Excess fat in the upper arm sometimes causes unfortunate elbow dimples. To get rid of them, you need to burn total body fat and build your arm muscles with strength training.
Exercise for Flabby Elbows
Everyone has a stubborn spot on their body where fat collects and won't seem to budge. For many women, it's their upper arms. Thanks to gravity, that fat sometimes collects just above the elbow.
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This fat isn't any different from any other fat on your body. It is the result of stored energy, due to taking in more calories than your body needs on a regular basis. To burn any body fat, you have to lower your calorie intake below your calorie expenditure, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Doing isolated arm exercises will not help you get rid of upper-arm fat, because you can't target specific areas for fat loss.
A reduced-calorie diet is the first step toward losing elbow dimples. You can deepen the calorie deficit by burning calories with exercise and building muscle to boost your metabolism. Building the muscles in your upper arms — the biceps and triceps — will make your arms look firmer and more toned once you have trimmed the fat.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Fat Loss
Best Cardio for Fat Burning
There's no way around it — to burn fat you have to do regular cardio exercise. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week. For added benefits for overall health and weight loss, adults should aim for 300 minutes or more of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes or more of vigorous aerobic exercise every week.
Examples of moderate-intensity exercise, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, include:
- Very brisk walking at a pace of 4 mph or more.
- Bicycling at a pace of 10 to 12 mph.
- Playing doubles tennis.
- Heavy house cleaning.
- Mowing the lawn with a power mower.
For a more vigorous workout that gets the heart rate up and the blood pumping, you can try:
- Jogging at a pace of 6 mph or more.
- Shoveling snow.
- Bicycling at a pace of 14 to 16 mph.
- Playing in a basketball or soccer game.
- Playing singles tennis.
To get the most bang for your buck, put in a good effort during your cardio sessions. The harder you work, the more calories you'll burn. Instead of getting on the treadmill and walking at a leisurely pace while reading a magazine, increase the pace and the incline, pump your arms while walking or work up to jogging or running.
Strength Training for Elbow Dimples
Muscle burns more calories than fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn all day long. Therefore, it pays to do regular strength training as part of your exercise for flabby elbows. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults do total-body strength training at least two days a week.
A total-body workout targets all the major muscle groups in your lower and upper body, not just the arms. When you're choosing exercises, go for compound exercises that target more than one muscle group at a time. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), compound exercises burn more calories while you're doing them than isolation exercises such as biceps and triceps curls.
Examples of compound exercises that work your arms include pull-ups, rows, push-ups and triceps dips. The last two are the best for targeting the muscles just above your elbows. Isolation exercises, such as triceps extensions and kickbacks also target that area, but they aren't as effective for increasing calorie burn during your workouts.
A time-efficient way to build muscle and burn fat at the same time is circuit training, says ACE. This type of training involves performing one set of several exercises in a circuit without resting in between exercises. This elevates your heart rate and keeps it elevated throughout the workout to burn max calories. You can do an upper body circuit one day and a lower body circuit the next, or you can do a full-body circuit adding in lower body exercises such as squats, lunges and deadlifts.
Read more: The 7 Principles of Fat Loss
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Finding a Balance"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Examples of Moderate and Vigorous Physical Activity"
- Mayo Clinic: "Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories"
- American Council on Exercise: "5 Benefits of Compound Exercises"
- American Council on Exercise: "Dynamic Circuit Training for Weight Loss"