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.
If you want to know how to tone your arms fast, know that 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.
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Follow these three steps to start strengthening and sculpting your arms and get rid of arm fat for women and men in just a matter of weeks.
Can You Lose Arm Fat and Flab in Just 1 to 2 Weeks?
You may be wondering how to lose arm fat fast in 1 to 2 weeks. According to the Mayo Clinic, to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, you'll need to burn 500 to 1,000 more calories than you consume each day. Given this, it's reasonable to expect you can lose up to 4 pounds in 2 weeks if you make healthy food choices and exercise regularly (more on all that below).
To lose a single pound, your goal should be to burn 3,500 calories above what you consume, according to the Mayo Clinic. (However, everyone is different and this may not be true for all people.) When it comes to reducing arm fat, if you lose 4 pounds, the weight won't drop exclusively from your arms, but your arms should decrease slightly in size.
An important note: Reducing food to nothing more than calories can lead to restrictive or disordered eating behaviors. You can be sure you're making the best choices for your health when you get physical activity you enjoy and eat nutrient-dense foods.
1. Choose the Right Exercises
Wondering how to tone your upper arms? 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.
Doing moderate-intensity strength training isn't going to make you big and bulky. It will make your arms look toned when you lose the fat covering your lean muscles.
So don't believe the hype about doing biceps curls with 2-pound weights. Work your way up to 10 or 15 pounds. Just like with cardio, if you really want to make progress quickly, you have to challenge yourself. Of course, if you've never strength-trained, you will want to build the challenge gradually and start out with body-weight exercises to avoid undue soreness and injury.
During your next upper-body workout, Araujo recommends you incorporate a few sets of these arm-specific moves (more on that below), which are among the best "flabby" arm exercises out there to tone your arms in 14 to 30 days, if you're wondering how to build arm muscle in a month or less.
There's no reason to lift weights if you don't want to. Plenty of people get strong and ripped just using their own body weight. However, you might be interested in weightlifting or just enjoy more variety in your arm-muscles workout. If so, start to include a few weighted exercises in your program.
You can keep an exercise journal or take photos of your arms for a one-month before and after to see your progress.
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.
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.
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.
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.
5. Dumbbell Overhead Press
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Hold the weights at your shoulders with your elbows bent and your palms facing out. Your arms shoulder be just slightly in front of your body. Brace your core.
- On an exhale, press both dumbbells up and in toward each other.
- Lower the weights back to the starting position with control.
- Position yourself on your hands and knees, hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Step your feet back and straighten your legs so that you're balanced on your palms and toes.
- Your body should make a straight line from head to hips to heels, and your hands should be directly under your shoulders or slightly wider apart.
- Bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body and lower your body to the floor.
- Make sure to keep your body in one straight line from the neck through the spine to the hips and down to the heels.
- Press into your palms and push the floor away from you to come back up to a high plank, still keeping your body in one straight line.
7. Bent-Over Row
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides, palms facing each other.
- Push your hips back and soften your knees to lean your torso forward until it's nearly parallel with the ground and your weight is centered in your heels. Let the weights hang straight down in front of your knees.
- Brace your core and think about keeping your back completely flat.
- Leading with your back, squeeze your shoulder blades together and then pull through your arms to raise the dumbbells up toward your ribcage. Pause at the top of the movement.
- Keep your core and spine stable as you reverse the motion, extending your arms to lower the dumbbells so that they hang by your knees.
2. Tailor Your Sets and Reps
In addition to doing the best exercises for "flabby" arms above, these moves 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 "flabby" arm workout.
3. Try Some Arm-Focused Cardio
All kinds of cardio can help keep your heart healthy and boost your total calorie burn. Not to mention, you can't burn arm fat entirely by doing targeted exercises for "flabby" arms, just like you can't shed belly fat entirely by doing crunches. To deepen the calorie deficit you've created with a healthy diet (more on that below), you need to burn calories — the more the better. To burn more calories, you've got to move more and more vigorously.
If you've previously been sedentary, you may need to start out with brisk walking, but once you have built a foundation of fitness, it pays to leave your comfort zone. Check out some of these statistics from Harvard Health Publishing on the number of calories burned by brisk walking versus doing more challenging activities. In 30 minutes, a 155-pound person will burn:
- 167 calories walking (4 mph)
- 372 calories running (6 mph)
- 372 calories cycling (14 to 15.9 mph)
- 372 calories swimming laps (vigorous)
- 316 calories rowing (stationary)
If you can't keep up such a vigorous pace to start, try interval training, alternating periods of vigorous effort with periods of moderate effort.
For example, on a treadmill, you could walk at a pace of 4 mph for 90 seconds, then increase your pace to a 6 mph run for one minute, then repeat the intervals for the duration of your workout. You can gradually increase the pace and duration of your work intervals.
If you're still worried about weak arms and "flabby" triceps even after incorporating general cardio into your routine, 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 exercises to firm your upper arms 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 (and Shoulders!) 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.
Focus on adding more fruits and vegetables and lean protein from chicken, fish and beans into your diet. Consume moderate amounts of whole grains and low-fat dairy and small amounts of healthy fats from nuts, olive oil and avocado. These foods will keep you fuller for longer, and they'll provide the nutrients you need to stay energized for your arm-fat-busting workouts.
- NASM: "Program Designed for Weight Loss"
- ACE: "How to Use Drop Sets to Improve Muscle Definition"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights"
- Mayo Clinic: "Weight loss: 6 strategies for success"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics"