How To Do Bench Dips, Kettlebell Swings And Lateral Raises To Tone Arms
The bench dip is a bodyweight exercise for your upper arms. It is a great way to strengthen the triceps muscles without using any workout equipment or weights.
How to Do a Bench Dip
This exercise is very easy and can even be done at home. If you want to develop toned or muscular arms, this workout makes a good addition to your exercise routine.
With that in mind, here is a quick guide on how to do a bench dip.
Bench Dip Steps
For this routine, you will need an exercise bench, but if none is readily available, a wide chair or your couch will work just as well.
The harder version requires at least two benches or a chair and stable stool. Whichever item you decide to use, it should be absolutely wobble free with at least three feet clearance from the ground and as wide as your shoulder width.
Once you have the required tools, proceed as follows:
Stand in front of a bench while looking away from it, so that it remains positioned directly behind your back.
Sit on the bench and grip its edges with both hands on each side of your hips. Your palms should be facing down and elbows straightened out.
Next, press against your own weight to lift your butt off the bench or chair. Use your feet to walk slightly forward, so that your rear remains suspended in front of the bench/chair.
Make sure to maintain a firm grip over the bench’s edge and extend both legs, leaving only your heels touching the floor. This will be your staring position.
Tip: In the more challenging version, you can do a bench dip with your feet propped up against another chair or bench instead of placing them on the floor. Another name for this variation is the ‘elevated bench dip’. Your triceps will have to support more weight during the lift portion of this bench dip version, thus resulting in a more intense workout. However, make sure that both benches or chair and stool are stable so that they won’t tip over and cause an injury. Whatever furnishings you use should also be at the same height level.
During the first half motion of the bench dip, slowly lower your body by bending the elbows. Take a deep breath during the dip and stop once your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
If that is too low, then dip down until your elbow joint makes an angle slightly less than 90-degress. If you are new to this exercise, start by limiting how far you lower yourself. Increase how far the dip goes gradually over time.
This will allow the tendons and ligaments in your shoulders to gain strength with practice and time until they are able to support the full-range bench dip motion with a 90-degree bend at the elbows.
Finally, push yourself back up to the starting position by straightening your elbows. This completes one bench dip repetition. Remember to keep your knees unbent throughout the workout.
Repeat the same motion 6-12 times to complete one set.
How to Do a Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is the bread-and-butter movement of a kettlebell workout. Other movements include:
- Goblet Squat
- Straight-Legged Deadlift
- Turkish Get Up
- And the Clean and Press
Why the Kettlebell Swing?
For those new to using kettlebells, it is the movement that teaches how to properly use a kettlebell, something we cover next.
But it goes further than that – it is one movement that will give you a total body workout both from a cardio and weight training standpoint. If you have tried other moves, you probably found yourself going back to the kettlebell swing when you want to get back to basics.
Perfecting the Swing
If this is your first time using a kettlebell, form is important both to get the results you want and to reduce the risk of injury.
Start by using a kettlebell weight that will be easy for you to manage. Ten pounds for men and five pounds for women are good starting points.
Step One: Proper Form
You won’t need the kettlebell just yet. Start by standing with your back against a wall. Now move away from the wall to about half the length of your thigh and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
With your hands at the crease where your leg meets your pelvis and back straight, push back your hips until your butt just touches the wall.
All of your weight should still be on your feet; don’t lean against the wall. Focus on moving your hips back and not bending at the knees or back.
Now return to the starting position. Do ten repetitions of this move to work on form.
Step Two: Adding in a Kettlebell
With a kettlebell between your feet and the handle at about the big toe joint location, bend at the hips (and the knees if necessary) and reach down and grab the handle of the kettlebell.
Keep your back straight.
Slowly raise your body to take the slack out of your joints, but not lift the weight. While looking straight forward, slowly push yourself back up to the starting position.
Do ten reps practicing form while using the weight.
Step Three: Adding in the Swing
Lift the weight as explained above but instead of coming straight up, swing the weight back between your legs. Once at the end of its movement, pull it forward until it is out in front of you.
Return back to the starting position. That is one rep; practice ten reps of this one swing.
Step Four: Adding in the Continuous Swing
Now lift the weight and get the swing going, but instead of putting it down after one rep, keep the swing going back and forth between your legs.
Do ten reps ending with the weight at the starting position between your legs.
As your fitness level increases, you can either keep the same weight to develop endurance or increase the weight to develop more strength.
For recreational fitness (non-competition), men usually top out using a 35-pound kettlebell; women 25 pounds.
If you are looking for a complete workout, add the kettlebell swing to your fitness routine. The results are amazing!
How to Do Lateral Raises
The lateral raise exercise is an isolation move that targets several muscles in the shoulder area. In the beginning as the weight comes up, the supraspinatus – a small supporting muscle in the rotator cuff – is brought into play.
As the weight moves farther upward, the stress shifts from the supraspinatus to the middle deltoids.
Doing the Raise
Like with many other weightlifting moves, proper form is required not only to prevent injury, but to get the greatest benefit from the exercise. Start by standing upright with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
Hold a dumbbell of a comfortable weight in each hand at your sides.
As you start to raise the dumbbells, pull in your abdominal muscles and inhale. Continue raising the weights up and out to your sides. While coming up, be sure to bend your elbows slightly.
Continue raising the weight until they are level with your shoulders. Hold for a second. Exhale and slowly start to lower the dumbbells until they are back down at your sides.
That is one repetition. To engage the trapezius, continue to lift above shoulder height.
When choosing a weight, select one that doesn’t put too much stress on the shoulders as this can increase the risk of an injury. You should be able to do 8 to 12 lifts in one set without overstraining your shoulders. Work up to performing 2 to 3 sets.
Once you can do 3 sets of 12 reps per set, increase the amount of weight and drop back on the number of reps per set to 8 and 2 sets.
While standing is the most common form of lateral raises, other positions can bring other muscles into play. For something different, try doing lateral raises while sitting on a chair or weightlifting bench.
Or try lying flat face down on a horizontal weightlifting bench, dumbbells in hand with arms hanging straight down. Now raise to shoulder height and slowly back down.
For even more variation, bring the weights straight up in front of you instead of out to your sides.
While typically lateral raises are done using both arms at the same time, using the single arm method, while holding onto something with the other arm for balance, focuses more of the effort on the middle deltoid and less on the supraspinatus.
Lean away from your lifting arm and more effort is put on the suprapinatus and less on the middle deltoid.
When performed properly, lateral raises are a great way to develop specific muscles in the shoulder. Just be sure to use a weight of the proper size and to do the exercise slowly and with proper form to reduce the risk of injury.