Best exercises to get strong toned arms

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.

Warmup

  • 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.

Workout

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.

Circuit 1

  • 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.

Circuit 2 

  • 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.

Circuit 3

  • 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.

Circuit 4

  • 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!

 

 

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33 Replies to “Best exercises to get strong toned arms”

  1. I can’t wait to start this routine !! Great quality pictures!

    1. Why Thank you my dear!

  2. Easy to follow instructions. I’ve been wanting to get away from the normal gym machines and do some free weights. Thanks for the tips.

    1. I hope you enjoy the workout and see great results!

  3. I’m printing this for later reference. Thanks so much for this article.

    1. You’re welcome!

  4. I was just thinking the other day that I need to put some focus on my arms… the strength and tone just isn’t there naturally anymore! These are awesome. Thank you!

    1. Thank you! I hope you love the workout, please let me know if you have any questions!

  5. Great info! Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy!

  6. Great tips! I’ve gotten out of working out since having babies…it’s terrible and I miss my tone arms!

    1. Thank you! I hope you enjoy the workout!

  7. Good tips! I’m always skeptical about toning arms, I don’t want to have manly looking arms!

    1. I was skeptical when I began lifting weights too, however my arms have never been more toned since I started! I promise you will not get manly looking arms!

  8. My arms are one of the hardest areas. These are great exercises. I do a lot of these with my trainer. I gain muscle fast, so you can really see the definition, it’s just getting the flab off that can be a bit difficult.

  9. My arms are one of the hardest areas. These are great exercises. I do a lot of these with my trainer. I gain muscle fast, so you can really see the definition, it’s just getting the flab off that can be a bit difficult.

    1. Yes I agree! I don’t have time to do hours of cardio either, so I try to get in 20 minutes of HIIT exercises or a jog with the baby to burn extra calories!

  10. You’re inspiring! I guess I can’t use “baby” as an excuse…..I mean, it’s been 14 years…. (LMAO!!) In all seriousness, wonderful post and yes, very motivating!!

    1. Thank you Melissa! I hope to inspire all women to be their strongest selves! Baby or not:)

  11. Dang girl! Your arms are awesome! So inspiring. This article is motivating me to want to work on myself. You break it down well, too. I hope to read more from you. I have plenty of areas that need attention.

    1. Thank you, you are too kind! I hope you enjoy! I’m happy to answer any questions too!

  12. My arms are my worst feature. Thanks for sharing these. I’m going to try some of them out.

    1. Great! Let me know how it worked out and if you have any questions!

  13. This is awesome. Any way you can do a video with a short demo for each one? I’m not a gym person and got lost in some of the instructions. I’m going to make this a routine and report back to let all your readers know how great it worked!!

    1. I would love to do some videos, I’m actually working on some for the fall!

  14. Thanks for the tips! My arms are strong from carrying babies and toddlers for 18 years straight, but they’re far from toned! Yikes.

    1. Yes I agree! My little one is getting heavy now, I find myself having to switch arms often when holding her!

  15. We all need to be fit, fat or not. Great tips.

    1. I think it’s important to be strong and fit, not to strive for skinny! That’s how I’ve learned to love and appreciate my body for all it’s capable of!

  16. Definitely some new things for me to try, I get bored doing the same things over and over.

    1. Me too! It’s always fun to change it up!

  17. Nice!! Work would really try this……… You truly had provided a great info to the article. Loving it.

    1. Thanks so much!

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