8 Exercises For Killer Arms

Nothing rounds out a great outfit like a killer set of arms. To get the toned, strong look of Michelle Obama's shoulders, biceps, and triceps, you need a well-balanced workout plan that incorporates calorie-burning conditioning work with targeted strength training. Try incorporating the following workout routine (designed by myself, a certified exercise physiologist with a master's degree in exercise science) two to three days a week to help unearth your killer guns.

Perform the exercises in a circuit, moving quickly between exercises, while adding 45 seconds of jumping jacks after each exercise to raise your heart rate and kick up the calorie burn. Complete three total rounds for optimum results.

Pushups

Pushups, when performed correctly, are a near perfect compound exercise that targets everything from your chest, shoulders, and triceps to your abs, hips, and quads. The key, of course, is to perform them correctly. If you're just starting out, try doing pushups on an elevated surface, like a wall or a sturdy chair, gradually working your way to the more challenging version performed on the floor. The guidelines are the same, regardless of the modification you use.

Position your palms on the floor under your shoulders, but slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Step your legs behind you, balancing on the balls of your feet so your body forms a straight line from heels to head. Make sure your core is tight and your hips are steady — don't allow them to sway or press upward. Also check your neck's position — it should remain aligned with your spine, and you shouldn't drop your head between your shoulders or crane your neck to look forward.

From this position, bend your elbows and begin lowering your chest toward the floor. Your elbows should bend back and out at a roughly 45-degree angle from your body. When your chest is about two to three inches from the ground, press through your palms and extend your elbows, returning to the starting position. Do as many full pushups as you can while retaining good form. If you're performing pushups on the ground, do as many full pushups as you can, then drop your knees to the ground and continue doing as many as you can in the modified position.

Renegade rows

Renegade rows are a back exercise performed in a pushup position. Because you're holding a pushup position throughout the movement, you're isometrically working your core, chest, and shoulders, while challenging your lats, traps, rhomboids, biceps, and rear delts while you perform the row. This exercise can be performed in a modified pushup position on your knees, or in a full pushup position balanced on the balls of your feet.

Grab a set of dumbbells you think will be challenging to use — you may want to start with a weight between eight and 15 pounds. Holding the handles of both dumbbells, place them on the floor directly beneath your shoulders, so they're aligned parallel with your body, your palms facing inward. Step your feet behind you to enter the pushup position. Check your form to make sure your body forms a straight line from heels to head. Shift your weight slightly to the left and row the right dumbbell to your chest by bending your elbow, pulling it to your side, and drawing your right shoulder blade toward your spine. Hold for a second, then lower the right dumbbell back to the ground and repeat on the left side. Perform six to eight rows per side to complete a single set.

Standing dumbbell shoulder press

The standing dumbbell shoulder press is great for strengthening your deltoids, while also engaging your core. Grab a set of dumbbells (start with weights between eight and 15 pounds) and stand tall, your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent. Engage your core and tuck your hips slightly under and position the dumbbells at your shoulders with your palms facing forward. In a controlled movement, press the dumbbells straight up over your head, stopping just before your elbows fully extend, then reverse the movement and slowly lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders. Complete 10 to 15 reps for a single set.

Lateral and front raise

There are three heads of the deltoid muscle of your shoulder — the anterior, lateral, and posterior heads — and it's a good idea to incorporate exercises that independently work each head. The lateral and front raise works two of these heads, unsurprisingly, the lateral and anterior delts. To perform the exercise, select a set of dumbbells (start with between five and 10 pounds), and stand tall, your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent. Allow your arms to hang at your sides, a dumbbell in each hand. Position your right hand so it's just to the outside of your right thigh, your palm facing in, and your left hand so it's just in front of your left thigh, your palm facing backward. Tuck your hips under slightly and engage your core, then in a single, controlled movement, raise both arms, extending your right arm out laterally to your right side, and your left arm up directly in front of your body. When your arms are lifted to shoulder-height, or just above, you should see a 90-degree "L" shape created with your arms. Carefully lower your arms back to the starting position, but shift your hand positioning, so this time your right hand is in front of your right thigh, and your left hand is to the outside of your left thigh. Repeat the exercise, raising your left arm out laterally to the left, and your right arm directly in front of you. This is one repetition. Perform eight to 10 repetitions to complete a full set.

Reverse fly

The reverse fly exercise targets your rear delt, further strengthening your shoulder. Because the rear delt is often neglected, start with a light weight and pay close attention to form.

Select a pair of dumbbells (start with three to eight pounds) and stand tall, your feet roughly hip-distance apart, your knees slightly bent. Hold the dumbbells in your hands at your sides. Press your hips back and hinge forward from the hips, leaning your chest toward the ground while keeping your torso straight. Engage your core and stop when your torso is at about a 30- to 45-degree angle with the ground. Allow the dumbbells to hang naturally down from your shoulders, with a slight bend at your elbows, your palms facing inward. From this position, roll your shoulders back, then steadily lift your arms up and out to the sides as you squeeze your shoulder blades together, stopping when your arms are aligned with your back, positioned as if you were flying. Carefully lower your arms back to the starting position and continue the exercise. Perform eight to 12 repetitions to complete the set.

Triceps dips

Triceps dips are a great way to work your triceps (the muscles that run along the back of your upper arm) while also strengthening the stabilizing muscles of your shoulders. Sit on the edge of a bench or sturdy chair and grip the front of the seat with both hands, your palms positioned just to the outside of your hips. Extend your legs in front of you, so your feet are together, and your heels are resting on the floor. Engage your core and press down through your palms as you lift your hips off the chair's seat. Shift your weight slightly forward so your hips are suspended just in front of the bench or chair — your body is supported by just your palms and heels. From this position, bend your elbows straight back as you lower your hips steadily toward the floor. When your elbows, form a 90-degree angle, press through your palms and extend your elbows, raising your body back to the starting position. Continue for eight to 10 repetitions to complete the set.

Dumbbell skull crushers

To hit the "bat wings" of your triceps unilaterally, try the dumbbell skull crushers exercise. Choose a set of dumbbells between eight and 15 pounds, holding one in each hand. Lie back on a mat or bench, with your knees bent, your feet flat. Extend the dumbbells directly over your chest, your palms facing inward. From this position, keep your upper arms completely fixed and bend your elbows, steadily lowering the dumbbells toward your head. Stop when your elbows for 90-degree angles, and extend your elbows, returning the dumbbells to their original position. Perform eight to 12 repetitions to complete a set.

Biceps 21s

The biceps 21s exercise is an approach to performing dumbbell curls that involves a change in range of motion every seven repetitions. Grab a set of dumbbells between eight and 15 pounds, and stand tall, your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees slightly bent. Start with the dumbbells positioned at your shoulders, your elbows bent, and your palms facing you. Engage your core and steadily lower the dumbbells half way, until your elbows form a 90-degree angle. Hold the position for a beat, then curl the dumbbells back to your shoulders. Continue for six more repetitions.

After completing seven reps, lower the dumbbells all the way to your thighs, then immediately perform seven more half curls, this time performing the bottom half of the exercise by bending your elbows to 90-degrees, pausing, then extending your elbows fully. After seven reps, you'll transition to a full dumbbell curl, performing the last seven repetitions by drawing the dumbbells all the way to your shoulders as you bend your elbows, then reversing the movement to lower the dumbbells back to your thighs. Remember to keep your upper arms fixed to your sides throughout the exercise to avoid using momentum as you do each dumbbell curl. When you complete all 21 repetitions, you've completed a set.