15-Minute Bicep And Tricep Strength Circuit Workout

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This is an excellent upper body workout that tones your arms…and even burns fat! While most of us understand that strength training can help us achieve that chiseled look, and that cardio has immediate calorie burning benefits, what many people don’t know is that the muscle we build while strength training burns fat over sustained periods of time.

Well, based on that information, let’s pump some iron, friends! Or at least hit the machines that will help us armor up our arms.

This biceps and triceps workout is great for all fitness levels from beginners to experienced bodybuilders. How’s that possible, you ask? Because it’s not the actual arm exercises that make or break the bodybuilder. These exercises are all fairly straightforward. What makes each part of this workout take its place on the difficulty spectrum from rookie-centric to veteran-worthy is the simple science of weight + reps.

In order to build and tone the smaller muscle groups of your biceps and triceps you’ll lift a certain amount of weight for a desired amount of reps, and to be effective, those reps should be challenging, especially toward the end of the set of each exercise. Therefore, if you complete a set of 15 reps easily, then you’ll know it’s time to scratch the set, grab some heavier weights, and do it all over again.

Your rest time between each set should be 60-90 seconds. We recommend setting a one-minute timer on your phone that you can hit after each set so you don’t drift off and waste recovery time.

Enjoy some of our favorite biceps and tricep workouts!

First, Forearms

Building strong forearms is more important than you might think. We use them for lots of exercises like pull-ups, high and low rows, kettlebell swings, bicep curls, and more.

When you have strong forearms, your grip is stronger, which means you can squeeze tighter during workouts and as-needed in everyday life. No pickle jar will stand a chance against your lid twisting ability!

Weak forearms, however, can hinder your ability to build strength in other areas. Your wrists might tire sooner during a set of pull-ups, for instance, so you won’t truly reap all the benefits of the move or fully utilize your pulling muscles if your forearms poop out.

It’s a chain reaction and one bad apple CAN spoil the whole upper body bunch.

But we can’t let that happen! Enter one of the best arm exercises for forearms, the Reverse Forearm Lift.

Reverse Forearm Lifts

2 x 20 reps

The forearm muscle (also known as the brachial radialis) is what we’ll focus on here. This is the opposite hand positioning of a traditional curl or bench press because your palms will be pronated (palms down) rather than supinated (palms up). Starting position: Hold the bar or dumbbells, palms down, just below your hips with slightly bent knees, soft elbows, and feet firmly in the floor, hip width distance apart. Bring the weight up to your chest, squeezing at the top to get the blood flowing to the targeted area, then and back down from your chest with control. (No swinging.)

Biceps

The biceps brachii are a group of biceps muscles on the front of your upper arms. They start at the shoulders and end where they meet the tendon connected to the radius (the small bone in the forearm). When you bend your arm at the elbow joint, your biceps brachii contracts and flexes, which is very useful for lots of sports…

Football players use their biceps to pull or bend their forearms or when they make an underhand throw.

Hockey players constantly use their biceps while stickhandling. Biceps also allow skaters to shoot the puck and propel it forward during a pass.

Biceps are crucial for baseball players. They couldn’t throw without them, or hit for that matter.

The motion of hitting a tennis ball requires bicep strength. The bicep contracts, allowing the arm to swing forward while holding the racket and launching the ball.

But sports participant or not, we all need to keep this group of biceps muscles strong, so here are a couple of the best bicep exercises around.

Barbell curls

4 x 14-16 reps

Your starting position for this biceps workout will be to stand with your feet firmly on the floor, shoulder width apart, chest up, knees soft, and core tight. Hold the barbell with an underhand grip, placing your hands on the outside edge of each hip. Keep your chest up and your elbows tight at your sides. Raise the bar slowly and deliberately as you feel your biceps start to engage, squeezing at the top to build muscle mass. Then, as slowly as you brought the bar up to your chest, bring it down. Be mindful not to lock out your elbows at the bottom of the rep. Exhale as you pull against gravity and inhale when you release.

Preacher Curls

3 x 14-16 reps

The point of this move is to isolate the bicep so it does all the work rather than your back or shoulders helping. (Much like a concentrations curl.) Whether you’re using a machine or an incline bench be sure your armpits are tight to the top of the pad with your chest snug against the back of the pad and the back of your upper arms flat against the pad surface. Using either a bar or free weights, with an underhand grip, straighten your arms, then curl them back up to chest height, squeezing at the top to build muscle mass. Keep your elbows tucked in to target the bicep and prevent locking your elbows out. Exhale on the way up and inhale on the way down. Keep your body still, chest tight to the pad so as not to use momentum for the move, just the bicep. This set can be very effective if your goal is big arms, or bigger arms, and while we know not everyone is gunning for bigger arms, and especially if you DON’T want bigger arms, rest assured, the power is in your hands. Literally. The amount of weight, pacing, and reps during this biceps workout will make all the difference.

