Firming up flabby arms

Dear Alice,

What can be done about flabby arms?

Dear Reader,

There are plenty of things you can do to help reduce unwanted flabbiness and be on your way to stronger, well-toned arms. First and foremost, a sound, well balanced eating plan is a great first step toward trimming body fat. If you are uncertain about what to eat, consider meeting with a registered dietitian to find out about proper nutrition and develop your own food plan.

Once you have planned your eating routine, the next step is to coordinate your exercise. It is generally recommended to have some activity in your life most days of the week. Aim for at least thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least three times a week. If you are not at this level yet, start slowly and work up to it gradually. Examples of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise include walking at a brisk pace, rollerblading, jogging, cycling, etc. You can gauge whether or not your activity level is at moderate intensity if you've broken a sweat and are able to reasonably hold a conversation.

Both weight training and cardiovascular activity are recommended to improve your fitness level. Positive results are best seen when both are included in training. Remember, though, that strength training will help you tone, but it won't rid your body of excess fat in a specific area, for example, on your arms. For strengthening and toning your arms, there are many exercises you can do. If you don't have access to a gym, you may do the following exercises just about anywhere:

Pushups are a classic exercise which work the triceps (back of the arm which often jiggles when we wave to someone), chest, and shoulders. You may modify the traditional push up by putting one or both knees on the floor rather than straightening them behind you. This exercise may also be performed against a wall. Place your hands on a wall and push your upper body away. Work up to three sets of fifteen repetitions. Challenge yourself, but do only what you can to start.

Bicep curls can strengthen the biceps (front muscle of the upper arm which is the opposing muscle to the triceps). If you're at home, take two 32-ounce bottles (filled with water) and place one in each hand. With your knees slightly bent, tummy tucked, back straight, and elbows kept close to your sides, raise and lower the bottles at a moderate pace. Do three sets of fifteen repetitions, or what you can. Remember to progress slowly, because you don't want to stress your joints or injure your muscles.

Another way to tone arms and build strength is to participate in arm-specific sports, like rowing, racquetball, tennis, or boxing. These activities incorporate cardiovascular work and strength training. There are many other exercises and activities you can do. A varied routine constantly challenges the body. For more arm-specific exercises, consult with a certified personal trainer. Check with a local gym or ask friends and family for a referral.

Regardless of your approach, it is always a good idea to talk with your health care provider before beginning a new exercise and/or eating plan. The relationship you have with your provider can bring insight into any issues that might impact the ability to reach your goals. Enjoy your efforts and here's to happy waving!

Last updated May 14, 2015
Originally published Mar 12, 1999

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