Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Pro Bikini competitor and Bodybuilding.com athlete Kathleen Tesori knows how to maximize her time so she remains photo-shoot ready year-round. She relies on techniques such as supersets and giant sets to save time plus keep her lean and mean by burning more calories than a straight set program by keeping her heart rate elevated and pushing her muscles harder.
To challenge herself, in this arm workout, Tesori typically does one superset per workout for biceps and triceps. For instance, she will do dumbbell kickbacks and bench dips one after the other for triceps with no rest in between, then rests 30 to 60 seconds between supersets for recovery. Tesori likes to change her routine and her supersets each time she trains so her exercise pairings are never the same and her body is always progressing.
Kathleen Tesori’s Arm-Training Tips
- Sometimes if I am feeling energetic or want to push myself, I do four sets of 20 for all my exercises. This ramps up the intensity, burns mega-calories and pushes my muscles toward failure.
- I don’t typically train biceps and triceps on the same day. They are smaller muscle groups, and I like to pair them with a big muscle group to manage my gym time better.
Setup: Get on your hands and knees with your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Extend your legs behind you so you’re in a plank position with your head, hips and heels in line.
Action: Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor, keeping your arms in close to your sides and your body rigid. When your chest nearly touches the floor, extend your arms and push yourself back up to the start.
Tip: Don’t let your hips sag. Contract your abs and glutes to keep them in line with your head and heels.
Setup: Hold a dumbbell in your left hand and place your right knee and right hand on a flat bench. Flatten your back and draw your elbow up to come in line with your rib cage. Lock your upper arm in place.
Action: Press the dumbbell up and back in a smooth arc, extending your elbow until your arm is straight. Reverse the move and slowly return to the start, never moving your upper arm from its locked position.
Tip: Make your speed of repetition even and controlled on both the extension and the return to get the most out of every repetition.
Setup: Sit on the edge of a flat bench with your feet and knees together, and place your hands on either side of your hips, fingers forward. Straighten your elbows and shift your weight forward so you’re balancing between your hands and your feet with your butt just off the bench.
Action: Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor, keeping your chest lifted. When your elbows make 90-degree angles, press into the heels of your hands and extend your arms to return to the start.
Tip: Try to keep your butt and back as close to the bench as possible so your forearms remain perpendicular to the floor and the triceps work harder.
Dumbbell W Curl
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a set of dumbbells at your sides, palms turned out.
Action: Bend your elbows and curl the weights up toward your shoulders. At the top, you should look like a “W.” Reverse the move and slowly extend your arms back to a full extension.
Tip: To work the biceps in its full range of motion, uncurl your arms completely to the start so there is no bend in your elbows at all.
One-Arm Static Dumbbell Curl
Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold one dumbbell in front of you with your elbow bent 90 degrees and your elbow tucked into your side. Hold the other dumbbell with your arm extended, palm facing forward.
Action: Keep your bent arm in place as you curl and lower the other dumbbell for reps. Once the reps are completed, raise that dumbbell so your elbow is bent 90 degrees and do reps on the other side to complete one set.
Tip: If you can’t hold the static position for the entire 15 reps, do as many as you can, then switch arms. Each time you do the workout, add one to two more reps until you can last the whole 15.
Incline-Bench Dumbbell Curl
Setup: Adjust an incline bench to about 45 degrees and lie back on it with your upper body supported. Hold a set of dumbbells with your arms hanging straight down and your palms facing forward.
Action: Curl the weights up toward your chin while keeping your upper arms perpendicular to the floor. Pause a moment at the top and squeeze your biceps before lowering to the start.
Tip: Don’t swing the dumbbells at all. Do each rep slowly and precisely to avoid momentum and make the biceps work harder.