dip in this training program, and both are great for training the triceps. Dips can also work the chest and shoulders as well. Ensure that you keep your elbows in to your body as you dip as that will ensure that your triceps really get worked out.
    1. If you need to reduce the intensity, you could use a resistance band to support your weight as you conduct the dip. You could also use a dip machine that can adjust weight.
    2. If you are at home, you could do your dips between two chairs, on the corner of a worktop or find bars you can dip between out in the park.

 

  1. The dumbbell curl is another classic bicep exercise. You could do this exercise using one arm at a time as that will help to better isolate your biceps and really get the maximum benefits. Always ensure to keep your elbows in, your back straight and exhale as you curl the dumbbell up to prevent injury.
    1. If you need to reduce the intensity, reduce your weight, or try using a pulley machine.
    2. If you are at home, try doing inverted rows. You can usually find a low bar at your local park. This bodyweight exercises is also great for strengthening the back and core! Ensure to contract your abs as you raise and lower your body to keep yourself in a straight line. If you can’t get to the park, try doing a doorway row!

 

  1. The overhead press is another awesome triceps exercises. The overhead press allows you to press heavy weight safely whilst overloading the triceps which is key to building strength!
    1. If you need to reduce the intensity, either reduce your weight, or try standing up to do the exercise as that way you can get more of your body behind the movement.
    2. If you are at home, you could give the handstand push up a go as this is the equivalent bodyweight exercise to the overhead press. FYI, you don’t need to do be able to do a freestanding handstand that a yogi would be proud of, instead you can put your feet up on the wall to maintain balance. Or you could rest your feet on a bench, or on a chair and then go from there- this is called a pike press. As both these exercises require a lot of upper body strength, I would recommend that you can get someone to support you as you conduct your pushups.

 

When working on your arm strength and tone, the key is progression- i.e. increasing the amount of weight you can lift over time. Therefore after completing this workout, ensure you increase your weights as you get stronger. When you are able to hit the top of your rep range for one set, you can then increase the weight. For example, once you are able to complete 8 reps on your first set of overhead presses, then you can add weight. An increase of 5lbs to your bar should be achievable for most keen cross fitters! Once you have increased the weight, carry on with that weight until you can complete 8 reps with the new weight etc.

Arm workouts should be challenging, but aim to have fun. By pushing yourself in the gym you are inevitably getting stronger and fitter- only helping you on your quest to cross fit greatness!

 

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