Recently I was asked for a few suggestions for someone who has lost some weight, but they are interested in improving the appearance of their arms. What that often means for women is that they want to decrease the fat mass on the back of the arms, and ‘tone’ it up, which technically means strengthen it and increase the muscle mass there.
Before I get started just remember a few things- strengthening and ‘toning’ muscles isn’t often effective as an isolated approach, and often needs to be done in conjunction with eliminating overall body fat and increasing overall body muscle. Also- if you have a lot of loose skin at the back of your arms, you can decrease fat and build muscle as much as you want but if the skin has lost elasticity due to age or losing a lot of weight don’t expect the arm to shape up to what it ‘was’. Skin loses it’s elasticity and just doing exercises for the area doesn’t mean you will tighten up the skin.
Here are some really great exercises, that are designed for doing at home with very little equipment. Obviously there are many more exercises you could do at the gym or with equipment.
For all of these exercises you need to follow these rules:
#1: Choose the number of repetitions that CHALLENGES YOU- i.e. gives you a really good burn, and push through the burn for many reps. If you just do 3 sets of 12 and it feels pretty easy you are getting nowhere to your goal of strengthening/toning/whatever you want to call it. Each week try to do a few more reps, or a heavier weight. Without progressively overloading your muscles you are not getting closer to your goal.
#2: In order to tighten/tone the area you are going to have to build muscle- that’s the only way to make it firm. So don’t be afraid of heavier weights. Get yourself a set of dumbbells that range from 5+ (maybe up to 25 pounds for an average woman). Choose the weight for each exercise that is challenging!!
#3: Don’t lose form, technique, or strain your back or neck to do these exercises.
#4: You have to do these 3 times a week minimum especially as a female to see any progress. Doing this once a week will keep you where you are forever, especially as an older female with not an optimal hormonal profile for strength training. 3-4 days a week should get you some progress.
#5: Please consider that these exercises are very basic, and intended for someone with little experience in strength training, and little current level of strength. As you advance and get stronger you can always keep doing these exercises, but will benefit from more full body functional strength exercises.
First exercise: Bicep Curls:
Stand tall in good posture, bring the weights up to your shoulders without moving your elbows by your side. Palms stay facing forward.
Second exercise: Tricep Kickbacks
Keep your back perfectly flat and your core strong. Don’t move your elbow from your side. Straighten out your arm (you should feel the back of your arm working).
Exercise #3: Chest Press:
For this one, lie flat on a bench with an engaged core. Two dumbbells in your hands, palms pointing forward. At the bottom point in the motion if you looked down at your elbow joint you should be making about an 80 degree angle, and you wrists should be relatively stacked over your elbows. When you press up into your chest press then press the dumbbells over your chest (not over your face). Go slow, and use your breathing.
The body will not miraculously change and look different overnight. Stick with this program for at least 3 months (increasing reps and/or weight on a weekly basis). 3 times a week for 3 months should get you there! Try taking a photo or measurements initially so you can stay focussed on your progress!
Let me know how it goes 🙂
Ps- These photos are a part of my beginner’s weight lifting guide which you can buy online here: https://www.amazon.ca/Teach-Yourself-Lift-Weights-Level-ebook/dp/B01CDJ77S8. The guide was designed for my Level 1 and 2 Women on Weights course which I teach at the YWCA downtown Vancouver. The next programs start in September 2016. Check their website for the most updated information: https://ywcavan.org/fitness