Ah, arms. They have so many uses! You can wrap them around people, you can carry stuff with them. You can cover them with tattoos. They lift you up, they push you off the ground. Just don’t flex them if you’re a girl and you have anything more than an ounce of muscle. You wouldn’t want to gross people out.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating. But in my opinion, attractive arms have always been something that men owned the rights to. If they had muscular, defined arms, they were considered all the more sexy. But women’s arms weren’t really to be considered. As long as they weren’t flapping in the wind or giving a bodybuilder competition, they were fine. Just another unsexy part of the body, like knees or armpits. Two dangling, formless green beans which should be used primarily to carry babies and laundry.

Men are usually expected to have at least slightly muscular arms, but not women. However, I actually like it when women have some muscle and shape in their arms. To me, a woman with sculpted arms and shoulders stands out from the rest. She’s probably either athletic or works out hard, and I can respect that. I think it’s awesome when a girl can point you to the gun show. I also realize that I’m a minority in feeling that way.

So now, let’s look at some pictures.

Fitness model Jamie Eason. Probably considered bulky by most. Her arms don’t bother me though.
I think just about everyone has seen this photo of Madonna. I don’t really consider her arms bulky. She is just extremely lean and in very unflattering light.
Michelle Obama. Recently lauded in the media for her strong, toned arms. I think she’s a pretty good example of someone who walks the line between “toned” and “too manly”, depending on who you ask. If you ask me, I think her arms look good.
Typical girl arms, and what I assume is desirable for most of the population.

For my own PERSONAL aesthetic, I’m going for something that’s perhaps a step up from Michelle Obama and a step down from Jamie Eason. I hear a lot of “eww, no!” when I tell people that, but whatever. I’m not trying to get huge arms, just enhance what I currently have.

I mean, I understand why people aren’t into girls with defined arms. It comes from the long-standing notion that strong is not for women. Women are soft and delicate, and if the slightest bit of bicep or tricep pops out they’re probably secretly hiding a penis in their undies. Also, women have weaker upper bodies compared to men. We’re not muscular on top, so I suppose it’s a natural thing to be indifferent or even opposed to. Still, I can’t help but mentally roll my eyes whenever a girl says she doesn’t want to lift too much because she’ll get bulky, manly arms. And then I wonder what exactly her definition of “bulky, man arms” is. Michelle? Jamie? Madonna?

Either way, those girls have it easy. As long as they stick to cardio, maybe a bit of light resistance training and eating healthy, the soft yet petite look they’re after is certainly within reach.

Check out those...pecs?

But if you appreciate a lady with a little definition in her arms, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Here are some tips to turn your peanut biceps into nicely arched potato biceps.

  • If you’re a beginner, try just doing compound exercises (push-ups, bench press, rows, etc.) to build your foundation strength and muscle before moving on to isolation work. Master chin-ups and bar dips before curls and tricep extensions. Not that it’s wrong to do curls and tricep extensions if you’re a beginner. But you should try putting the most effort into compound exercises.
  • If you’re at an advanced level of working out, and you have naturally thin arms (like me), and you feel like your arms are one of your lagging body parts, set up a day to work JUST your arms.
  • With biceps, full range of motion is important. (And why is this buff chick so mad?)
  • Make sure you work both heads of your bicep and all three heads of the triceps for even muscular development. That means using different grips and angles when you work your arms. (1) (2)
  • If you’re a woman, don’t worry. It’s going to take a LOT for you to get bulky arms, unless you’re genetically predisposed to it.

2 comments on “The right to bare arms.”

  1. I wish it were easy to build arms like Jamie Eason’s! It always makes me laugh a bit when women express concern that they will end up with big muscles like hers. I’m like, do you have any idea how much work she had to do to get those biceps?

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