A Call to Arms

Ask anybody to make a "muscle" and he or she will inevitably roll up one sleeve and clench a fist. The flexed bicep (or upper arm) is without question the universally accepted symbol for a toned muscular physique.



Muscle Fatigue is defined as the point in any set where you begin to feel some local discomfort or a slight burning sensation in the targeted muscle or muscle group from the build up of lactic acid. It's a personal choice on how long to stay with a set after the onset of the lactic acid induced burn, and dependent on many factors including level of fitness, health, age, and the ability to recover.


Always adhere to proper form and never cheat, employing the dangerous practice of using nearby stabilizer muscles (that may not be able to handle the overload), or momentum and speed just to complete another rep or two. Slow, controlled, and, deliberate motion is what gets results.

From Arnold Schwarzenegger to Madonna, celebrities from all walks of life have contributed to America's obsession with muscles that includes toned and sculpted arms. Rising stars like Vin Diesel and Angelina Jolie perpetuate the nation's desire for worthy "guns", and keep us chasing those world-class biceps and triceps, always looking for a better, faster, more effective arm routine.

But besides looking good in a tank top, strong, muscular arms carry out much of our daily work at home and on the job. From mowing the lawn to pulling ceilings, an almost disproportionate amount of upper body work is performed by this smaller group of muscles, while the bulkier muscles of the chest and back can go relatively unchallenged during many common, as well as firefighting activities. After only ten minutes on the nozzle at a hot and smoky house fire your arms can feel like two lead weights.

On top of this, many resistance exercises that train the larger muscles of the upper-body also work the biceps and triceps. For example, the ever-popular push up is known for its effect on the chest and shoulders, but turns out to be an unsurpassed triceps builder. Conversely, pull-ups are a traditional back movement that can double as an intense bicep and forearm workout. It seems like no matter how we exert the upper body, there's no rest for our weary, overworked arms.

This automatic arm inclusion creates a two-for-one action, minimizing the necessity for solo arm work. You'll have more time (and energy) to concentrate on the larger muscles of the chest, back, and legs, as well as some possibly much needed fat-burning or cardiovascular exercise. Or who knows; you might even have a little time for rest and relaxation.

Stop wasting time over-training biceps and triceps. Simply add this five to ten minute, super set routine to the rest of you upper body toning program for a complete arm-blasting effect. For optimum benefit select a weight that enables you to hit muscle fatigue at the recommended repetition ranges while still adhering to perfect form. You might have to use a slightly heavier weight with each succeeding set to stay within the recommended descending repetition ranges and still experience fatigue.

Do one, two, or three super sets depending on your level of fitness (beginner, intermediate, or advanced).


SUPER SET ONE - Beginner

2. Standing Triceps Press
One set of 15 to 20 reps (recommended)

SUPER SET TWO - Intermediate


2. Standing Triceps Press
One set of 12 to 15 reps (recommended)



2. Standing Triceps Press
One set of 8 to 12 reps (recommended)

Exercise Instructions and Illustrations


Exercise 1 - Standing Barbell Curl (Biceps / Forearms)
2_stefano1.gif 1. Standing, hold the bar in front of you at shoulder width, palms facing forward. Shoulders are back; maintain the natural arch in your back; knees soft; gaze forward.

2. Exhale as you slowly curl the bar up, bending only at the elbow. The upper arms remain in a fixed position throughout the lift. Make sure you do not swing the bar or use momentum to complete the lift.

3. Inhale as you slowly lower the bar to the starting position.
There is a tendency to jerk and swing the upper body to complete the lift. This will do little to develop the biceps. Use a lighter weight to ensure perfect form and that the biceps will be targeted.

Exercise 2 - Triceps Press (Triceps)

2_stefano2.gif 1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, holding one dumbbell overhead with both hands; gaze forward.

2. Inhale, bending only at the elbow joints, and slowly lower the weight behind your head. Make sure all movement comes from the elbow joint and the elbows remain fixed.

3. Exhale as you straighten your elbows and raise the weight above your head.
Any time you raise a dumbbell above your head, be careful to choose a weight that allows you total control throughout the movement. Be sure to keep the upper arms in a fixed position throughout the lift, thereby increasing the intensity to the target muscle (the tricep).

Remember to always check with your physician before embarking upon any new exercise program.

Michael Stefano is a 20-year veteran of New York City Fire Department, currently serving in the rank of captain, as well as author of The Firefighter's Workout Book, and creator of the Firefighter's Workout video.

He has been developing exercise programs for the firefighters he's worked with and the general public for the past seventeen years. His workout routines and articles have been featured on such internet giants as America Online, Yahoo!, eDiets, and iVillage.


"To find out more about The Firefighter's Workout Book, or get more of Captain Mike's fat burning, muscle building workouts, go to: www.firefightersworkout.com