The majority of the people who come to me for the Smoothie Diet are coming here because they want to lose weight. I’m betting that’s why you’re here too. Whether you’re just looking to shed pounds or you’re hoping to tone up specific parts of the body, the Smoothie Diet can get you started.
One thing I recommend is to treat weight loss as a holistic problem. Weight is a factor of calories taken in versus calories burned throughout your day. The Smoothie Diet approaches the problem from one end – the calories in end – by cutting back on the calories, sugars, and carbs you eat in the morning and early afternoon.
At the same time, you can approach the problem from the other direction. By exercising, you can lose more weight than you can with dieting alone. Plus, exercise helps you build muscle mass. More muscle means your body requires more fuel to move, which means burning even more calories.
Exercise can also help with your appearance. One of those persistent, annoying aspects of being overweight is arm fat. Whether you have saggy biceps, jiggly arms, or “bat wings,” you probably want to lose that fat and tone up those arms.
Can You Target Weight Loss?
Before I get into the specific exercises relevant to arms, we have to first discuss weight loss in general. Specifically, targeted weight loss. There’s a lot of controversy over this practice. Is it even possible?
Targeted weight loss, also known as spot reduction, is the goal of reducing fat stored in particular parts of the body. You might not mind a little bit of weight around the hips, but you want to drop the belly fat, or tone up the arms, for example.
The theory goes, by exercising those particular parts of the body, you burn fat stored in those areas and can sculpt your body as you see fit. And, after all, there are people around with all manner of body shapes. Doesn’t it stand to reason that you can strive to shape your body with whatever goal you want in mind?
On the other hand, people argue, the body doesn’t really work that way. It stores fat where it’s convenient to do so, and different people store fat differently. Genetics, age, and other factors can influence where fat is stored.
Exercise, meanwhile, doesn’t target fat loss. It targets muscle growth. When you exercise your arms, you build muscle in your arms. Your body will pull fat to burn from wherever it’s convenient, though, and numerous studies have shown that targeted spot reduction doesn’t work.
“Aside from not correlating with how the body burns fat, a number of studies have shown spot reduction to be ineffective.
For example, one study in 24 people who only completed exercises targeting the abdominals for six weeks found no reduction in belly fat.
Another study that followed 40 overweight and obese women for 12 weeks found that resistance training of the abdominals had no effect on belly fat loss compared to dietary intervention alone.
A study focusing on the effectiveness of upper body resistance training had similar results. This 12-week study included 104 participants who completed a training program that exercised only their non-dominant arms.
Researchers found that although some fat loss did occur, it was generalized to the entire body, not the arm being exercised.
So, unfortunately, you can’t target weight loss to your arms just by exercising your arms. You do, however, have two options.
The Two Best Options
Luckily, you can still reduce arm fat; you just might need a different experience than you were hoping for. There are two ways to help reduce flabby arms. Luckily, you can do them both at the same time.
Option one is to generalize your weight loss efforts. High-intensity workouts help burn as many calories as possible, with more of a focus on weight loss and cardiovascular health than on bodybuilding. As you burn fat, your body pulls it from anywhere it stored it in the first place. It will be proportional, so some will come from your arms, but it will also pull fat from anywhere else it lingers.
The second option is to build muscle in your arms. That’s the one I’m going to focus on today. When you build arm muscles, your arms get larger and tighter. You aren’t going to end up with bodybuilder arm muscles without serious, sustained, planned efforts. You will, however, increase your arm strength, grow your arm muscles, and tone them up. More muscle mass means your skin doesn’t hang and stretch as much, either.
You’ll still have some arm fat, the same way you’ll still have some body fat (unless you’re extremely dedicated to both weight loss and dieting, with careful management), but you’ll shape up the appearance of your arms as the muscle holds them firmer.
Now let’s get into the meat of the issue: the exercises you can use to bulk up your arms.
Ten Exercises to Tone Arms and Reduce Arm Fat
Even though spot reductions don’t work, toning up specific muscles does. Thus, the ten exercises below are all targeted at your arms and surrounding muscles. As an added bonus, you’ll be stronger and have a lower risk of injuring your shoulders in day-to-day life.
Remember, though, I’m a health coach and nutritionist, not a personal trainer. The recommendations I give can take you from a beginner level to an intermediate level, but everyone has a different, personalized health and weight loss journey. Once you’ve gotten the groundwork done, you should consider talking to a local personal trainer who can help you with everything from routine planning to accountability to positive reinforcement.
That said, let’s get to the exercises already!
Push-ups are one of the easiest exercises to do since you can do them pretty much anywhere. They’re also very flexible and useful, and you can do them throughout the day.
Start by laying on your stomach on the floor. Use your toes as a fulcrum, and position your arms to either side, palms against the ground, around chest level. Push yourself up and lower yourself slowly, and repeat as often as you can. This works your arms and chest muscles.
There are also a ton of push-up variations you can try. You can put your hands out wider or pull them in to a diamond in front of your chest, add kicks, put your feet up on a box, or mix in yoga poses. They all work slightly different and focus on different sets of chest, back, and arm muscles.
