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December 5, 2016

Female Biceps

WWII graphic

While many men are obsessed with the size of their biceps, among other things, many women see the upper arm as a potential problem spot, especially as the years go by and wobbly fat collects on the triceps area.

So, let’s take a different look at arms from a female POV. I know I can quickly find myself on shaky ground by attempting to define the female perspective. So, allow me to say…

In reality, muscle is muscle and will respond the same to various exercises. The primary difference between men and women is how much testosterone is in the system. There’s a lot more in most men, so they will more easily develop larger muscles.

This article is devoted to those who simply want to tone up and look good in a sleeveless outfit. To keep things simple, we’ll focus on a workout that uses basic equipment, like dumbbells and resistance bands.

If you Google the phrase “biceps sleeveless dress,” you get an interesting list of articles among more than half-a-million hits. The first one I saw was called “3 Ways to Fake Toned Arms (For That Sexy Summer Dress!)” from Self magazine. Tips included spray on tanning and body makeup.

The permanent solution takes a little more work and effort, but will pay off in the end.

The basic process is the same for women as it is for men. There a couple of core concepts that form the foundation for all muscle building efforts.

1. Hypertrophy

This is the process of causing microscopic damage to the target muscle fibers and allowing them to heal with rest and good nutrition. Don’t let the word “damage” throw you. We’re not talking about pain here. You should feel a little bit of a “pumped” soreness following a workout — but never actual pain.

If you were trying to pack on lots of muscle, you’d also ingest lots and lots of protein and possibly some legal supplements like Creatine. But if you’re simply trying to tone, you should moderate your diet to reduce fat. That means protein, fruits, vegetables and good fats.

2. Mind/Muscle Connection

The Connection is an intense mental focus on the target muscle as you’re working it. You want to feel the constant tension in the muscle as hypertrophy is happening.

Here’s the formula:

You can’t maintain a Mind/Muscle Connection if you’re using body english to swing weights around that are too heavy. You want to select a weight you can handle cleanly for 8 – 12 reps. You want to take the muscle to “failure” in each set you do. You might get 12 reps in the first set, but 8 or even fewer in the last set. Failure means you can’t do the next rep unless you cheat. Don’t cheat. Feel the Pump.

The right way: focus on a continuous movement, not jerky stop and start. This is about exhausting the muscle, we’re not trying out for the Olympic team here. You want to continuously move the weight. Don’t rest it and then swing it up. Keep it moving in a smooth motion till you can’t do another rep.

Volume is important as well. If you’re just starting out, you will have to work up to this level. If you have to start by only doing 1 -2 sets of each movement, then start there. Work up to 3 sets on each of 3 different exercise movements for a total of 9 sets for each target body part. I suggest doing these consecutively — in a row. Remember, we’re trying to exhaust the target muscles. So, if you were doing Biceps (9 sets) and Triceps (9 sets) on the same day, that would equal 18 total sets.

weights-652484_1280That sounds like a lot. But we want to keep a brisk pace. Ideal rest time is 30 seconds between sets. A minute or two max between different types of movements. Again, work up to it if you’re just starting out. This workout will burn lots of calories and you will likely work up a good sweat, too.

These illustrations show dumbbells or a barbell. You can use either, or you can use Resistance Bands.


This is actually the bigger part of your arm and plays a huge role your arms appear. Diet and calorie burn will reduce the fat that collects here. And nothing burns fat better than Resistance Training. Muscle needs fat for fuel and will burn it for up to 38 hours after you finish working out.

These exercises will build firm, toned triceps muscle.

  • triceps-kickback-23 Sets: Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks
  • standing-one-arm-triceps-extension-23 Sets: 1 Arm Standing Triceps Extensions
  • 516px-dumbbell-bent-arm-pullover-2  3 Sets: Dumbbell Pullover

Pushups and Dips are great alternatives to the above, as are tricep pushdowns on a cable machine.

Here’s an example routine for Biceps. Again, Resistance Bands, Dumbbells or Barbells can be used.:


  • bicep-curls-23 Sets: Barbell Curls
  • alternating_hammer_curl_with_dumbbell_13 Sets: Dumbbell Hammer Curls
  • one-arm-bicep-concentration-on-stability-ball-13 Sets: Dumbbell Concentration Curls

womanbandsdreamstimemedium_72313967Rope curls on a cable machine are a great alternative to one of the above.

Resistance Bands are another great alternative for most all of these movements. If you don’t own much gear and can’t afford a gym, look into a set of bands. They’re inexpensive and also a great add to any gym setup. The beauty of the bands is that they apply that constant tension we want. To see my review of a few different sets, click here.

What are your thoughts? Please share in the Comments below, or drop me a line at:

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