The Most Effective 30-Day Arms Challenge Yet

Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images
When you think about sexy, strong arms, your mind probably goes straight to your biceps and triceps, right? Well, those muscles are awesome — no shade at all over here — but the truth is that exercises that isolate just the biceps or triceps are simply not the best way to go when it comes to strengthening your arms. Might we suggest shifting your focus to the shoulders, as you'll do in this 30-day challenge?

Here's why: For one thing, shoulder exercises tend to be more dynamic and involve several muscle groups (unlike, say, bicep curls, which primarily work, um, the biceps). In other words, when you work your shoulders, you're probably going to be challenging the rest of your arms at the same time. So efficient.

For another thing, strong shoulders help provide an amazing foundation for beautiful posture, and for less pain in your neck and back. They're also a crucial way to prevent injury, and shoulder injuries are way more common than you might think. In fact, about 7.5 million people visit the doctor for a shoulder problem each year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Which brings us to one word of caution: As with any exercise program, it's important to take things slowly and make sure you fully understand the proper form for each move before challenging yourself with heavier weight (you can even try the moves sans weight for a round or two, for practice!) — and since shoulder injuries are so common, just be careful, y'all.

To give this challenge a shot, you'll need at least two sets of dumbbells: one lighter (think 2-3 pounds) and one heavier (think 8-12 pounds). And that's pretty much it! Get ready to give weak arms the cold shoulder.
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Illustrated by: Abbie Winters
Rotate = Internal & External Rotation
Raise = Shoulder Raise Complex
Press = Shoulder Press
Row = Bent-Over Row
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Photographed by James Farrell.
Internal & External Rotation
Lie on your left side, supporting your head with your left hand, and holding a light dumbbell in your right hand. Keeping your upper arm steady against your side, externally rotate your right arm until the dumbbell is pointing straight up toward the ceiling. Perform the suggested number of reps; then, switch the dumbbell to your left hand. Keeping your upper arm glued to the bench right in front of you, internally rotate your left arm until the dumbbell is pointing toward the ceiling. Perform the suggested number of reps; then, switch your body to lie on your right side and do the external and internal rotations on that side.
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Photographed by James Farrell.
Shoulder Raise Complex
Stand tall with your shoulder blades back and down and your core engaged. Holding light weights in your hands, raise your arms straight in front of you to shoulder height. Lower the arms; then, raise them out to the sides with elbows bent. Lower the arms; then, raise them straight out to the sides with elbows extended. Repeat the complex for the suggested number of reps.
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Photographed by James Farrell.
Shoulder Press
Stand tall with your shoulder blades back and down and your core engaged. Holding medium-sized weights in your hands, lift your arms and bend your elbows so that your upper arms are in line with your shoulders. Press the dumbbells straight up until your arms are extended over your head, then lower. Repeat for the suggested number of reps.
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Photographed by James Farrell.
Bent-Over Row
Begin standing tall with your core engaged; then, hinge forward at the hips, bringing your torso to about a 45-degree angle and bending your knees slightly. Hold medium-sized dumbbells directly under your chest; then, pull them up toward you, bending your elbows and keeping your arms close to your torso. Continue "rowing" for the suggested number of reps; then, return to standing.

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