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A one-month cardio and strength training plan to tone your arms

Slim down and strengthen your upper body with these 2-in-1 exercises.
Image: Young Woman Weightraining at the Gym
Upper body exercises like a shoulder press work your biceps, chest and deltoids.vitapix / Getty Images

Many of my clients want more muscular arms, with sleek definition, not bulk. While we use our legs everyday to walk, squat down to play with kids, get in and out of the car, etc., the arms don’t usually get put to work as often — aside from lifting a heavy box or unloading groceries. So it’s great to refocus your attention on that area of the body and add some staple moves to your routine that will help chisel and tone the arms.

It’s important to remember that research shows there’s no such thing as spot-reducing fat during a workout. Therefore, an effective workout plan to tone the arms doesn’t only consist of strength training, but cardio as well. I encourage my clients to do an arm workout at least three times a week to build muscle, plus cardio at least twice a week to help with overall fat and calorie burn.

To help you get the most bang for your buck in the gym (or at home), I created the this arm routine which is made up of complex exercises. These exercises combine two moves into one to help you efficiently get through your workout in minimal time with maximum results.

The workout structure

The monthly workout is a combination of an arm routine, which consists of moves that are two exercises in one, and 15 minutes of high-intensity cardio.

2-in-1 arm routine: Do these exercises to tighten, tone and chisel your arms and shoulders. I recommend starting with 5-pound weights. Halfway through the month, do a check-in with your body to see if they feel too light. If so, you can move up to 7.5- or 8-pound weights. If you notice you are building muscle too quickly, or bulking instead of toning, I recommend staying lighter with your weights. However, if you feel the routine is too easy, then increase your weights.

15 minutes of HIIT cardio: Pick the cardio you’re in the mood for two days a week. You can do the cardio on the same day as your arm workout or on a separate day. For the 15 minutes of cardio, focus on 60 seconds slow and then 60 seconds fast. Whether you’re on the elliptical, stationary bike, running or walking around the block, time yourself for 1 minute intervals.

>>Train, tone and lose weight this fall with more 30-day workout plans

Download your printable calendar here. Hang the calendar on your fridge, or keep it in your purse or car, for easy reference.

Day 1: 2-in-1

Day 2: Cardio

Day 3: REST

Day 4: 2-in-1

Day 5: REST

Day 6: Cardio

Day 7: 2-in-1

Day 8: Cardio

Day 9: 2-in-1

Day 10: REST

Day 11: Cardio

Day 12: 2-in-1

Day 13: REST

Day 14: 2-in-1

*weight check in

Day 15: Cardio

Day 16: 2-in-1

Day 17: REST

Day 18: Cardio

Day 19: REST

Day 20: 2-in-1

Day 21: Cardio

Day 22: 2-in-1

Day 23: REST

Day 24: 2-in-1

Day 25: REST

Day 26: 2-in-1

Day 27: Cardio

Day 28: REST

Day 29: 2-in-1

Day 30: Cardio

Day 31: REST

Exercise Bank

2-in 1 arm workout: Complete 3 rounds of each of these exercises for a total of 30 reps per exercise.

Bicep Curl into Front Press

Hug the elbows into the sides, pulling shoulders down and back, and curl the weights up towards the shoulders into a bicep curl. At the top of the bicep curl, turn the weights so that the palms face out. Then press the arms straight out in front of you parallel with the ground, palms facing the ground. Bring the weights back to your chest, turn the weights so that the palms face you, and lower down to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times.

Hug a Tree into Shoulder Press

Hold the weights out to the sides at shoulder height; relax the shoulders down. Act like you’re about to hug a tree by wrapping the weights around the tree so that they come forward and meet in front of your chest. This works your upper arms, shoulders and chest muscles. Come back to the staring position, and then bend the elbows at a 90-degree angle (like you're creating a goal post with your arms). Push the weights straight up over head into a shoulder press. This works the chest and deltoids, too. Open the arms back out, and release down into the starting position. Repeat this 10 times.

External Bicep Curl into V Overhead Press

For this bicep curl, we’ll be working a slightly different part of the bicep by opening the arms out at a 45-degree angle in the starting position. Hugging the elbows in towards your sides, curl up into the bicep curl. From here, press the weights up on a diagonal into a “V” position overhead. This works the biceps and shoulders. Repeat this 10 times.

Tricep Push-Up

Starting on your knees, come into a modified plank position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders. For a more advanced option, come up onto your toes into a full push-up plank position. Position your index fingers and thumbs so they're touching, forming a diamond shape. Lower your chest towards the ground; your elbows will flare out slightly to the sides; be sure to keep your abs pulled in. Then press the hands into the mat as you slowly press back up to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times to really work the triceps, chest and core.

Bent Over Row into Tricep Extension

Start standing with your feet hip-distance apart. Hinge forward at your waist and pull your abs in. Reach your torso on a diagonal so that you’re slightly bent over. Let the weights hang down by your sides, and then hug your elbows in towards your sides and pull the weights up towards your chest. Tighten your upper back and the area in between your shoulder blades. Then, keeping the elbows hugging in towards your sides, extend the forearms back into a tricep extension, and return to the start position. Repeat this 10 times.


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