Arms though aren’t just a male obsession. As the most constantly visible body part, both sexes focus on them with an obsession that borders on the morbid. Women worry about bingo wings. Men worry about skinny, pipe-cleaner arms.
The problem is that for the most part neither men nor women know quite what to do. So chaps relentlessly work their biceps and ladies spend hours on running machines, doing triceps extensions and sitting in saunas hoping a combination of long distance running, endless arm flexes and heat will melt away unsightly fat. It won’t. You are not made of butter, so you won’t be able to melt away your fat.
In the case of bingo wings, they have become such a source of concern for women that the NHS now has a special section of its website devoted to what they are, how to avoid them and what to do once you’ve got them.
But first let us deal with the men. Working your biceps will undoubtedly make your arms a bit bigger, but the bicep is actually a fairly small muscle. In order to get big arms, you need to work the whole arm. That means biceps, triceps and forearm. Mercifully you can achieve nearly all of this without having a special arms day (normally a Friday, normally about two hours before you hit the town…)
Whenever you work your back you are also working your biceps. And whenever you work your chest you are working your triceps. And when you work your shoulders you are working both triceps and biceps. In other words, your arms should be getting a pretty great workout practically every time you go to the gym. But if you really do feel the need to work your arms harder than any other part of your anatomy, then try doing some isometric exercises. These involve holding a certain position. One of the most effective is to do 12 repartitions of a bicep curl and follow that immediately by holding a heavy bar at a 45-degree angle for a full
30 seconds. You can do the same for triceps by doing 12 tricep
extensions and then holding the extension for another 30 seconds. Repeat this three times to six times and you will at the very least look like your arms have been inflated with a bicycle pump (actually it’s blood rushing to the muscle) or a Marvel Comics’ character. Not my favourite look, but easily achievable.
Bingo wings is slightly more complicated. Essentially an unsightly accumulation of fat under the arm, bingo wings affect both sexes but are far more common in women, simply because this is where the female body likes to deposit fat. If it’s any consolation ladies, men tend to accumulate fat around their middles, which is not just unsightly but dangerous as the fat can eventually work its way into the internal organs, causing liver, kidney and heart disease.
Working your arms endlessly will not particularly help. You cannot spot target fat. Doing a thousand tricep extensions will not help you lose the fat around your arms any more than doing a thousand stomach crunches will give you a flat tummy. I say this practically every month and I’ll say it again now – fat is fat is fat. No matter where it decides to set up shop, it all requires the exact same protocol.
Clean up your diet and reduce your portion sizes (AKA calories in) and start doing cardio. That does not mean spending hours on running machines. You need to be doing High Intensity Interval Training (AKA calories out). Spin classes, five-a-side football, boxercise and circuits (the more brutal the better) are all great ways to get the body to burn fat.
Once your diet is in order and you are doing serious interval training you can start to work on toning your arms. Underneath even the flabbiest bingo wings are muscles. As the wings fly off, the muscle becomes visible. So while the bad news is you cannot target your stubborn fat stores, you absolutely CAN target specific muscle groups.
As I said above in reference to men, I am not big in concentrating solely on arms. Working the whole upper body strikes me as a much better use of time. But given that women cannot, due to a lack of testosterone, ever get bulky (those Russian Olympic shot-putters were banned for good reason), women can get great and shapely results by working their arms. Again, despite the fact that bingo wings cling to the triceps, do not become fixated on that muscle. Work the whole arm.
Biceps, triceps and forearm. There are a million ways to work the arms, from tough stuff like close grip chin-ups and chest presses and press ups, through to bicep curls and tricep extensions. The main rule with all these exercises is to keep your arms tight to the body. Flapping about may feel easier, but it does very little, risks injury and frankly makes you look like an idiot.
Right, I am off to the gym, to play my favourite gym game, spot
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
There is so much in the news about the dangers of eating too muchsugar. Now a friend of mine has told me that I should give up eatingfruit, because that contains fructose, which apparently makes you fat.So should I give up eating fruit?Andrea Wolfe, Burgess Hill
In a word, NO. Fruit is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals androughage. It is certainly a very good idea to give up fruit juices asthey are as high, or higher, in sugar than many of the soft drinksrightly demonised by the press. Whole fruit, however, is a reallyimportant part of your diet. Do not give it up. And if your friendbadgers you, ask them one simple question, can they point to a single person who has ever got fat eating only fruit?It doesn’t happen. Carry on eating healthy.
All the best, Ben
PRODUCTS OF THE WEEK
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During intense training, Glutamine levels are greatly depleted in your body, which decreases strength, stamina and
recovery. It could take up to six days for glutamine levels to return to normal – and glutamine plays a key role in protein synthesis. Studies have shown that L-glutamine supplementation can minimise breakdown of muscle and improve protein metabolism.