My students rarely complain, but when they do it's often about a lack of arm power. Over and over I hear, "What can I do to strengthen my upper arms? They feel so weak in Downward Dog, Chaturanga Dandasana, and Handstand!"
Fortunately, the answer is right on the mat. Many yoga poses help strengthen weak arms—and make strong arms stronger. A quick review of the anatomy of the upper arm and of some basic exercise physiology principles will show you how.
Biceps, which is Latin for "two heads," refers to the muscle's two sections; each has a tendon that attaches to the outer edge of the shoulder blade just above the shoulder joint. The other end of the biceps attaches to the radius, one of the two forearm bones, near the elbow.
You mainly use your biceps to bend your elbow, which you do dozens of times a day, whether you're lifting something heavy, bringing a cup to your mouth, or pulling on a dog's leash. You also use your biceps to help flex your shoulder when you lift your arm forward and then overhead. Finally, you use your biceps to help rotate your palm when you turn a doorknob or screwdriver.
The biceps and triceps perform opposite actions at the elbow, often in conjunction with each other. Think of driving a car with a stick shift: The triceps pushes the shifter away from you, and the biceps helps pull it back.
In yoga poses, the two muscles often contract at the same time, stabilizing the elbow. You may be able to see or feel this in poses that require you to bear (and balance) weight on your arms, including Sirsasana (Headstand) and Pincha Mayurasana (Peacock Pose, also known as Forearm Balance).
Practice Builds Strength
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