If you're a woman looking to tone your arms, then a weights or upper body exercise workout could be for you. Targeting your biceps, triceps and shoulders will not only give you the sexy toned arms you desire, but develop upper body strength that will make daily tasks easier.
This workout will firm, shape and strengthen your arms, just bear in mind that to develop muscle, you have to overload it with a weight heavier than it is accustomed to.
Don't fret that you’ll end up looking like Popeye; women generally possess about 40-60 per cent of the upper body strength and one tenth of the testosterone, the muscle-building hormone of men, so bulging biceps aren’t on the agenda. It’s also worth remembering that even the sleekest, most sculpted muscles will go unseen if your body fat levels are higher than they should be. Combine resistance training with cardiovascular exercise and a sensible eating plan and you’ll soon have the toned arms you've longed for.
How much arm toning and how often to do it?
Aim to do the upper body workout three to four times a week, and use the alternate days to do 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise (see the ‘Strong arm tactics’ later in this article) for some ideas. Ensure you take one day off completely a week. Start with two sets, using light weights (a weight that you can do up to 16 repetitions with) in order to master correct technique.
In week two of your arm toning exercises, increase the weight so that you can only just do 12 repetitions, again performing two sets of each exercise. As you progress, increase to three sets and use a weight that you can only do eight to ten repetitions with. As soon as you feel comfortable with the weight, repetitions and sets you are performing, it’s time to up the ante. Do not settle into a comfort zone. However, always remember to rest for a minute between sets. Finally, perform the exercises in the order shown so that you get the maximum effort from each muscle group.
The arm exercise workout
Exercise 1: Incline push-up
Works: Chest, shoulders, triceps and abdominals.
Find a sturdy support between waist and knee height (the lower, the harder). Get into the push-up position - form a straight line from head to toe, with arms straight and shoulder-width apart or a little wider, abdominals contracted and head in line with spine. Lower the body towards the support by bending the arms. When your arms reach a right angle, pause and straighten to repeat.
To progress in this arm toning exercise, take your hands closer to floor level or do floor push-ups.
Exercise 2: Single-arm row
Works: Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius, biceps and back of the shoulders.
Stand side-on to a bench or low table with your right hand and knee on the support, back parallel to the floor (neck in line) and a weight in your left hand, arm hanging straight down. Bend the left arm to bring the weight up to the front of the shoulder – don’t twist the body around or move anything other than the working arm. Repeat on the other side when you have finished all your repetitions.
Exercise 3: Dips
Works: Chest, shoulders and triceps.
Sit on the front of a sturdy chair with your bottom just off the edge, knees slightly bent, feet on the floor and fingers facing forwards. Bring the shoulder blades down and draw them together, keeping them like this throughout the movement. Now slowly bend the arms to lower the body, keeping the bottom close to the chair edge, until arms hit a right angle. Straighten and repeat.
To progress in this arm toning exercise, take your legs straight out in front.
Exercise 4: Shoulder press
Works: Deltoids, chest, triceps and upper back
Sit on an upright bench or chair with back straight and a weight in each hand, resting at the front of the shoulders with palms facing each other. Extend the arms over your head; allowing them to rotate so that when the arms are straight, the palms are facing the front. Think of the arms reaching up but the shoulder blades reaching down. You should be able to see your arms in your peripheral vision as they are raised – don’t take the arms behind the line of the head.
Exercise 5: Biceps curl with lateral rotation
Works: Biceps, particularly the long head for a longer, less bulky shape.
Sit or stand with a weight in each hand, your arms relaxed down by your sides, palms facing the back. Either simultaneously or alternately, bend the elbows and rotate the arms, to bring the weight up to the front of the shoulder with the palm facing the front. Pause, lower and repeat.
Exercise 6: Triceps straight arm/kickback combo
Works: Triceps, rear shoulder and upper back.
Stand side-on to a bench or low table, with your right knee and hand supported on it, your back parallel to the floor and a weight in your left hand. Start with the upper arm parallel to the body, elbow at a right angle. Keeping the upper arm still, straighten the arm, taking the dumbbell past your thigh. Now bring the arm all the way down (perpendicular to the floor); then extend it again, this time keeping it straight (trying to take the arm slightly beyond the line of the body). Bend the elbow back to the start position and repeat the combo. Swap sides.
Tone your arms: Strong-arm tactics
Tactic 1: Boxercise or cardio kickboxing classes are a great cardio workout with lots of upper-body work.
Tactic 2: The rowing machine burns 90 calories in ten minutes, uses all the upper body muscles and improves posture.
Tactic 3: Nordic walking, in which you use special flexible poles to propel yourself along, burns up to 46 per cent more calories than normal walking and strengthens the back, chest, shoulders and arms. In fact, hitting your target of 10,000 steps a day is like doing 10,000 triceps extensions!
Tactic 4: Swimming is great all-round exercise, but backstroke and front crawl are both 'front-wheel drive' strokes meaning that most of the work is done by the upper body. Thirty minutes of front crawl burns 320 calories.