The Best Weight Lifting Progression for Toned Arms

Getting lean, sculpted arms is a goal of many fitness enthusiasts. Strong, toned biceps and triceps help you perform many daily duties. They also look great when you're going sleeveless. If you're looking to target this part of your body, you might be wondering what the best weights for toning arms are.

To tone your arms, focus on higher repetitions and lower weight. (Image: FatCamera/E+/GettyImages)


To tone your arm muscles, consider starting with 2- to 3-pound dumbbells, all the way up to 5- to 10-pound dumbbells for women and 10- to 20-pound dumbbells for men. Once you can do 12 to 15 repetitions with little effort, it's time to increase the weights.

Muscle-Toning Exercises for Your Arms

When designing a program to work the muscles in your arms, you need to include exercises that target both your bicep and tricep muscles.

To tone your arms, make sure to build a well-rounded arm workout that challenges both your biceps and triceps. If you want toned and trimmed arms, your first order of business is to determine the amount of resistance or weight to lift, the number of repetitions to perform and the exercises you will include.

Before you can determine the best weights for toning arms, make sure your program includes a day of moderate to heavier weight and lower reps, in addition to the higher reps with lower weights you'll perform.

Including both high-rep, low-weight sets and moderate-weight, lower-rep sets means that you'll get the maximum toning benefits. By varying the rep range and the amount of weight you lift, you are constantly challenging your muscles to change and adapt to the load.

There are several exercises that tone without the bulk if you use a lighter weight. Examples of muscle-toning exercises for your arms include dumbbell curls, hammer curls, overhead triceps extensions, triceps kickbacks, triceps dips and incline dumbbell curls.

You can do these moves individually or superset one biceps exercise with one triceps exercise. For example, do 12 to 15 reps of dumbbell biceps curls, followed by 12 to 15 reps of overhead triceps extensions. Rest for 15 to 20 seconds; then repeat.

Best Weights for Toning Arms

Once you have a variety of exercises to choose from, it's time to focus on the best weights for your toning arms. To start, keep the weight of the dumbbells low and the repetitions high. The amount of weight you choose depends on your fitness level, skill level and the condition of your body.

If you're a beginner, starting with anywhere from 2- to 3-pound dumbbells, all the way up to 5- to 10-pound dumbbells for women and 10- to 20-pound dumbbells for men, should give you enough resistance, but still allow you to keep the reps high. Once you can do 12 to 15 repetitions with little effort, it's time to increase the weights.

You have several tools that you can use for weight when it comes to muscle toning. Barbells, resistance bands, kettlebells and dumbbells will all work. Typically, the best hand weights for toning are dumbbells. Since they're smaller and easier to grasp and work with, training with dumbbells is a good place to start.

Putting It All Together

Because your primary goal is muscle toning, use four basic guidelines to build a solid arm workout:

  • Perform three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
  • Train arms at least two days each week.
  • Complete three to five muscle-toning arm exercises each workout.
  • When the exercise becomes too easy, increase the amount of weight you lift.
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