woman using weights facing the mirror
woman with toned arms

HOW DO I GET TONED ARMS?

One of the most frequent questions that I get as a personal trainer is, "How do I get toned arms?"

The truth is it's not as hard as you think.

It will take some work.

You don't think she got those gorgeous guns by laying around eating cream puffs, do you?

Nope. She worked for them. But before you start rolling your eyes at the thought of dragging yourself to the gym, here's the good news:

Toned arms don't require the gym. You don't even have to use weights.

Yes, seriously.

I'm going to start by showing you the essential exercises that you should be doing.

Promise icon

But here's a promise:

By the end, I'll give some exercises that are so much fun you won't believe you're working out.

Before you know it, you'll have arms that'll give hers a run for her money.

Burning calories is key to having a sleek, toned body. Walking on an incline of 10 percent or more can be intense, but try leaning forward and holding on to the handrails to incorporate an arm workout in your 30-45 minute trek.

-- Fitness trainer Andrea Metcalf

Andrea Metcalf with her dog

Image of Andrew Metcalf, Fitness Trainer via Andrew Metcalf Website

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I WORK MY ARMS?

JUST A LITTLE SORE?

Work out your arms, but go light on weight and reps. 

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, you should:

Do resistance training for your muscles at least twice a week.If your goal is to get toned arms, I recommend two days on and two days off.One of the questions that my clients often ask is should they work out if they are still in pain from their last workout.The answer is, it depends.

If you work your arms on Monday and you are still very sore on Thursday, rest. Choose a different body part or do cardio. 

woman doing push up tone

Image By imacture

WORK FOR A TONED BODY, NOT JUST TONED ARMS

AVOID THIS MISTAKE:

Trying to spot-train.

Spot training happens when people want toned arms, for example, and they try to get them by only working their arms.

Sounds logical, right? Wrong.

Here's the problem:

It just doesn't work that way. Believe it or not, the best way to get toned arms is to tone your whole body.

MOST PEOPLE DON'T GET NEARLY ENOUGH EXERCISE

don't be icon

JAMA says about 80 percent of the adults and adolescents in this country are not active enough.

Don't be part of that 80 percent. Regular exercise will make you feel, function, and sleep better, and will also reduce your risk for many chronic diseases.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT CARDIO!

It's not just that cardio is super good for you and will make you feel better. It also contributes to giving you those gorgeous toned arms.

Harvard Medical says that you should be doing a minimum of 2.5 hours each week of moderate cardio training.

woman in a treadmill

Image By ​Pixabay

But that's not all.

You may need to do a little more if you're trying to lose weight.

Now don't go wrinkling your nose at me at the thought of all that cardio. It's not as bad as you think.

I'm only talking about 30 minutes a day.

CARDIO MEANS:

ANYTHING THAT GETS YOUR HEART RATE UP

  • Swimming
  • Rebounding
  • Boxing

Cardio doesn't have to be a dread. Believe it or not, it can be fun!

Here's THE BOTTOM LINE:

slay fat icon

You can work your arms like crazy and still never see those toned arms you want if you have a layer of body fat over the muscle,

But don't fret!

Cardio is the answer. Try interval training! It's not only one of the best ways to work your heart, it also incorporates strength training.

Boom: Double the workout in half the time.

HERE'S THE DEAL IF YOU WANT TONED ARMS, NOT BIGGER ARMS

I hear this from women all the time. They want toned arms, but they don't want big bulky muscles.

Fear not, ladies!

The general rule is if you want toned muscles without the bulk, focus on high reps and light to moderate weight or resistance. And use cardio to burn off any fat you have that makes your arms look flabby.

couple with toned arms

Image By Pixabay

Women don't have enough testosterone to build huge muscles like men. So, no more excuses.

IF YOU WANT BEAUTIFULLY TONED ARMS, YOU CAN'T BE SCARED TO WORK THEM.

When it comes to strength training, the old rule still applies: to get stronger, work with heavier weights and perform fewer repetitions. To promote endurance, use lighter weights and complete more repetitions.

According to Lauren Rounds, an Equinox trainer in NYC, Don’t rush. “If you rush the tempo, then you are simply cheating yourself out of your own results. If you find it difficult to maintain the tempo, then regress the motion.” All in all, patience is essential -- only add more reps when things start to feel too easy. Slow and steady, people.

rows of exercise mats

Image of Equinox Gum, New York via M​

WEIGHTS ARE GREAT, BUT YOU DON'T NEED THEM TO GET TONED ARMS.

It's true.

While weights can be quite useful in training your muscles, there are also other ways to get resistance work. For one thing, you have your body weight for resistance.

Push-ups, for example.

Another weight alternative is tubing.

Resistance bands or tubing work your muscles in a slightly different way than weights.

With dumbbells, the pressure remains constant throughout the movement. If you're holding a five-pound weight for bicep curls, for example, you are curling five pounds no matter where you are in the exercise.

woman with weights

Image By ​Pixabay

man using stretch band

Image By ​Pixabay

On the other hand, tubing gives you what is called variable resistance. The more you stretch the band, the more resistance you get. So if you are doing those same bicep curls with tubing, you may be curling five pounds at the start of the movement. But as you go through the range of motion, you will be curling more weight, meaning your muscles have to work harder.

THE EQUIPMENT YOU NEED

  • Resistance band
  • Sturdy chair
  • 5 to 10-pound weights (if you have no tubing).
woman using resistance band

Image By Pixabay

Eat better. If you want to reveal the muscle tone that is hiding underneath some fat, then you are going to have to start eating better. You may notice (and hate) the fat on your arms, but it’s going to be losing fat, overall, that will be essential to having amazing arms.

-- Fitness trainer Josef Brandenburg

man on knee exercises

Image By ​Activelifedc

DON'T WORK HARDER, Work Smarter

Getting toned arms is not about working out longer. It's not even about working harder.

Here's what it IS about:

Working smarter.

Do compound exercises that work for multiple muscle groups at the same time. Also, use interval training to combine your cardio and resistance training into one workout.

woman on weight lifting
man in the gym

​Image By Ericcressey 

COMPOUND EXERCISES

Compound exercises are movements that use several muscle groups. They allow you to “use the heaviest load possible, involve multiple joint articulations and stimulate a large amount of muscle mass.

-- Eric Cressey, president of Cressey Sports Performance.

In other words:

Compound exercises increase your anabolic response which increases lean muscle tissue.

TONED ARMS & INTERVAL TRAINING

1.

3-5 Minutes

CARDIO option

Woman running up stairs

Image By baranq

2.

1 Set

12-15 push-ups

Woman Doing push ups

Image By Bojan

3.

3-5 minutes

cardio option

Woman doing jump ups

Image By Boggy

4.

1 set 12-15 REPs

STANDING BICEP CURLS

woman using Bicep resistance band

Image By Dirima

5.

3-5 minutes

cardio option

Woman doing skip jumps

Image By Jacob Lund

6.

1 SET 12-15 reps

tricep dips

Woman doing tricep dips

Image By Maridav

7.

3-5 minutes

cardio option

Woman Jumping Rope

Image By igorsinkov

8.

Planks

Hold High 30 secs, rest,

hold low 30 secs

Woman doing planks

Image Pexels

9.

3-5 minutes

cardio

Woman running uphill

Image By Liubov Levytska

10.

1 set 12-15 reps

standing lateral raises

woman doing Resistance Band Lateral raises

Image By Dirima

Repeat the entire circuit

for a total of 2x through.

There are many advantages to interval training for toned arms. It's the best way to work your heart and is extremely efficient.

Think of it this way:

You can either jog for an hour on the treadmill and then spend another 45 minutes doing arm exercises with weights. Or you can do it all at the same time and finish your workout in about 30 minutes.

Here's the idea:

Get your heart rate up for short intervals and then use resistance in between which will continue working your body but will allow your heart rate to come down a bit.

woman doing jack knives

Image By Gorodenkoff

Plus, the best way to bust through a plateau is interval training.

Oh, and did I mention that training in intervals burns more calories and is the best way to get your metabolism moving? True story!

Lauren Williams, certified personal trainer and founder of Chisel Club says, “Focus on the full range of motion so you can get higher reps and see more improvement in muscle tone and strength."

woman standing in front of the gate

Image By ​chiselclub

TONED ARMS are just 3 easy exercises away!

1.

12-15 push-ups

1-3 sets

Woman Doing push ups

Image By Bojan


2.

seated rows

1-3 SETS,12-15 reps

woman doing a seated row

Image By Mihai Blanaru


3.

High to low planks

10-20 each arm, 1-3 sets

Woman doing planks

Image By Mihai Blanaru


push-ups

Form check

  • Keep your core tight
  • Back straight
  • Butt tucked under
  • Hands should be directly under your shoulders

Hands down, the best exercise that you can do for your upper body, including your arms, is push-ups.

I know what you're thinking. Yuck!

Nobody loves push-ups. But let me tell you, if you want toned arms, there's nothing better.

If you are a beginner, start by doing your push-ups on your knees. Once you can do 12 to 15 reps easily, move to the full push-up.

When that gets too easy, try slowing them down:

Do 1 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 push-ups. Either rest in between, or challenge yourself by doing a five-minute cardio interval.

seated rows

Form check

  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together
  • Keep your elbows close to your body when you pull
  • Back straight
  • Shoulders down

Yup, another compound exercise.

They will not only give you toned arms, they will also give you better posture and a toned back.

Make sure that you use a band that has enough resistance. If you don't have tubing, you can also use weights. Five pounds in each hand should be plenty.

high to low planks

Form check

  • Stomach pulled in tight
  • Keep your body in a straight line from your heels to your shoulders
  • In low plank, your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders
  • In high plank, your hands should be under your shoulders
  • Squeeze your butt tight

Planks are one of my favorite exercises. Not only will they give you toned arms, they strengthen your core, your chest, your shoulders, your back, your butt, and your thighs.

