Expert advice on how to get toned arms

Do you want super-toned arms? Here's an easy exercise that will give you great arms in no time.

By Maureen Hagan

Get slimmer, stronger arms

These days it's stylish -- and a badge of fitness -- to have strong, shapely arms (like Evangeline Lilly, Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel and the gang), and the secret to achieving them is to train your biceps, the muscles at the front of your upper arms.

Since you rely on your biceps so much for lifting and carrying, there are several benefits to training them. First, as you strengthen them through weight training, you automatically strengthen your other arm muscles, which also work during the exercise. Second, strong biceps help prevent shoulder, neck and back strain. And third, they help you lift and carry with less effort, so activities such as holding your child and carrying groceries become safer and easier to do.

The most common and effective biceps-training exercise is the biceps curl. I like to put a little spin on the traditional curl to help you do this exercise more effectively and challenge other muscles at the same time. How? You do the biceps curl while standing on one foot: while you're working to keep yourself balanced and stable, you're exercising your back, shoulder, abdominal, gluteal and leg muscles, too.

When I see clients perform curls while they're standing firmly on both feet, I notice that they often lean back or rock back and forth in an attempt to lift more weight. Either way, they're using momentum, rather than their biceps muscles, to help them perform the exercise.

To select the weight that's right for you, try to complete the recommended number of repetitions and sets in proper form. The last few repetitions should be difficult, but not impossible, to do. If they're too easy, increase the weight; too hard, decrease it. I recommend that most beginners try one- to 1-1/2 kilogram (two- to three-pound) dumbbells. You can buy dumbbells in department or fitness equipment stores for less than $20 a pair.

Biceps Curl
1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand; stand on one foot. Place your arms alongside your body with your palms facing forward and elbows slightly bent. Keep your shoulders back, chest lifted, abdominals pulled in and gluteals tight.

2. Bend your elbows to lift the dumbbells up toward your shoulders; keep your elbows close to your body. Lift slowly, imagining that you're squeezing something between your upper arm and your forearm during the lifting action. Exhale as you lift; pause at the top of the lift, inhale, then exhale as you slowly lower your arms back to the starting position. Pause and breathe in.

Easier Two-Footed Version
To do this exercise with perfect technique while keeping both feet on the ground, stand with your back against a wall.

Repetitions and Sets
For the one-footed version: Do 10 repetitions while standing on one foot; switch feet and repeat.

For the two-footed version: Do 15 to 20 repetitions.

For both versions, increase the challenge by increasing the weight, not the repetitions. Do biceps curls every other day.

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