Getting toned arms is something many women crave and it's also something many know little about. If you'r looking for lean limbs like the gorgeous Gal Gadot in Wonderwoman, then read on for our top 5 tips for arm toning.
1. Compound movements first
First thing is first, let's just think about how small our arm muscles actually are and we don't mean their overall size, but in relation to the rest of the upper body muscle mass. The triceps muscles make up the back of our arms between the shoulder and elbow whereas the biceps muscles make up the front of the arms respectively. Now if we compare this with say the back muscles which cover the area from the lower back to our neck and span across to both rear shoulders, you can see that training with isolated arms exercises like curls and extensions target a very small portion of our upper body muscle.
This is why we advise to focus on upper body 'compound' exercises in your workout before using targeted arms exercises such as biceps curls. Compound exercises target more than one muscle group at one time, for example pushups - the major muscle working is the chest and the shoulders & triceps assist the movement. This means you can train more effectively working more than one muscle group.
Compound upper body exercises will tone your arms, as well as your other upper body muscles and improve your core strength if you use free weights like dumbbells or a barbell. Here are some weights examples, which show the major upper body muscle worked as well as the secondary arms muscles being targeted:
- Dumbbell shoulder press - Major muscle group: Shoulders, Secondary muscle group: Triceps
- Dumbbell bench press - Major muscle group: Chest, Secondary muscle group: Triceps
- Barbell row - Major muscle group: Back, Secondary muscle group: Biceps
- Dumbbell single arm row -Major muscle group: Back, Secondary muscle group: Biceps
2. Set your rep range at 15
Remember, your arms will not get bulky using weights, it's all about how you train them...Typically, training with a rep range of 6-12 has shown best in improving muscle size or hypertrophy. So stick with a higher rep range of around 15, here you'll be targeting 'muscular endurance' so your muscles will improve in their ability to work for longer, which will help tone and strengthen them at the same time.
The added benefit of this is the fact that your body is using more oxygen to continue to complete reps through each set, which helps to promote fat loss and further tone your arms.
Note - To actually add significant muscle mass, you would need to increase your calories, target the area for a consistent period of time and use a rep range between 6-12.
3. Use resistance bands & bodyweight exercises
For those training at home or wanting to reduce the amount of weighted exercises, try using a set of resistance bands along with bodyweight movements to tone up. Long resistance bands are great at allowing you to isolate the arms muscles to add tone and also to make compound bodyweight exercises easier/harder.
Here are our top 3 arm toning exercises using resistance bands:
- Pull-ups - hang a purple or black resistance band over a bar and place your feet on the hanging loop. Place one knee on the loop to make the exercise harder.
- Triceps dips - secure a purple or black resistance band over a dips bar and place your feet on the hanging loop. Place one knee on the loop to make the exercise harder.
- Triceps extension - hold a yellow or red resistance band behind your back with one hand. Using the other hand hold the band and extend your arm overhead until straight.
4. Don't overtrain your arms
Remember you arms muscles are small compared to other muscle groups and do not require as much time being trained like other parts do. Also your biceps & triceps are secondary muscles which assist with other upper body moves. For this reason, if you are completing compound upper body exercises as described in point 1 above, you need to take this into consideration when scheduling your arms workouts so as not to overtrain.
Aim to complete arms exercises after compound upper body movements or on days when the muscles being trained had at least two days recovery after the last workout.
For example, If you trained back on a Monday, as the biceps are being trained also by assisting with exercises, complete biceps exercises at the end of this workout OR two days later as a minimum.
5. Our favourite weights arms exercises
Compound exercises aside, here are our top 5 exercises to try out using weights and the cable machine.
- Standing dumbbell hammer curls - use a neutral grip, this is where both palms are facing each other. Curl dumbbell to shoulder without moving the elbow forward. Alternate sides. (biceps)
- Cable triceps extensions - Hold one end of a cable in each hand and lock elbows to your sides. Extend each hand downwards to straighten arms. (triceps)
- EZ Bar curls - Hold an EZ Bar on the bent areas and curl the bar upward with control. (biceps)
- Cable curl pronated grip - Hold bar attached to a cable machine with your palms facing downward. Curl bar upward and lower with control. (biceps)
- EZ Bar triceps extensions on bench - Lie on your back on a bench an hold an EZ Bar on the bent areas overhead. Lower the bar just behind your head and then extend. Keep elbows from moving throughout.
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