Superset

This is a form of strength training where you jump quickly from exercise to exercise without taking a break. Most personal trainers or coaches will tell you to rest and catch your breath or grab a drink of water between sets, but during a superset, it’s full steam ahead. (Unless your heart is pounding out of your chest. Never overdo it.)

Here we’re using the superset to do more arm exercises in a certain time frame. As your muscles  recover from the first set, you’ll perform an exercise in another muscle group instead of taking a break. Supersets are a great way to improve stamina and ability because the lack of a break can be extremely challenging.

This superset is targeting the opposing muscles of the biceps and triceps. Similar to circuit training supersets are efficient and add an extra layer of difficulty (and ultimate benefit!) because of the constant movement.

Hammer Curls

3 x 16 reps

This works the width of your bicep and also your forearm. In a starting position with your feet firmly on the floor, shoulder width apart keep your knees loose, elbows soft, core tight, and pelvis forward. The difference between hammer curls and a regular dumbbell curl is that your wrists will be facing each other rather than facing up. You can curl both arms together or alternate sides by moving your left and right hands up and down to chest height. In either case, be mindful not to use momentum and swing your arms. You will get the most out of this exercise with slow and controlled movements, squeezing your biceps as you bring them up toward your chest and bring them down with intention on each rep.

Tricep Pushdowns (with rope)

16 reps

Pro tip. Less is more on this tri workout. The proper starting position is to hold the bar away from the hinge point…in this case, your elbow…and stand tall with your feet firmly on the floor, and hands shoulder-width apart. If you find yourself hunching over, you’re too close to the weight stack and you’re using too much weight. This means you’re not isolating your triceps, but you’re involving the chest and shoulders, which is not a good idea. You’re more likely to be injured doing it this way. To check for the proper amount of weight, hold the rope or bar with one hand close to your chest and push down, if it’s difficult with your elbow bent up toward your chest, it will be extra hard work with your elbow at a 90 degree angle, (where it should be.) Shift to a lighter weight in favor of proper form. Because it’s not only important to do the right exercises, it’s important to do the exercises right. And you can take that information to the bank. Hold the rope or bar in both hands at chest height, elbows tight at your sides at a 90 degree angle, and look forward. Push down with an exhale and come up with an inhale on each rep.

Triceps

Triceps, or the triceps brachii, start at your scapula, or top of the shoulder blade, run down the back of your arm bone, and are made up of three heads. These muscles cross at the elbow and connect to the ulna, or forearm.

The long head of the triceps brachii is one of three heads and helps extend the arm at the elbow and also helps pull the arm back toward the upper body. Additionally, the long head helps stabilize the shoulder joint.

Because they are made up of mostly fast twitch muscle fibers, we use our triceps for lots of quick movements during exercises (that aren’t specifically tricep workouts) like pushups and pull-ups, backstrokes or any time we bend at our elbows. We also use our triceps outside the gym to close a car trunk, climb, dribble a ball, or sweep out the garage.

But because we don’t do a lot of climbing (and, if we’re honest, sweeping) as we get older, our triceps weaken making tricep workouts all the more important. Like all muscles, when one isn’t pulling its weight, others compensate. In this case, the pecs and traps come to the rescue. But because pecs and traps are often tight and overused, injury isn’t far behind. So let’s not ask them to do more than their share, and instead, tighten up those tris with one of the greatest tricep workouts!

Seated Dumbbell Triceps Extension

3 x 14 reps

You can do this exercise with a machine or a single dumbbell. Settle onto the bench with your feet anchoring you to the floor, a tight core, and your dumbbell in both hands at chest height. Raise the dumbbell over your head with both arms, forming two parallel straight lines, and lower it behind your shoulders until it disappears in the mirror in front of you. (If there isn’t a mirror, imagine dropping the dumbbell back below the crown of your head between your shoulders or shoulder blades.) Lift the dumbbell up then, squeezing your triceps, drop it back down. Try not to bonk your cranium. We don’t want you to get a bump on your head while doing triceps exercises.

Reverse Grip Tricep Extension

4 x 16 reps

Your starting position will be to stand with your feet shoulder width apart and knees soft. Grab the bar with supine wrists (facing up) and hold it at chest height. Pull down on the bar to just below hip level, then back up to your chest. Squeeze at the bottom of the rep, exhaling as you pull down. Inhale as you bring the bar back up to chest height with control with each rep.   

And there you have it! A workout for bi + tri that we hope didn’t make you cry.

Don’t forget to check out other articles on Coach. Care. Connect. for all things healthy lifestyle.

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