Dumbbell curls: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and comfortable, Dumbbells in each hand, held loosely, in a neutral position (meaning your thumb is forward, not turned in or out to the side). Avoid locking out your knees, elbows, or wrists. Keep everything relaxed. Then when you begin the curl, your thumbs naturally rotate out so that your palms face up at the end of your flexion. Your upper arms remain at ease, and you simply bend at the elbow. When you slowly reverse the curl, your wrists rotate to return with your thumbs forward.
Match your breathing to the exercise by breathing out when you curl and breathing in when you lower back down. Emphasize smooth, even breathing with smooth, even motion. Begin with less weight until you can easily and fluidly add more.
Hammer curls: Begin with the same stance as a dumbbell curl, but do not rotate the wrist as you lift. Rather, hold the dumbbell as if it were a hammer the whole time. You can curl one arm at a time to maintain proper form, and then take the curl across your body to target more of the biceps.
For the sideways curl, begin with your arms held loosely at your sides, then bend one arm at a time, at the elbow, with the dumbbell crossing your body and lining up parallel to your torso. Follow the same smooth line of motion to return to the starting position and remember to breathe out as you curl and in as you relax.
Triceps Extensions: You can do this exercise from a standing or seated position. Hold one dumbbell between both hands by gripping one end between your palms, fingers in a triangle around the shaft. Raise the dumbbell above your head into position. Keep your elbows glued to your ears, meaning the bend is in the elbows, not the shoulders.
When you bend your elbows, you will lower the dumbbell behind your head. Be mindful of the weight and difficulty of this exercise, and remember that the exercise should be smooth and precise. You can breathe in as you lower the weight behind you, and breathe out as you raise it again.
Bicep injuries tend to stem from repetitive strain or from maxing out with weights. Of course, you can use curls to target the biceps, and you can use bands to provide lengthening.
Use weights or a band with enough stretch to comfortably hold under both feet and get into the curl position with your feet close to shoulder width apart. You can find a range of exercises that help to strengthen not only your biceps but also the smaller muscles that serve to support your arms’ ROM.
A tricep tear can be rehabilitated with weights and band work also, and although people may be hesitant to purchase bands, there are benefits to the investment. Otherwise, a towel may be used for gentle dynamic stretching.
This global stretch also targets the triceps- With one elbow bent above the head, hold the top of the towel, and with your other hand gripping the bottom behind your back, softly and evenly pull the towel down, keeping some resistance to protect your shoulder and elbows.
When people say they’ve injured their shoulder, that could have implications for multiple muscles and ligaments intersecting at the head of the humerus bone. Shoulder shrugs can be helpful for muscles including the trapezius and levator scapula. Abduction or lateral flexion is great for the deltoids, supraspinatus, and biceps. Flexion for the anterior deltoids, pectoralis major, biceps brachii, coracobrachialis, and supraspinatus. Extension for triceps, latissimus dorsi, teres major, and posterior deltoid, and the list goes on. Working with an osteopathic practitioner can help identify target areas and tissue globally and focally.
“Food for Thought”
Normalize exercising your arms so that you have a steady routine you can count on until you return to your original strength and musculature. Incorporate a healthy diet so that your body is nourished and thriving.
Joint rotations: Simple wrist, elbow, and shoulder clockwise and counterclockwise rotations can help to maintain healthy ROM for each joint in your arm. Roll your shoulders slowly forward ten times, breathing steadily, and then change direction. Do ten elbow circles, following the natural bend and extension of the joint, before changing direction and repeating the process. Follow up with ten wrist circles going both directions.
Gentle stretching can help relieve tight muscles after they’ve been worked out. Avoid overstretching or “pulsing” (repetitive stressful pressure during the stretch). Instead, think about relaxing into each stretch so that your muscles are elongated and allowed to freely release and lengthen.
Arm stretches can include the following:
- With both of your arms forward, fold the fingers of your hands down so that the back of your palms are touching and hold there gently, to stretch the top of your forearms. You can press lightly on the backs of your fingers/palms to increase the stretch. Count to ten and then release. Then hold your fingers up and with palms together, and feel a gentle stretch on the other side of the forearm. An alternate way for these areas could be one hand at a time on a table standing at waist level instead, stretching palm side and back of hand side, aiming to have a flat hand in either direction. Feel the stretch. Keep the elbow gently bent or straight to target different muscles. Activate the hand lightly for a moment, then relax further into a deepening stretch.
- Stand facing the corner of a wall and lay your arm against the wall with your palm touching the wall. Twist your body forward and away from your outstretched palm so that you feel the stretch in your biceps. Hold, or pulse.
- Next, hold your arm across your body and press the back of your hand against the wall, or hold the extended wrist with your other hand. Twist your body towards your bent arm to feel the stretch along with your triceps and deltoids.
An easy workout for strengthening the arms is to choose one of the 2 following types of exercises:
*Isotonic Exercise: Producing limb movement without change in muscle tension. The action is performed on the exhale.
10-12 repetitions, 3 sets, 1-4 times a week. (30 seconds- 1-minute break between sets)
*Isometric Exercise: Meaning the muscle stays the same length. Hold contractions for 5 seconds, 8-10 reps. 2-3 sets, 1-4 times a week. (30 seconds to a 1-minute break between sets)
* Stretching time can be anywhere from 2 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the goals set with your practitioner. Keep the range of motion healthy, and do not stress joints that are hypermobile or have ligament laxity into exaggerated or intense ranges of motion.
*Dynamic Stretching– Gentle stretches with little to no holding time, pulsing, pendulum swinging, or gentle passive or active circles of the joint to ease into the stretch without fully relaxing tissue. Most beneficial mid sport/activity/day, or times when the body will still need to be ready for action.
Static Stretching- A slow gentle, ease into a stretch and held most often 20 seconds to 2 minutes. This is where it is especially important to keep ROM healthy, as in zero discomfort, and stretch where tissue is restricted. Utilize the inhale and exhale of your breath to find softening and ease in each position, relaxing further as you follow the breath out. Choose to strengthen instead where joint integrity is compromised and there is hypermobility or ligament laxity.
Book your appointment with Island Manual Osteopathic Therapies and find out more about regaining arm strength. Remember, there is no age limit or weight limit for muscle building or rehabilitation. What is most important is your attitude and autonomy. Are you able to rest when you need to and strengthen when you can? That is all that is required to meet your expectations for your body.
Our bodies are incredible in that they can heal themselves regardless of what we’ve been told or what we’ve told ourselves. Working with Manual Osteopathy means that the emphasis is on using the body’s systems to maintain optimal health and equilibrium.
-If you do not have weights, use bands.
-If you do not have bands, use household items like soup cans.
-If there is pain beyond mild discomfort, try focusing on a slow range of motion exercise without weight. Find a pain-free range of motion in each of the 6 directions and let that be where you start and build up. weight, and ROM as you improve muscle tone and strengthen and finally stretch.
-Remember, even though this is the focus for the arms, the whole body should be engaged, meaning:
– Strong posture
-Slight bend in the knees
-Weight in the heels of your feet
-Strong and engaged stomach with the belly button towards the spine
-Tuck your chin, lift your head, and lengthen the spine.