#2: Arm Scissors
This is a very simple bodyweight exercise that is a lot harder than it sounds. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms out to either side, in a T-pose, level with your shoulders. This is your starting position.
To perform the exercise, bring your arms forward and cross them over in front of you, sort of like the blades of a pair of scissors. Keep your elbows straight. Stretch your arms as far to the opposite side as you can without straining yourself. Then, return to your starting position. Repeat, with whichever arm was underneath on top, alternating each repetition. Move in a quick-yet-controlled manner (don’t flail or jerk your arms or shoulders), and repeat constantly for about 20 minutes.
For an advanced version of this exercise, add an aerobic component. By stepping from one side to the other and crossing your legs in a similar motion and speed, you turn this into a full-body aerobic exercise.
#3: Shoulder Press
This one requires a dumbbell. Start with something small – five pounds or so – and gradually increase weight as you get more comfortable and stronger.
The exercise is very simple. While standing straight, feet planted shoulder-width apart, hold dumbbells in each hand. Lift them and position them on top of your shoulders, palms pointing forward. To perform the exercise, push the weights straight up into the air for full arm extension, then lower them back to your shoulders. Repeat as necessary. Make sure you have control over the weights; the last thing you want to do is drop one, either on your head, on a foot, or on something fragile on the floor.
#4: Dumbbell Floor Press
This exercise is similar to a bench press but doesn’t require as much equipment or a spotter for safety. You’ll want dumbbells for this one as well.
Lie on your back on the floor (or on a yoga mat) and bend your knees. Grab your dumbbells and hold them up, with your arms around chest level. Then, act like a bench press; push the dumbbells up for full arm extension, then lower them back down. Your upper arms should begin parallel to the floor and end perpendicular, while your lower arms should always remain perpendicular. Again, be careful not to drop the weights!
#5: Dumbbell Thrusters
The dumbbell thruster is a full-body exercise that happens to work your arms along with it. You still only need dumbbells and no other equipment, so it’s a great exercise to add to your routine. Start in the same position as the shoulder press, with the dumbbells resting on your shoulders.
Spread your feet so they’re a little wider than shoulder-width, then lower into a squat, weights still on your shoulders. Make sure to keep your back straight! Then, thrust upwards as you stand. You’re both coming out of the squat and performing a shoulder press at the same time.
#6: Bicep Curls
Probably the most recognizable exercise on this list, this is the one everyone knows. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms up, while standing or seated on a bench. Lower the weights to your sides at full arm extension, then curl your elbows up and lift the weights. Repeat as many sets and reps as you need.
You can change a lot with this exercise. Alternating arms helps you focus on one and then the other, instead of emphasizing balance. Adjusting weight, reps, and sets helps you figure out whether more reps at a lower weight or fewer reps at a higher weight is better for you. Just make sure you stick with what you choose.
#7: Triceps Dips
The triceps dip is a similar exercise to a couple of others on this list, but it doesn’t require weights. All you need is a sturdy chair, bench, or other fixture at about knee height. You can even do these on park benches and other installations if you want to work them into a walking or jogging routine as well.
To do the exercise, sit on the very front edge of the seat you’ve chosen. Plant your feet ahead of you, knees closer to straight than bent. Plant your hands to your sides, on the edge of the chair. Ready? Slide forward so you’re no longer sitting on the chair but holding yourself up with your feet and your hands.
The actual exercise is easy. Using your arms, lower yourself down, but don’t touch the ground. Your goal is a 90-degree angle for your elbows. Hold for a second or two, then press yourself back upwards, again largely focusing on your arms. As usual, repeat as desired.
#8: Cable Pulls
For this one, you need a setup. A cable machine and a bench are ideal, so if you have access to a gym you can attend safely, go for it. You can also buy a simple cable machine at home, or you can use elastic bands. If you choose elastic, make absolutely sure the bands are secure. You don’t want to snap back and whack yourself with a high-powered rubber band!
The exercise is simple. Hold the cables in each hand, such that there’s slight tension on them with your arms at full extension. Then, pull your arms back until your hands are to your sides and your elbows are behind you. Then slowly push back out, and repeat.
#9: Arm Circles
Arm circles are great to use as both a warmup and a cooldown for the rest of your workout. Simply hold your arms out to your sides, fingers extended. Rotate your arms at your shoulders, drawing circles in the air with your hands. Keep the circles relatively small, somewhat larger than a dinner plate. Do ten or so circles in each direction.
Last on the list is general cardio work. It doesn’t really matter what you do to get the blood pumping, so long as you do it. Jogging is nice and easy, stair climbing can be done in the home if you have stairs, jumping rope works, and more. Find the exercise that works best for you to get your heart rate up, and use it as a warmup for the rest of your routine.
When combined with a dietary plan like the Smoothie Diet, these exercises can help tone away stubborn arm fat and build endurance. What’s not to love?
Are there any exercises you feel we may have missed? If so, be sure to let us know down in the comments section below! Additionally, if you have any questions after reading about these exercises, please leave those down in the comments section as well! I’d be more than happy to help you out however I can.