Whether you’re sporting a sleeveless T-shirt in the summer or a form-fitting sweater in the winter, keeping your arm muscles tight and toned year-round requires a solid workout plan. On top of that, your biceps and triceps play a significant role in every upper-body movement you perform.
But it’s not just your biceps and triceps that are visible with bare arms — your shoulder muscles also make an appearance. The good news is it’s relatively easy to train arms and shoulders at the same time.
Why it’s important to train arms
In addition to aesthetic purposes, having strong arms also makes it easier to do simple, everyday things like carry groceries, pick up your kids or move furniture, fitness expert, performance coach and best-selling author, Jennifer Cohen tells SheKnows.
Plus, Cohen says that training your arms helps to fight against the natural loss of muscle mass that comes with aging, known as sarcopenia. “As we age, we lose muscle, which is why some elderly people have what some call ‘bat wings,’ or excess skin around their arms,” Cohen explains.
Tony Carvajal’s favorite exercises for super-toned arms
Fitness trainer Tony Carvajal tells SheKnows that to be in top shape, you should train every part of your body, including arms. Here are a few of his favorite moves for super-toned arms.
Take two 5- to 10-pound dumbbells and hang them at your sides. Soften up your knees and engage your core. Curl the dumbbells up to shoulder height, turn them out and lift them all the way up over your head for an overhead press. Bring them back down to your starting position with controlled movement. This move engages your biceps, shoulders and triceps. Perform 10 to 12 reps.
Band curls for speed
Step on the middle of a resistance band and curl both arms as quickly as possible, either holding on to the handles or ends of the band. Perform arm curls for 30 seconds.
This move requires the use of a cable machine. Face the machine. Grab the straight bar with both hands, keeping your elbows tight to your body, and push the bar down. Pause at the bottom until you feel it in your triceps.
Grab some dumbbells. Lie flat on a bench with your arms straight and dumbbells over your chest, palms facing each other. Bend your elbows, and lower the weights to either side of your head. Perform 10 to 12 reps.
Jennifer Cohen’s favorite exercises for super-toned arms
Start by holding two dumbbells in front of your body with your palms facing inward. From here, raise both arms just above shoulder height, rotating your palms to face outward. Your arms should form an X (crossing at the wrists). Lower the dumbbells back down and repeat. Perform 12 to 15 reps.
Plank with alternating tricep extension
Beginner version: Get on your hands and knees with two dumbbells in front of you. Lift your left arm up and extend it backward alongside your body. Be sure to keep your elbow close to your body throughout the entire movement. When your arm is fully extended, pause before returning to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Perform 8 to 10 reps on each side.
Medium to advanced version: Get into plank position, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Lift your left arm up and extend it backward alongside your body. Be sure to keep your elbow close to your body throughout the entire movement. When your arm is fully extended, pause before returning to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Perform 8 to 10 reps on each side.
Kneeling bicep curl with shoulder press
Kneel on your right knee. Keep your arms at your side and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Perform a bicep curl with your right arm and a shoulder press with your left arm by pressing your arm straight overhead. Perform 12 to 15 reps on each side.
Putting it all together
You can incorporate any of these exercises into your existing fitness program or create a workout just using these movements. Here, Carvajal shares a sample workout you can do at home or at the gym.
- Complete four sets doing one bicep exercise, then move on to a tricep.
- Take a 90-second rest between rounds.
- Be sure to get full extension on all movements to elongate the muscle.
- