We all have those trouble zones we're self-conscious about and want to tone up. Perhaps it’s your midsection or your glutes. For many, upper arms top the list, and this is the time of year this insecurity is brought to light.
The good news is that by adding the right exercises to your workout routine you can start strengthening the muscles in your arms rather quickly. One of my clients added a 5-minute arm routine to her typical workout routine and noticed a change after just three sessions. Within a week she already felt more confident in her sleeveless tops and dresses.
If tightening and toning the arms is on your list of summer goals, try adding these exercises to your fitness regimen three times a week. I recommend performing them with 3-5 pound dumbbells. Remember that some exercises may be easier than others, so it’s okay to alternate between weights based on what feels right for your body.
My favorite way to put these exercises together is to perform one set of 10 repetitions of each, and then repeat the whole circuit three times. In the end, you’ll complete 30 repetitions total of each exercise.
The bicep curl is the quintessential arm exercise. It tones and strengthens the front of the arms, which many people associate with the ability to “flex a muscle.”
To perform this exercise, grab your dumbbells and start with your arms by your sides. Hug your elbows in towards the side of your body, and then curl the weights up towards your shoulders. Be careful not to let your arms swing. (If you need to swing your arms and use momentum to get the weight up, you are likely using too heavy of a weight.) Repeat this 10 times, and complete 3 sets total throughout your workout.
The triceps are what people are referring to when they say that their arms are flabby. This is the part of the arm that jiggles when you wave. (During one of my workout segments for the “Today Show,” Kathie Lee called them bat wings!) In order to tighten this area and reduce "jiggle" it’s necessary to strengthen the backs of the arms. The most basic dumbbell exercise to accomplish this is a tricep kickback. Holding weights in both hands, lean forward with a flat back. Hug your elbows in towards your sides and pull them up towards the ceiling. Keeping your elbows still, kick the weight towards the back of the room by moving the lower half of your arm back and up towards the ceiling. Hold for a second, feeling the back of your arm tighten, and then release back to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times, and complete 3 sets total throughout your workout.
This exercise works the biceps from a different angle, while also working the sides of the chest (and that pesky area by the armpits) and sculpting the shoulders. Hold the weights at shoulder height, parallel to the floor. Relax the shoulders down, and then hug the arms towards the front of your body as if you’re hugging a tree. Keep the elbows level with your shoulders — don’t let them dip down — and be conscious of the shoulders starting to raise up towards your ears, which means the weight is too heavy or you’re too fatigued. Repeat this 10 times, and complete 3 sets total throughout your workout.
This move is a three-in-one, working the biceps, shoulder and chest. Start with your arms at your side, bending your elbows at 90 degrees. Reach the arms forward, straightening them as if you’re serving a platter, then reach them out to the sides in a “T” position, back to center, and then pull them back in towards you. Keep the palms facing up the entire time. Repeat this 10 times, and complete 3 sets total throughout your workout.
The ultimate toner for the front of the shoulder is the V exercise. For this exercise, hold your dumbbells down at your hips. Then reach the weights forward and up on an angle, drawing a V, and then release them back down towards your hips. Keep the arms straight throughout the entire exercise. Repeat this 10 times, and complete 3 sets total throughout your workout.
Stephanie Mansour is a health and fitness expert and weight-loss coach for women. She is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and Pilates instructor. She has a BA in Communications with an emphasis on Women's Studies and Psychology from the University of Michigan.