I’ve been asked a lot lately about the best exercises to get strong toned arms and how to get rid of “arm jiggle.” One of my best tips for toning up your arms is to build up your shoulder and tricep strength. Building up your shoulder muscles, especially your deltoids, gives you more definition in your arms. This makes your arms nice and toned versus “bulky.” I’ve always been more of a muscular person, and to be truthful I used to hate my arms. I always felt as though my arms looked big in pictures. Once I began to focus more on toning my shoulders and triceps, I began to notice more definition in my arms. I still train all my other muscle groups such as back and chest, I just avoid excessive bicep exercises as this tends to make me appear more “bulky”.
I also used to think that lifting heavy weights would make my arms look bigger and bulky versus the toned look I was going for. REPEAT AFTER ME. LIFTING HEAVY WEIGHTS WILL NOT MAKE YOU BIG AND BULKY. Lifting weights will tone your body and even better….having more muscle speeds up your metabolism even while you’re resting, which burns more calories! It’s a win-win!
Of course, every body is different; this is just my personal recommendation on what has worked best for me. As always, consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
This routine is designed to be performed in the gym, however you can perform it in your home with a set of dumbbells and resistance band ( theraband).
I always begin my shoulder and upper body routine with a few warmup exercises for the rotator cuff. This helps to protect you from injury.
- Shoulder external rotation: Standing several feet away from the band station at the gym or doorway if at home (as shown), hold the theraband or tubing in your hand. Keep your elbow glued to your side, shoulders down and back as your bring your forearm away from your body. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.
- Shoulder internal rotation: Turn around facing the opposite way, keeping the band in your hand. Keeping your elbow in by your side and shoulders down and back, bring your arm across your body this time. Repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.
Perform each exercise in this routine for 3 sets of 10-12 reps
For each exercise, choose a weight that is challenging yet you are able to maintain proper form. I always choose a weight where it is difficult to perform the last 1-2 reps of each set.
- Military press: Stand with your feet hip width apart, abs engaged and a weight in each hand. Bring your arms up to a 90 degree angle while keeping your shoulders down away from your ears and palms facing forward as shown (this is your start position). Press your arms overhead and straighten your elbows at the top of the movement. Return to start position.
- Shoulder lateral raise: Stand with your feet hip width apart, abs engaged and a dumbbell in each hand ( palms facing in). Raise your arms out to the sides keeping your elbows at a 90 degree angle while keeping your shoulders down away from your ears as shown. Return to start position.
- Shoulder alternating forward raise: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand palms facing you. Engage your abdominals as you slowly raise one arm out in front of you with your elbow straight ( as shown). Remember to keep you shoulders down away from your ears. Repeat on the opposite side for one full repetition.
- Tricep push up: Begin in a plank position (drop to you knees if you are modifying). With this exercise it’s very important to keep your elbows glued to your ribcage to keep good form and engage the triceps properly. Keeping your abs engaged and your back straight, bend your elbows and perform a push up as shown. Straighten your elbows as you squeeze your triceps and return to start position.
- Tricep overhead press: Stand with a dumbbell held by both hands, feet hip width apart. Slowly use both hands to grab the dumbbell and lift it over your head until both arms are fully extended. Keeping your upper arms close to your head with elbows in, lower the resistance behind your head until your forearms touch your biceps. The upper arms should remain stationary and only the forearms should move. Go back to the starting position by using the triceps to raise the dumbbell.
- Tricep dips: I perform this exercise using a bench and I like to challenge myself by placing my feet on a physioball as this forces me to use my upper body strength. To perform: sit on a bench with your fingertips facing away from you, feet on the ball if you choose. Otherwise you can keep your feet on the ground. Keeping your shoulders down away from your ears and abs engaged, bend your elbows until you reach a 90 degree angle as shown. Press back up to starting position as your squeeze your triceps.
- Upright rows: Stand with your feet hip width apart, abs engaged with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing you. You can also perform this exercise with a barbell if you prefer. Keeping your shoulders down away from your ears, slowly raise your arms up as shown as you keep your elbows lifted up towards the ceiling. Lower back to start position.
- Reverse fly: Stand with your feet together, slightly bent forward with your abs engaged and back nice and straight. It’s also important to keep your neck straight by looking down and to keep your shoulders away from your ears for good posture. Raise your arms out to the sides, keeping your palms down as your focus on the back of your shoulders: squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. Lower back down to start position.
- Plank hold: Planks are a great abdominal exercise, but they also double as a great shoulder and upper body strengthener. To perform: get into a push up position with your wrists lined up under your shoulders, keeping your shoulders down away from your ears. Keep your abdominals engaged, back straight and squeeze your thighs as your press back through your heels to distribute your weight evenly. Hold for 30 seconds and repeats 3x. Work your way up to 1 min holds.
- Tricep press down with rope: Standing upright at the cable machine with the rope at a high level: grab on to the rope and bring the upper arms close to your body and perpendicular to the floor as shown. Using the triceps, bring the rope down until the ends touch the front of your thighs and the arms are fully extended. The upper arms should always remain stationary next to your torso and only the forearms should move. After a second hold at the contracted position, bring the rope slowly up to the starting point.
- Tricep overhead press down with rope: Grab onto the rope and turn around so you are facing away from the cable. Again, the rope should be at a high setting. Begin with your arms overhead, elbows in by your ears and bent at a 90 degree angle as shown. This is your start position. Now extend your arms as your straighten your elbows and squeeze your triceps. Return to start position.
*To perform this at home you will need a band ( preferably a stronger resistance such as blue or gray). You can perform the exercise as described above by tying a knot in your band and placing it over the top of door ( just make sure you shut the door tight!)
Congrats! You made it though this workout and you’re on your way to sexy, strong, toned arms. Try to incorporate this routine into your weekly workouts 2x a week! If you stick with it, you should start to see results in about 4 weeks!
If I am pressed for time, sometimes I will separate the routine and perform the shoulder exercises one day and the tricep exercises the next. It’s all about fitting in whatever you can whenever you can!
There you have it! This is one of my favorite upper body workouts that has helped to tone up my arms. What are some of your favorite upper body toning exercises? I would love to hear your thoughts!