Guys & Gals – Arms & Abs Put Vanity to Work For You

by Matt Espeut, Providence, RI

I always say to find your motivation any way you can – but it should be strong, be personal, and really be able to push you off the couch, out the door, and to the gym.

Sometimes that goal is deeply meaningful.  It’s about being healthier for our families, or to take on a new job, or even healing from illness.  Sometimes, the goals are much less meaningful, but no less motivational.

As summer gets closer this time of year I hear women and men who want to get ready for the beach – the big reveal – as its referred to.  The bikini bod.  The great abs.


Over the last few years women have been almost obsessed with one body part – their arms.  Some even say they want to get “Michele arms” – and the sleeveless look on television by female reporters has reinforced all of that.

Here are some thoughts on getting those in-shape arms and not looking ‘ripped’ or ‘bulked up’ as women are often fearful of.   You want that long lean arm – and you want to match the rest of your body, which is healthy and firm, too.

Your arm has Triceps, a three headed muscle that covers the posterior 3/5 of your upper arm, primarily used for pushing moves; and Biceps, a double headed muscle that covers the anterior 2/5 of your upper arm, primarily used for pulling movements.  Both act as either an agonist or antagonist during elbow flexion and extension. This means that one is moving while the other is stabilizing.

There are 3 good exercises for triceps – the cable push down, the lying press or skull crusher, and dumbbell kickbacks. These are my go to exercises because they stress the triceps in different planes of motion.

For biceps, since the elbow bends only one way I generally pick these exercises. I vary curl patterns with either dumbbells, a fixed bar or cable curls.  Perform three working sets for each exercise. Use weight heavy enough to do 8-15 reps per arm, but not too much that you can’t perform 8 clean perfect reps. Do not over train arms because they are used in just about every other upper body exercise.

  1. Triceps – Cable Pushdown
  2. Biceps – Cable Curl
  3. Triceps – Kickback, bench with dumbbell
  4. Biceps – Curl, standing with dumbbell
  5. Triceps – Skull Crushers on bench
  6. Biceps – Standing Barbell Curl

Men.  It’s all about the core…

Even though our swimsuits are down to our knees, our abs are still out there, and we want them to look great.  So, this is what I see daily in the gym this time of year – guys killing themselves for an hour, then get on some “ab” machine, or do a few minutes of crunches and then go home.  Sure, they can look great, from a distance.  But when you look closer you notice the forward head tilt, the weight belts, the rounded shoulders, etc.  These guys are guaranteed to acquire back pain due to the lack of core strength and stability.

If it’s not the beach look we’re worried about, it’s the golf game – or maybe just working without pain.  If you are a golfer or waiter with lower back pain, it’s usually due to instability of the core.  Having a strong core requires two things – 1) proper nutrition, and 2) proper training technique.  When your mid-section is properly conditioned, you not only look better – you stand taller, lift heavier weights (if that is part of your goal), and perform your daily activities better and with less injury.  All core routines should consist of abdominal and lower back training using movements in a multi plainer range of motion.

While exercise pros will talk health over vanity in approaching fitness, I say, if it’s vanity – at first – put that vanity to work for you. But dedicate yourself to health as an ultimate goal, eventually.  And remember, a great looking body doesn’t come with exercise alone – you can’t be working out in a gym, and then driving through a fast food restaurant – good nutrition is essential.

Matt Espeut is the owner of Fitness Profiles, and has been a personal trainer for over 20 years, helping people from ages 14 to 89, become healthier and stronger.  His focus is on overall health, strength, and functional conditioning, with holistic health and nutrition as the cornerstone of his programs. He works in private and small group training He offers his services to overweight young people, youth/collegiate athletes, average women and men, and seniors. He can be reached at: [email protected] and at his website at

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: