I did a 10-minute arm workout every day for a week and honestly? I have a new-found appreciation for upper body sessions

Brace those biceps.

Anna trying a ten minute arm workout daily
(Image credit: Anna Bartter)

I’m going to start off with a confession here: I barely ever train my arms. As a Health Writer, I’ve tried pretty much every fitness trend you can think of, in a bid to create a strong, healthy body and mind and improve my longevity – plus, it’s literally my job to try things out.

But it’s safe to say, my arms take a bit of a back seat to all the running, spin, lower body and ab work that make up the majority of my workout week – and that’s despite bemoaning my inability to perform more than one push up at a time. Sure, I do strength training, but more than likely I’ll just tack a few bicep curls onto my core/leg/(insert other body part here) work. So, when I was asked to try a dedicated arm workout every day for a week, my interest was piqued. Would a week of home arm workouts be enough to notice results? More importantly (for me, at least), would I enjoy it?

As always, before I start, I’m interested to know the science behind why we should have strong arms – and aside from the (many) real life benefits, there are tangible gains to building better biceps, triceps and shoulders.

“We should all be focussing on arm strength,” advises personal trainer Tej Patel. “Arm exercises improve confidence, posture and increase bone density and health, which becomes crucial to women in particular as we age. As a trainer, arms are usually the second area women want to focus on, after their core.”

That said, it’s important to remember that you can’t spot train areas of the body – but there’s no doubt that regular strength training alongside a healthy, balanced diet and plenty of rest will yield results.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m solidly into mid-life now – so there really is no better time to focus on increasing my arm strength. And who knows – by the end of the week, I might even be able to manage two press ups.

Read on to find out how I get on – plus, you might be interested to read our guide to the best home arm workouts for beginners, resistance band arm workouts and PT-approved biceps workouts, here. Arm workouts for women at the ready.

I did a ten minute arm workout daily and the results were surprising

What are arm workouts?

Let’s start with the basics. When we’re talking about arm muscles, we’re usually referring to the biceps (the muscles running down the front of our arms) and the triceps (the muscles running down the back of the arms). 

Of course, our lower arms and hands are important too – studies, such as this one published in medical journal The Lancet, show that grip strength is a powerful predictor of overall health and mortality – but for the purposes of this challenge, I’m focussing on upper arm strength.

What are the benefits of arm workouts?

If, like me, you’re motivated by knowing exactly why you’re doing exercises and what you can expect to achieve, you’ll be interested to learn that the benefits of upper body strength are myriad.

“Aesthetics aside, training our arms has a crucial functional aspect,” explains personal trainer Eliza Flynn. “From pushing open doors, to holding buggies firmly on escalators, to placing items on shelves, we use arm strength every single day.”

And who doesn’t want to find carrying armloads of grocery shopping easier?

Last but certainly not least, consider strength training your arms as making a deposit into your physical pension pot. According to osteopath and author of Stronger – How To Build Strength: The Secret To A Longer, Healthier Life, David Vaux, our arms might just be the key to successful ageing.

“We know that life span is increasing, but health span isn’t necessarily keeping up,” he says. “Strength training is the key here – it will help you to build stronger bones, tendons and connective tissues – all of which are essential for enjoying an independent, active life as we age. 

"The essential movements of everyday life are lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying – if you’re not doing these on a regular basis, your muscle fibres will start to diminish.”

How I got on with a ten minute arm workout daily

On board with the benefits, I’m raring to go – but not before I’ve checked in with PTs Patel and Flynn to workout what exactly I’m doing.

“In my opinion, it’s important to work your arms in two different ways: strength and stability,” explains Flynn. “Strength gives you the power for activities such as throwing your child up in the air, or carrying heavy items, and stability helps you reduce your risk of shoulder injuries.”

Flynn recommends I try a combination of press-ups, scapula retractions and shoulder presses to start with, and Patel suggests bicep curls, tricep dips and lateral raises, too.

Days one to three

As always, I bowl headlong into the challenge with a high level of optimism and confidence – only to realise that actually, these exercises are tough (lateral raises – I’m looking at you!) Rather than overwork myself in the first couple of days. I decided to focus on the bodyweight exercises (press ups, scapula retractions and tricep dips) before graduating to use my weights. But don’t be fooled – this is far from an easy option.

“Since the arm muscles are smaller muscles, using your bodyweight is very effective here,” agrees Patel. “If you want to up the ante and don’t have any weights, simple tins of beans or water bottles will do nicely.”

While I always find press ups challenging, I scale them to my knees and focus on form over reps, meaning I’m really noticing how hard my arms are working. The scapula retractions feel easier – until day two, when it would be an understatement to say my shoulders are stiff.

Undeterred, I push on and incorporate some light weights on day three, tackling bicep curls, lateral raises and the shoulder press. It’s apparent where my weaknesses lie, as the lateral raises are way harder than the other two moves, meaning my shoulder strength could use some more work.

Rather than compromising my form and risking injury, I drop the weights for the lateral raises and focus instead on mind-muscle connection, imagining I’m pushing against resistance as I raise my arms – and I’m surprised by how much tougher they feel, once my brain is on board, too.

Anna trying her ten minute arm workout daily

Anna during her home arm workout challenge

(Image credit: Anna Bartter)

Days four to seven

Day four and I’m enjoying my new-found strength – my competitive instinct well and truly kicks in when, mid yoga class, we’re challenged to try a chaturanga pose and press up. I’m determined to manage at least one – and I do. There’s literally nothing more motivating that quantifiable results, so I’m spurred on to complete the rest of the week with renewed vigour.

However, on day five I hit an unexpected obstacle while on a run – my arms are so painful. I hadn’t noticed any DOMS before, but I’m clearly working my arms harder than usual – so, while it’s annoying on my run, I’m taking it as a win.

On days six and seven it feels like I’m back to square one, feeling tired and sore. So, I turn to the experts for some advice. Why aren’t I feeling any stronger? Ironically, Flynn says this could be due to the fact that I’m a seasoned exerciser.

“If you do ten minutes of arm exercises every single day for a week, you’ll very likely feel some improvements,” she tells me. “The exercises will get easier as your body adapts to the challenge and you get used to the technique. But (and here’s the rub) you’ll be more likely to achieve these improvements if you’re new to resistance training.”

So, while I can’t say for sure that I’ve gained any noticeable strength over the course of the week, what I have gained is a new-found appreciation for the importance of arm workouts – the DOMS I’m experiencing show that I am challenging my muscle fibres, and Flynn is optimistic that I’ll notice an improvement within a month if I continue my arm regime.

And you know what? I might just do that. 

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Anna Bartter
Health Writer

Anna Bartter is a freelance journalist who writes about health, fitness and women's lifestyle for publications including Stylist, Metro and Psychologies, among others. 

She's always on a quest to find a variety of fun and functional workouts that give you the most bang for your workout buck and she's passionate about championing movement for everyone's mental and physical wellbeing.