How To Tone Without Bulking Up Your Arms

Many exercisers, especially women, are hesitant to do too many arm exercises for fear of gaining bulky muscle mass. If you want to tone your arms without the bodybuilder look, high-repetition, low-weight resistance exercises are the key. There are several exercises that tone but don't bulk up each part of your arm if you use low-weight rather than heavier dumbbells.

High-repetition, low-weight resistance exercises build muscle tone without bulking you up.
Image Credit: Hirurg/iStock/GettyImages


Don't let the fear of "bulking up" scare you away from weight training. Use lower weights at high repetitions to tone your arms.

Read more: The Best Arm-Toning Pilates Exercises

1. Biceps Curls

Select your weights for biceps curls. Choose weights that are heavy enough to be challenging, but light enough that you can do 15 to 20 curls on each side and still feel able to do at least five more.

  1. Lightly grip the dumbbells in each hand. Let your arms hang by your sides, elbows straight and palms facing in.
  2. Raise your right arm slowly, rotating your forearm as you lift. Your forearm begins the exercise facing your hip, but as you lift, it should begin to turn clockwise until it meets your biceps. Your palm should be facing your shoulder.
  3. Lower your right arm to its original position. Repeat on the left side.
  4. Continue to alternate between right and left sides. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions on each side.Rest for about one minute and repeat the exercise. Aim for three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions on each side twice a week to tone your biceps.

Read more: 10-Minute Arm-Sculpting Workout

2. Triceps Kickbacks

Select weights for triceps kickbacks that are heavy enough to challenge you but light enough that you can execute at least 10 to 15 repetitions with the capacity to do at least five more.

  1. Begin standing straight, holding one dumbbell in your right hand. Bring your left leg forward about two feet, distributing your weight evenly between the heels of both feet.
  2. Bend forward slightly, keeping your back straight. Place your left hand on your left thigh to support your back and pull your shoulder blades together, drawing them down your back.
  3. Bend your right elbow 90 degrees, tucking it close to your ribs. Your forearm should hang relaxed from your bent elbow.
  4. Slowly begin to straighten your elbow as you exhale. Keep your upper arm and torso still.
  5. Begin to bend your elbow as you inhale, bringing your arm back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 10 to 15 times on your left and right sides.
  7. Relax for at least a minute and repeat. Do at least three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions two times a week to tone your triceps.

3. Lateral Raises

Select your weights for lateral raises. Choose weights that challenge you but enable you to do at least 20 repetitions with the ability to execute a few more if you wanted.

  1. Grip one dumbbell in each hand. Bending over slightly from your hips, hold your weights in front of your thighs, keeping your elbows slightly bent. Bend your knees slightly to protect them from injury.
  2. Raise your upper arms slowly to the side. When your arms are at shoulder height, stop for one second. Your body should look like a "T."
  3. Lower your arms slowly. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
  4. Complete at least three sets with one minute of rest in between each. Aim for doing shoulder raises at least twice a week to tone your shoulders without bulking up.
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