When you want to tone your arms, choose a variety of exercises to hit all the major muscles. The big muscles in your arms are the biceps and triceps. Your biceps run along the front of your arm. There are actually two muscles that make up the biceps. One is closer to your elbow and one runs on top of that muscle all the way into the shoulder.
On the back of your arm, there are three muscles known as the triceps. One goes all the way up into your shoulder and down to your elbow. The other two start on your humerus, the arm bone, and insert into the elbow.
Building up your shoulder muscles helps round out the appearance of your arms, so they deserve some attention as well. The shoulder muscles are called the deltoids, and there are three parts: the front, middle and back.
Women tend to store more fat on their limbs and men tend to store more fat in their stomach and chest cavity according to this 2013 study. There are definitely exceptions to this rule, but that’s what the human body tends toward. It’s healthier for women because there’s less fat around their organs, but it also means they may have a harder time getting that ripped, defined look in their arms and legs.
Keep in mind that building the muscles in your body is only half the equation. The other half is weight loss, which means you have to lower your calorie intake and exercise more. Burning more calories than you consume makes you lose weight over time and reveals the muscles that you’ve been working hard for in the gym.
If you do each of these eight exercises at least once per week, you’ll work all areas of your arms and shoulders. For each exercise, perform 8–12 repetitions. If you can do 12, use a heavier weight during your next workout to make it more challenging. Three sets per exercise is plenty. You can also break it up and do four exercises in one workout then the remaining four in your next upper-body workout.
The pushup isn’t flashy, new or exciting. However, it’s one of the most effective upper-body exercises. You don’t even need equipment to do it.
The move: To do a pushup, start with your hands under your shoulders and arms straight. Lower yourself down until your chest touches the ground, then press back up until your arms are straight.
If you’re struggling to do a full pushup, start with an incline. Put your hands on an elevated surface like a chair or couch. If that’s still too difficult, put your hands on a wall to practice. Keep your body straight, don’t let your butt sag and go as low as possible. Over time, you can decrease the amount of incline you use and begin doing full pushups from the floor.
CURL AND PRESS
For the sake of time, you might as well combine two arm exercises into one.
The move: Grab a pair of dumbbells and hold them by your sides. Curl them up toward your shoulders, turning your palms up. When you reach your shoulders, press the dumbbells overhead. As you press up, turn your knuckles back toward the wall behind you. Come back down to your shoulders then reverse curl back down to your sides and repeat.
FRONT AND LATERAL DUMBBELL RAISE
Use light weights for this shoulder-burner. Single-digit weights are enough for beginners. If you’ve been using weights for a while grab something in the teens.
The move: Stand tall with your knees slightly bent and chest up. Raise the dumbbells in front of you at the same time. Keep your elbows straight. Bring them back down, then raise the dumbbells out to the side with your elbows slightly bent. Continue to alternate between forward and side raises.
TRX BICEP CURL
Grab a TRX and lean back with your arms straight. This is the same starting position as a TRX row.
The move: With your palms facing up, curl your hands in toward your shoulders. As you curl, don’t let your arms lower toward your sides. The only thing moving should be your forearm and elbow. Everything else remains in place.
This exercise develops your triceps and helps you work on your pushup technique.
The move: Start at the top of pushup position. Bend one arm so you’re resting on your forearm and other hand. Bend the other arm and place your forearm on the ground so you’re in a low plank position. Then, straighten your other arm, plant your hand and straighten your elbow. Straighten your other arm and plant your hand so you’re back to the top of the pushup position.
While this is technically a cardio exercise and not weightlifting, your arms will benefit from the intense workout. Few cardio exercises work your arms as much as battle ropes.
The move: Grab the ropes, one in each hand, and slam them rapidly one at a time. To switch things up, you can slam them at the same time. Try to make ripples in the rope that go all the way from your hands to the end of the rope.
LYING-DOWN DUMBBELL TRICEP EXTENSION
The move: Grab two dumbbells, around the same weight you would use for a bicep curl, and lie back on a bench. Hold the dumbbells up with your elbows straight. Bend your arms but keep your elbows pointed toward the ceiling. Bring the dumbbells down until they’re next to your head, then press back up until your elbows are straight.
INCLINE SEATED BICEP CURLS
Many people swing with their upper body to gain momentum when they do bicep curls. This makes it easier to use more weight but you’re not getting the most out of the exercise. Check your ego by performing bicep curls lying on a bench.
The move: Set the incline slightly higher than halfway up. It should be about 60 degrees of incline. Lie on the bench with your arms dangling straight down. You might feel a stretch in this bottom position. Curl the weights up toward your shoulders, then back down. Keep your palms facing up as you curl up.