[By Heather Lee]
With festive parties galore just weeks away… and if you “dare to bear”… your arms that is, then it’s high time to start getting them into shape.
I regularly get questions from our readers about how best to trim and tone their upper arms. I thought I’d take this opportunity to address some of your queries and at the same time, share a few of my own secrets on how best to achieve beautifully slender and sculpted arms.
Q: I’ve always been a small-sized person…generally I can eat as much as I want without putting on much weight. In recent years though I seem to have developed more and more arm flab … why is this so, considering I hardly have an inch of spare fat anywhere else on my body?
A: Our arms are storage sites for fat in the body, along with other areas like the abdomen and the thighs. Where and how much fat the body stores is determined by a combination of factors including genetics, hormones, activity level and metabolism. The tricep area (underside of upper arm) is one of the most common areas for fat deposit in women, especially as we get older. Often, this is mockingly referred to as the wavy muscle, in that when you wave your arm, it waves back at you.
Q: I desperately want slender and toned upper arms. Over the past 3 months I’ve been working out my arms with weights at home at least once and sometimes twice a day. I’m definitely getting stronger, but my arms are not looking much more toned
A: To achieve well-toned upper arms, there needs to be a combination of both muscle toning and fat burning. Doing one without the other will not produce any significant results. If your muscles are hidden beneath layers of fat, no amount of exercise will be able to tone and define the muscles visibly. To achieve visibly toned arms you must first lose the fat.
Q: Can you recommend me a diet that will make my arms trimmer
A: First of all, let’s be clear that no diet regardless of their claims can target a specific part of the body. To lose weight and trim fat anywhere on your body, be it the arms, tummy or thighs, stick to these simple rules:
- Reduce your overall calorie intake. When your body burns more calories than it takes in, it will have to fall back on your fat stores, some of which are in your arms
- Replace simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, rice and potatoes (the “white” carbs are generally bad carbs) with more complex carbohydrates such as vegetables and beans. These are less calorie-heavy and yet more filling for a longer period of time
- Eat lean protein such as chicken breast and fish with every meal. This will provide the building blocks for creating lean muscle, and will also keep you full for longer
- Don’t drink unnecessary calories. Per gram, alcohol contains almost twice as many calories as carbohydrates and protein, making it twice as fattening. Sports drinks, flavored smart water and 100% juices might sound healthy, but they all contain a large amount of calories that don’t do much for you. Alternatively, try to drink at least eight to ten glasses of pure water daily. Dehydration from a lack of adequate water consumption can decrease metabolism by up to 30%. As a result the body may be storing fat instead of burning it.
- I believe in the concept of a free eating day where you can pick one day of the week and eat whatever you want. Why? Well firstly I feel that many fad diets fail because they are often too restrictive for too long. Secondly, “pigging out” one day a week, will ensure your metabolic rate doesn’t adapt to a low-calorie diet. If your body realizes that you are trying to lose fat by restricting calories, it will adjust as needed. You need to keep your body guessing, and a dramatic increase in calorie intake will do just that
Q: What are some good exercises I can do at home to tone my upper arms?
A: We can divide this up into strength training and cardio:
1.. Strength Training:
The key to defining arm muscles is to exercise them regularly, so try to do this at least 3 to 5 times a week. Choose a variety of exercises that train all the muscle groups in the upper arms, especially the bicep, triceps and shoulders. At home, this can be in the form of bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, and push-ups. Repeat 12 times per exercise for 4 sets
Bicep Curls – These are done while sitting or standing. With your upper body straight, head up, take a set of weights in your hands with a firm grip. Slowly bend your elbows as you “curl” or bring the weights up toward your shoulder. Slowly lower the weights and repeat at least ten times.
Tricep kickbacks= Hold a weight in your right hand and lean over to position your left knee and hand on a bench. Make sure your back is straight. Hold your elbow at the same level as your back, near your waist. Move your hand with the weight towards the sky/ceiling until your arm is straight and parallel to your back. Finally move back to the starting position, and repeat at least 10 times. Repeat for the left arm.
Push-ups-Lay your body on the ground and put both hands next to your shoulders. Your chin should point to the floor. Tense up your legs and stand on your toes. Inhale while you push up your body by straightening the arms and keep your body tense. Go back in the basic position and exhale.
Depending on your individual level of fitness, this can range from going on brisk walks, to cycling and running around your neighborhood. In general, most cardio routines focus on the lower body. To be extra efficient, try cardio exercises that incorporate your arms into your workout. This can help tone your arms and burn calories at the same time. Jumping rope, elliptical training, and rowing are some of the best workouts to help slim down the arms
Q: Will my arms look too manly if I work them out with weights?
A: Women will not build up muscle to the degree that men will, unless, of course they are intentionally trying to do so. So don’t fear that weight training will make you look like Arnold Schwartzenegger. What you will get out of it are beautiful toned arms that accent your figure and improve your appearance.
Heather Lee is a certified personal trainer with an interest in women’s fitness. She has helped her many clients achieve their goals of general fitness, weight loss, muscle toning, postnatal programs and post-injury rehabilitation. She is also a pilates instructor.