7 Secrets For Toned Upper Arms
Photo by Rubberball Productions
Okay, so some of us weren't born with slender-arm DNA. And while that will never stop us from appreciating everything our beautiful limbs allow us to do every single day (Hug. Hail a cab. Rock a burpee.), it can make us reach for a cardigan on those days when we don't really, truly need it. That's why we talked to some of our favorite trainers for their secrets for firming and defining the area that gravity justlovesto play with. Check 'em out, give 'em a try—and then go put on a tank top and tell yourself you look hot. Because no matter what your upper arms are doing, if you think it, you are. And that's worth a high-five, wouldn't you say?
Here are 7 secrets for getting toned upper arms:
Clean up your chaturanga.
Yoga can do wonders for your upper body, but if your form is off you're more likely to wind up with a torn rotator cuff than wow-mazing arms. Two of the best ways to strengthen and sculpt your upper body on the mat: Learn to properly engage your shoulder girdle, and slow down your chaturanga. "A lot of people blast through them and allow momentum to take over so you miss out on all of the great strengthening and toning benefits," says celebrity trainer Michelle Lovitt. Instead, slow down, keep your elbows in toward your body, and try to pause for a moment at the bottom of chauranga before moving into Upward-Facing Dog. "After a while, you’ll get incredible definition in your triceps, shoulders, upper back, and chest," says Lovitt.
Add quarter reps.
In exercises that target the back of the upper arms, the majority of the toning power comes at the end of the movement, when you straighten your arm completely. "That's when your triceps are under the most tension," says Rachel Cosgrove, owner of Results Fitness in California and author ofThe Female Body Breakthrough. To maximize the toning power even further, add a quarter rep. For example, on a move like a triceps kickback, extend your arm fully, then bend your elbow slightly and straighten your arm again before completing the full rep. "It really helps to emphasize the last portion of the movement when you straighten your arm," says Crosgrove. Just be sure not to lock out your elbow.
Fill up on protein.
Photo by Ted Morrison
You know it, but it's always worth a reminder: To really change your body, you need to eat clean, says Thrive trainer Sean De Wispelaere, who recommends crafting your plate around protein (it builds muscle while raising metabolism, so you shed fat faster), vegetables, fruit and healthy fats. (These 10 portable protein-packed snacks mean you can take in a little extra protein anytime, any place.)
See every piece of furniture as a tri-tunity.
One of the best ways to reclaim your triceps? Add mini toning sessions throughout your day. "The triceps muscle can get easily fatigued, so you'll be able to eek out far more reps than if you tried to pack them into a single session," says Sadie Lincoln, founder of Barre3 and author ofLove Your Lower Body. Our go-to moves: kitchen counter push-ups—you can also use the back of a sofa or a park bench, anything that's a sturdy waist-high surface—or reverse triceps dips off the seat of a couch or chair. Start with 15 reps per session three times per day and work up to 30 reps three times per day.
Stop wasting your time with girly push-ups.
Push-ups are the holy grail of upper body strength, because they work so many of those pesky trouble spots, including the triceps, chest, and shoulders. But when you drop to your knees you not only take your core of out of the equation, but you reduce your body-weight load by about 50%. You're really not getting much out of them, says De Wispelaere. Instead, work on building your core strengthen with forearm planks, and do push-ups at an incline—against the wall, on a table or bench—and build strength from there. "You'll get more toning power for the arms and increase your ab strength," says De Wispelaere. And that's a win-win.
Train your entire body.
No matter how many arm exercises you do, you won't be able to see your sleek muscles if they're hidden beneath a layer of fat, says Bill Hartman, an Indianapolis-based strength coach. In addition to stepping up your cardio, you can turn your resistance routine into a major calorie-burning workout with multi-joint exercises, like dumbbell thrusters and modified burpees. In addition, the increased stress of these compound movements causes your body to release hormones such as growth hormone, IGF-1, and epinephrine, which are essential for fat loss and muscle gain.
Press for more definition.
"Your triceps get fatigued with very little weight, but combining exercises that target the triceps as well as larger muscle groups such as the shoulders, chest, pecs, and core allow you to lift heavier weights and do more reps, therefore putting an increased demand on your upper arms," says Cosgrove. Her go-to pressing movements include dumbbell overhead presses and dumbbell bench presses. "They take your muscle through its full range of motion and don't put your shoulders in a rounded, compromised position that can be unsafe," Cosgrove adds.
Video: 5-Minute Arm Workout
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