Training big muscle groups optimally promotes lower- and upper-body size and muscular arms. Deadlifts, Rows, Dips, Push-Ups, Pull-Ups and Overhead and Bench Presses are particularly helpful in this regard. And strengthening and building the big muscles (quadriceps/hamstrings) around the knees with multi-joint Squats and Lunges minimizes potential knee problems on the field.
However, to help prevent injury, it’s important to give equal time to strengthening the smaller muscle groups surrounding the joints, like the shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms and calves.
RELATED: How to Perform the Farmer’s Walk with Dumbbells
Heed 14-year NBA veteran Tayshaun Prince of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who credits his longevity to the type of training he does with Arnie Kander, the Timberwolves’ vice president of sports performance. Prince mentions that through the years, he’s learned that strenuous lifting is not the key to becoming faster and stronger. “Most trainers tend to work big muscles, but we tackle the small muscles first,” he says. “Arnie’s techniques put less stress on the body but yield the same results.”
Include some of the following exercises in your workouts. They provide the best of both worlds: bigger arms as well as stronger shoulders, elbows, wrists and ankle joints.
- Two moderately heavy dumbbells (70-80% RM)
- Two lighter dumbbells (40-50% RM)
- Balance board (or two small balance discs, or a rolled up towel)
- Medicine ball or basketball
- Pull-Up bar (or a barbell on a Power Rack for Inverted Rows)
- Bench or chair
- Water bottle (hydrate before, during and after workouts)
- Timer (optional)
- Sets/Reps: 3×10
- Rest: 30 seconds between sets
- During a full-body workout, choose one or two exercises from each category to target your wrist, shoulder, ankle, and elbow joints.
- Ball or Disc Push-Ups. Performing Push-Ups with both hands atop a medicine ball, basketball or two balance discs not only builds arm, chest, shoulder, back and core muscles, but also strengthens the wrist and elbow joints since the hands are on an unstable surface. Alternate movement: One-Arm Push-Ups with one hand on the ball and the other on the floor.
- Pronated, Supinated and Neutral Grip DB Wrist Curls. Using moderately heavy dumbbells, do one set of each Wrist Curl variation to thicken your forearms and strengthen your wrists.
- Farmer’s Walks. Another great wrist and forearm strengthener. Walk around holding the moderately heavy dumbbells for about 60 seconds for 3 sets.
- Isometric Hold Inverted Rows or Pull-Ups. Add size to your forearms and biceps while simultaneously strengthening your wrist grip by pulling up (using a supinated or pronated grip) and holding 30-60 seconds for each set.
- Reverse Bench Dips. Place your hands on a bench or chair (behind you) with your fingertips facing you and your legs extended and resting on your heels. Slowly lower yourself, hold one second and press up in one second. This exercise not only adds triceps size but also places additional stress on the wrists and elbows to strengthen both joints.
- Pronated, Supinated and Neutral Grip DB Bicep Curls. Perform one set of each grip variation to build your biceps and strengthen your wrists using the moderately heavy dumbbells.
- DB Neutral Grip Triceps Extensions. Excellent for building the triceps and strengthening wrist and elbow joints using the lighter dumbbells.
RELATED: Bicep Curl Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise
- Single-Leg Calf Raises on a Rolled Up Towel. Build up your calves while strengthening your ankle joints with one foot atop the rolled up towel. Do 3 sets per leg.
- Single Leg Squats. Hold the moderately heavy dumbbells at your sides and do 3 sets per leg. Alternate movement: Hold the lighter dumbbells with a supinated grip at shoulder level to simultaneously build lower and upper body size. Advanced movement: Perform Single-Leg Squats with one foot atop a balance board or a small disc to really test your balance and ankle strength.
- Isometric Hold Squats on a Balance Board or on Two Small Discs. Hold the light dumbbells with a supine grip at shoulder level, squat into a parallel position and hold for 30-60 seconds with your feet on the board or discs. Feel the burn in your thighs while strengthening both ankles.
RELATED: Single-Leg Squat Tips for Beginners
- DB Standing Y, T, and I Raises. Hold light dumbbells in a neutral grip with your thumbs pointed diagonally. Slowly raise the dumbbells diagonally overhead (your body should resemble the letter Y). Lower slowly and do 9 more reps. Next, hold the dumbbells at your sides with a supinated grip with your thumbs pointed laterally (away from your body). Raise the dumbbells up to shoulder level so your body resembles the letter T, pause one second, and slowly return to start position. Do 10 reps. For the I Raise, hold the dumbbells at your sides in a neutral grip with your thumbs pointed forward. Slowly raise the dumbbells straight up overhead so your body resembles the letter I. Lower slowly and repeat 9 more times.
- Rear Lateral Raises. Bend over slightly and hold the light dumbbells in a neutral grip position at your sides. Raise the dumbbells up to shoulder level and slightly behind you. Hold one second, squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly lower and return to start position. Do 9 more reps.
- DB Prone Grip Forward Raises. Hold the dumbbells with a prone grip resting atop your thighs. Slowly raise the dumbbells up to shoulder level, pause one second, and slowly lower. Repeat 9 more times.
Wall Street Journal. (Health & Wellness Section). “Tayshaun Prince, Master of Longevity in the NBA.” January 26, 2016. p. D3.