And while we don't condone keeping a list of body parts you'd like to change, we do have some good news about your arms. Because your body stores less fat in your arms than in other spots, it's relatively easy to change their shape for the better. This means that though June is upon us, if you eat well and perform fat-burning cardio exercises, you still have time to be strutting your stuff in tank tops and strapless dresses well before Labor Day.
How to Tone Your Arms
To find the most effective exercises to tone your upper arms, the fitness experts at the American Council on Exercise turned to researchers at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, to determine which moves target triceps most effectively. Researchers tested eight triceps exercises on 15 healthy females between the ages of 20 and 24. All participants had previous weight-training experience to ensure the use of proper form.
Participants lifted 70 percent of their one-rep max seven to eight times — completing triceps kickbacks, overhead triceps extensions, bar push-downs, rope push-downs, closed-grip bench presses, lying barbell triceps extensions, tricep dips, and triangle push-ups. After analyzing the real-time muscle activity during each of the moves, researchers found tricep dips, triangle push-ups, and tricep kickbacks to be the most effective exercises.
"Triceps kickbacks and triangle push-ups not only produced high levels of muscle activation, but these exercises can be safely performed by the vast majority of exercisers, and require little to no equipment and a relatively short amount of time to produce a positive result when included in a regular fitness routine," said ACE Chief Science Officer Cedric X. Bryant, MD, in an ACE press release. "These exercises are the perfect example of how fitness can be achieved, no matter how limited on time or access to equipment an individual may be.”
To make the moves work for you, perform two to three sets of each exercise, two to three times a week. Here's how:
1. Tricep kickbacks. With a 5- or 8-pound weight (or more, depending on how strong you are), stand with your right leg in front of your left, knees slightly bent. Keeping your back straight, bend at the waist to a 45-degree angle, and rest your right hand on your right thigh for support. With the weight in your left hand, create a 90-degree angle with your arm. Press the weight backward until your left arm is straight, without moving your upper arm or shoulder. Then, lower the weight back to the starting position. Perform 8 to 12 reps with your left arm, and then switch sides.
2. Tricep dips. Sit on a weight bench or chair with your hands, palm down, on either side of your hips. While you support your body weight with your hands, scoot forward until your seat is off the bench. Keeping your shoulders down and relaxed, lower your body. Using the strength of your arms only, press your body back to your starting position. For the lowest modification, keep your knees bent and your feet close to your body. For a more challenging exercise, straighten your legs out in front of you. Perform 8 to 12 reps.
3. Triangle push-ups. A difficult move, a triangle push-up can also be performed on your knees until you build your strength. For the full version, assume an all-fours position on the floor or on a mat. Place your hands on the floor below your chest with your index fingers and thumbs touching to form a triangle, arms straight. With your torso straight and your back flat, lower your body as close to the ground as you can, bending your elbows back along your torso. Push back up until your arms are straight. That's one. Perform 8 to 12 push-ups.