Upper Body Workout: Endurance Burn-Out + Strength Exercises

Arm Workout (Biceps + Triceps) - This workout challenges both strength and endurance by using light weights with high reps for a burn-out and following that up with heavier dumbbell exercisesThis upper body workout combines high-rep, low-weight exercises with low(er)-rep, high(er) weight exercises for a taste of both endurance and strength (the two aren’t mutually exclusive). While I think the upper body moves you do in barre and spin classes with the 2-lb weights are challenging, I also think you need to be doing some form of strength training with heavier weights as well. And that could look like a lot of things! It might mean super heavy olympic lifting, but it also might mean dumbbells, kettlebells, med balls and even bodyweight exercises (push ups, pull ups, etc.).

If you need to do 100 reps of something to feel fatigued, that’s an exercise in muscular endurance and you’re definitely achieving a burn-out, but it’s not as effective at building strength. Any time Joe and I do a spin class together, for example, he dies during the arm song with the 2-lb weights and high rep numbers and has to drop his arms several times (sorry, calling you out, Joe!! haha) while I bang through it fairly easily. Does that mean I’m stronger than Joe? LOLLOLLOL

No. Not even close.

So for this workout, you’ll use a set of light weights for a series of small, high-rep exercises, and once the burnout is achieved, you’ll switch to heavier weights to target the same muscle group.

Endurance + Strength Arm Workout (Biceps + Triceps)


Equipment I Used:

  • Light hand weights (2-5lbs) — I’m using 2 lbs, which was PLENTY heavy for the triceps section but I probably could have done 3-4 lbs for the biceps. If you have access to multiple hand weights, go a pound or two heavier for the bis than tris.
  • Medium-heavy dumbbells (8-20lbs) — I’m using a pair of 10-lb dumbbells. My upper body isn’t very strong so I’m setting the suggested weight on these pretty wide.

Arm Workout (Biceps + Triceps) - This workout challenges both strength and endurance by using light weights with high reps for a burn-out and following that up with heavier dumbbell exercises

Explanations of the exercises below the pictorial.

Arm Workout (Biceps + Triceps) - This workout challenges both strength and endurance by using light weights with high reps for a burn-out and following that up with heavier dumbbell exercises

Biceps – ENDURANCE

LIGHT WEIGHTS | 20 seconds each x3 without rest

  • Biceps Curl (elbows lifted) | Keeping the elbows lifted at armpit-shoulder height, curl the weights into your shoulders and then extend the arms back out straight. Keep these quick but tight–really squeeze as you curl in and out. With the elbows lifted like this, you’ll feel your shoulders burn a bit as well. Expect the first round of these to feel fairly easy (it’ll build by the end of the three minutes, I promise!).
  • Biceps Extended Pulse | Hold the arms extended at chest height, palms up, soft bend to the elbows. Pulse the arms up an inch or two and down.
  • Biceps Extended Circle Taps | Arms still extended, palms up, soft bend to elbows, squeeze the weights and hit them together forming a small circle with the weights (hit high, hit low). Really slam the things together to ensure you’re squeezing your arms tight.

Biceps – STRENGTH

HEAVY WEIGHTS | 30 seconds work / 10 seconds rest x9 (three times through the exercises)

  • Biceps Curls | Start standing, one dumbbell in each hand, arms down by your sides with the palms facing in. From here, curl the weights up to your shoulders, rotating as you curl so that palms face your body at the top of the curl. If you need to modify, do one at a time.
  • Hammer Curls | Same as above except no rotation: palms face in towards each other the entire range of motion.
  • Circle Curls | Start standing holding a weight in each hand, palms facing front. From this starting position, curl the weights up and over to the right in a circular shape. At the top of the contraction, weights will be up at your chest (12 o’clock if we’re thinking of the motion as hands on a clock. From there, slowly lower the weights down and over the left, ending back in your starting position. Every time your hands reach this point (6 o’clock), you’ll switch directions so that the next circular curl is up and over to the left, down and over to the right. Forearms should stay parallel to each other as you do this; elbows stay locked in tight by your bottom ribs.

Triceps – ENDURANCE

LIGHT WEIGHTS | 20 seconds each x3 without rest

For all three of these exercises, you’re standing with your torso hinged forward (flat back, butt back, knees slightly bent). Arms are extended behind you.

  • Straight Arm Lifts (palms up) | Keeping the arms straight and as high behind you as you can, pulse them up and down.
  • Triceps Taps (palms up) | Keeping the arms lifted behind you (higher than your back), hit them together squeezing your arms in towards each other.
  • Bend-Stretch (palms in) | Rotate your thumbs down, palms facing each other. From here softly bend the elbows and then squeeze the arms straight again (bend and stretch). You really need to squeeze the arms as straight as possible–you’ll feel a big burn from this tiny pulsing movement.

Triceps – STRENGTH

HEAVY WEIGHTS | 30 seconds work / 10 seconds rest x9 (three times through the exercises)

  • Overhead Triceps Extension | Start with a dumbbell in each hand, arms overhead, palms facing in and dumbbells held together (press them into each other). From this starting position, bend the elbows as you lower your hands and weights behind your head. Contract the triceps to then extend the weights back up overhead to starting position. As you do this exercises, hold the upper arms in towards the side of your head; elbows shouldn’t bow out to the sides in a diamond shape. To modify, just use one weight in both hands.
  • Triceps Kickbacks | Hinge your torso forward and row your elbows back–this is your starting position. From here, kick your weights back, straightening the arms behind you. Bend at the elbows to return to starting position. To modify, alternate arms.
  • Single-Weight Lifts | Essentially the same movement from the endurance section but using a heavy weight. Hold a dumbbell behind your back with one end in each hand. Leaning forward with your torso (flat back) start with the weight resting on your bum and lift it a few inches up into the air before tapping it back down. 

Arm Workout (Biceps + Triceps) - This workout challenges both strength and endurance by using light weights with high reps for a burn-out and following that up with heavier dumbbell exercises

OUTFIT DETAILS

I filmed this workout yesterday and my arms are definitely feeling it this morning (holy biceps)! Let me know what you think in the comments if you give it a try. And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I really enjoyed this format and am thinking of doing another like it focusing on shoulders–thoughts? 🙂

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Links to some outfit details are affiliate. A “c/o” indicates the item was gifted to me by the brand (courtesy of).

Comments

  1. Love this burn out workout. I teach group fitness classes and have always loved adding your moves into class. Yes, definitely work on a shoulder burn out! Thanks!

  2. Love this format!!! Thanks for adding another awesome upper body workout to my list!

  3. This workout looks great! My arms are burning just looking at the moves! 🙂 I’m similar to Joe – I can’t handle the low weight with tons of reps. I tried to be super cool and strong during my first barre class and went straight for the 5# weights and I was DYING!

  4. brilliant workout post here ! very interesting!

    SSSx
    Stalked this week: Ashley Yeater founder of DEFINE

  5. Love this ; )))

  6. These are my favorite kind of arm workouts with power and a little burn. I would love if you did a strength and endurance workout for the back, as I struggle to find good back workouts that don’t include bulky gym equipment.

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