All good things come to those who wait (and work hard). So, if you're wondering how to tighten 'flabby' arms as quickly as possible, a little patience, time in the gym and a healthy diet can go a long way.
Building your biceps and triceps for a more toned look won't happen overnight. But it's totally doable with a few tweaks to your exercise routine. Follow these three steps to start strengthening and sculpting your arms in just a matter of weeks.
1. Choose the Right Exercises
Resistance exercises help build muscle and burn fat. And while you can't shed fat from specific parts of your body (aka spot reduction), incorporating arm exercises in your workouts can help you build strength and muscle tone, according to Carolina Araujo, CPT, a New York-based certified personal trainer.
To tone 'flabby' arms, you want exercises that target your biceps and triceps — the muscles on the front and back of your arms, she says. Biceps curls, hammer curls, triceps kickbacks and triceps extensions are a few moves that will get the job done.
During your next upper-body workout, Araujo recommends you incorporate a few sets of these arm-specific exercises (more on that below).
Move 1: Alternating Dumbbell Curl
- Start standing with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Brace your core and on an exhale, curl the right dumbbell up to your shoulder, keeping your elbow close to your side.
- Lower the dumbbell back down to your side with control.
- Then, repeat the motion with the left dumbbell, bringing the weight up to your shoulder, elbow tucked.
- Lower down to the starting position with control.
- Alternate left and right with each curl.
Move 2: Hammer Curl
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, core braced.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in, arms at your sides.
- Keeping your elbows close to your sides, curl the weights up to shoulder height.
- Slowly lower the weights down with control.
Move 3: Dumbbell Kickback
- With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and send your hips back, maintaining a neutral spine. Your upper body should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor.
- Bring your arms to your sides, pretending your elbows are glued to your body. This is the starting position.
- Extend your arms straight back with control and squeeze your triceps at the top.
- Bend your elbows and slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.
As you stand in the bent-over position, keep your back flat by pulling your bellybutton into your spine, Araujo says.
Move 4: Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor a few inches away from your butt. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended straight up with elbows over your shoulders and palms facing each other.
- Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells to either side of your head, envisioning your arms hooking over an invisible bar attached to your elbows.
- Straighten your elbows to press the weights back up to the starting position.
2. Tailor Your Sets and Reps
Your exercises aren't the only part of your workout that you need to tailor to your goals — your reps and sets matter, too. To build strength in your arms and shed a little body fat, Araujo recommends high-volume training. That means you need to perform a relatively high number of reps and sets.
For fat loss, aim to do 4 sets of 12 to 20 reps for each exercise, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Higher reps and sets increase the total time your muscles work to resist the weights (aka your time under tension). The longer your time under tension, the more strength you build and the more calories you burn.
Araujo also suggests mixing drop sets into your workout. A drop set involves doing an exercise with a specific amount of weight for as many reps as you can with good form, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Then, you repeat the same exercise with a lighter weight, resting as little as possible between sets.
Drop sets can actually help improve muscle definition, per the ACE. Technically, a "toned" muscle is one that stays permanently tense or contracted. Drop sets can help increase control of your muscles, helping them stay partially contracted even after your workout.
3. Try Some Arm-Focused Cardio
All kinds of cardio can help keep your heart healthy and boost your total calorie burn. But if you're worried about weak arms and flabby triceps, Araujo suggests you include types of cardio that target strength, too.
"For clients looking to sculpt and tone their arms, I love to recommend battle ropes or a rowing machine," she says. "They're kind of a like a two-in-one workout. Your heart is working hard and getting the cardio benefits but at the same time, your arms get a resistance workout."
During high-intensity interval workouts, she also suggests mixing in a few of the arm exercises above. If one of your intervals calls for dumbbell squats, for instance, add a biceps curl at the top of the motion.
How to Tone 'Flabby' Arms With Your Diet
Although your workouts are a major part of building strength and muscle tone, your diet plays a big role in fat loss across your whole body (arms included). Choosing a healthy, sustainable — and enjoyable — eating plan will help you achieve the strong arms you're looking for, Araujo says.