If you are a beginner, work on just getting the form correct on both the high and low plank. Try to hold each of them for 10 to 30 seconds.

Once you have mastered that, do this:

Move from high to low plank and back again:

Try doing these for time -- 20 to 30 seconds per arm for each set.

Rest. Move on to the next, completing 10 to 15 on each arm for 3 sets.

NOW LET's finish with just arms

1.

bicep curls 

12-15 dips

3 SETS

woman using a Bicep resistance band

Image By Dirima

2.

tricep dips 

12-15 dips

3 SETS

Woman doing tricep dips

Image By Maridav

3.

lateral raises 

12-15 dips

3 SETS

woman doing a Lateral Raises with Resitence Band

Image By Dirima

bicep curls

Form check

  • Engage your core
  • Keep your elbows glued to your ribs
  • Knees slightly bent
  • Don't arch your back
  • Shoulders down

For the bicep curls, you will need tubing or weights. You should use your light to medium tension band.

If you're using weights, you should use 5 to 10 pounds.

Either way, this is what you want:

Have enough resistance so that it is challenging to complete 12 to 15 reps per set.

If you can do 15 reps easily, try increasing your tension. If you can't do a full range of motion for at least 12 reps, then you need to lighten your weights or tubing.

Aim for two to three sets.

tricep dips

Form check

  • Keep your shoulders down
  • Focus on bending and straightening your elbows
  • Keep your back and butt as close to the chair as possible

Don't you hate it when you wave hello to someone, and the flab under your arm jiggles around like it has a mind of its own?

Let's tighten up that thang.

You'll need a chair or a bench for this one.

If you are a beginner aim for 12 to 15 dips. As you get stronger, work up to three sets, resting in between or sneaking in five minutes of cardio intervals.

lateral raises

Form check

  • Knees slightly bent
  • Core tight
  • Don't arch your back
  • Don't lift your hands above your shoulders
  • Keep your shoulders pressed down

You can't forget about your shoulders. Defined shoulders make your arms look even better.

And that's not the best part.

They also make your waist look smaller. And who doesn't want that?

For the lateral raises, you will need your light to medium tubing or five-pound weights.

Bust out three sets of these with 12 to 15 reps per set.

You're almost there. Finish strong.

Think outside of the box icon

now for some real fun

The six exercises above are the best thing you can do for those toned arms. Do them at least once a week. Preferably twice.

Because if you want gorgeous toned arms, you have to do what you have to do. But variety is the spice of life, so...

For your second arm workout of the week, you can work your guns in an entirely different way.

And I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some fun.

rebounding for arms

How about a mini trampoline workout or boxing? That's fun. But will they give you toned arms?

Heck yeah, they will.

And here's the best part:

You'll be having so much fun that you won't even notice you're getting a killer arm workout.

man jumping on trampoline

Go get that old mini trampoline out in your garage that you haven't used since the '90s.

We'll wait.

And if you have a full-size trampoline in the backyard, chase the kids off for an hour and hop on.

One of the things that I love about this exercise is that it gives you an excellent cardio workout while at the same time working your arms.

We're all about time efficiency here.

To make it even better:

It's super gentle on your joints.

You will need light weights for this workout. And when I say light, I'm talking about one pound, two pounds max.

Trust me on this.

This trampoline workout will kick your butt and tone your arms. And you will love every minute of it.

Form check

  • Control the weights while you bounce
  • You can jump in sneakers or barefoot, not in just socks
  • Once your arms start burning, drop the dumbbells for a minute, then pick them up again after you rest your arms
  • You can use light wrist weights if you don't want to hold them

Boxing for toned arms

Form check

  • Keep the weights very light
  • Don't snap or overextend your elbows
  • Keep your core engaged
  • Shoulders down
  • If your form starts to get sloppy, drop the weights for a minute

Be careful: Don't move so fast that you lose control of the weight or start using momentum.

Boxing is one of the best things you can do for toned arms.

I love this workout with weighted boxing gloves. But if you don't have gloves, you can hold some light hand or wrist weights.

One to three pounds.

This fun workout will give you one of the best bangs for your buck. It gets your heart pumping, kicking your body into fat-burning mode.

And that's not all:

It's also a killer workout for your arms and abs. You'll even get a little work in your legs and butt.

Be sure that you keep the weights in control throughout the movement. Keep the focus on your muscles.

one last thing

While it's true that the exercises for toned arms aren't tricky, getting those gorgeous guns is going to take some work. If it were effortless everyone would have toned arms.

But one thing I know for sure:

You will look and feel better if you tone up.

You can do this!

And the best part is:

You don't even need to go to the gym to do it. You can do the entire thing right there in your living room.

So what are you waiting for my friends? Let's get to work!

When you finish, let us know in the comments section what you think.

woman pointing on her toned arms

Image By Tierney