This is a question we get pretty much all year long and now with the hot weather approaching we wanted to share this Q and A.
Q & A: I’ve got a wedding coming up soon, what’s the best exercise to tone up the back of my arms?
A: (It’s really nice to be doing things, like weddings, with other people again!) The short answer is that I can help you with arms, but your success won’t depend on finding “the best exercise.”
More complete answer: toning up your arms is going to be about developing/enhancing the muscles in that area and burning off some of the fat to show off your hard work. In other words it will be a combination of the fundamentals of good nutrition and exercise + some extra attention for your triceps (muscles on back of your arms).
Spot reduction vs. Spot enhancement
As you already know, fat is burned from your body as a whole, and the rate at which various parts of you shrink is beyond our control. In other words you can’t spot reduce or spot burn. Body fat is like a bathtub full of water in that taking a cup out the middle doesn’t leave a hole, but, instead, lowers the whole tub. However, you can spot enhance.
By spot enhance I mean that training the muscles you are most concerned about with some extra volume can enhance them. You can spot enhance even if you don’t burn off any fat at all.
Toning those arms
1. Train everything, especially your legs. Toning up your arms is a combination of burning off fat and spot enhancement. Your muscles – especially your lower body muscles – are your metabolism. Keeping as much of your muscle in tact, or enhanced will make toning up your arms easier. Also, be sure to also train your back (with something like the row below) each time you workout because your back muscles should be the good neighbors to your triceps.
2. Tighten your nutrition. It’s way easier said than done, but I would also be negligent if I didn’t say it. Weight loss is about creating a calorie deficit and here and here are some ways to cut calories.
3. Extra for the arms: First, you will want to do a pushing exercise (like a push up, or the overhead press below) each time you workout because this will work your triceps (2-4 days per week). Then, once or twice a week you will want to add in 3-4 sets of an exercise that mostly isolates your triceps (like the hollow tricep extension below that sets your triceps and core on fire). Sure, you could do more, but your time would likely be better spent hitting your step goal or planning your food because the simple plan I laid out will give you 15-20 sets of tricep stimulation per week which definitely get the “enhance” part of the job done.
4. Get your steps in because calories. Besides your resting metabolic rate, your step count (nerd speak is NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis) will be the biggest part of your calories out, even if you train 10 hours per week. Only professional athletes can afford to ignore this, but not always.
– – – 3 Awesome Moves to Help Tone Those Arms – – –
–>Suspension trainer row (1st photo):
This is a great way to work on all the muscles in your back to complete the look for your dress or tank top. It’s also great for the front of your arms, posture and upper body mobility as well. You do not need to spring for a big name suspension trainer like TRX. There are plenty of budget friendly knock offs that will be just fine for personal use.
o Grab the handles and walk backwards (into easier position) and then lean back. Only now that you can feel your weight in your hands should your walk your feet in to make it a little bit harder.
o Let gravity pull you down until your arms as long as they can get, and let gravity give the muscles between you shoulder blades a little stretch too.
o Keeping the elbows close to your ribs, pull yourself up. Stop pulling before it starts getting easier. You adjust the intensity with your feet – closer to wall or anchor point is harder and vice versa.
· 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps. Meaning the angle you use should leave your muscles very tired when you get to rep 15.
–> Hollow body tricep extension(Middle photo):
This is a great way to effectively multi-task and set your triceps and core on fire.
o legs as far out as they can be without feeling it in your lower back. If you feel it in your back bring your knees in until that stops.
o Optional: try picking up your head an inch or so off the floor. For many people this helps add to the core fire and helps strengthen the often neglected muscles on the front of the neck, but for some it bothers the neck. If it bothers your neck, put a pillow under your head instead of holding it up.
o Keep your legs still. Bend the elbows as far as you can, then straighten them as much as you can.
o Don’t let your upper arm move back and forth. Try your best to only let the elbows move.
· 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps. Meaning the weight you use is heavy enough that when you get to rep 15 your arms should be done.
–>Single arm overhead press (3rd photo):
This is a great way to work your arms, shoulders, many of the muscles around your shoulder blades, improve posture and upper body mobility.
o Think about being in a standing plank – brace your stomach, squeeze your butt muscles because they’re your foundation. Start with a dumbbell at shoulder height with palm facing in.
o Maintain the plank as you press your arm up as long as it goes. (Not everyone’s elbows get completely straight, and that’s ok.) Regardless of how straight it gets, you want your upper arm vertical – if your pressing with your right hand, and you turn your head to the right, then your eye shouldn’t be blocked by your arm.
o You’ll finish with the palm facing forward-ish. Your body will naturally rotate the palm as you press overhead. Let that happen at it’s own pace.
· 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps. Meaning the weight you use is heavy enough that when you get to rep 15 your muscles should be done.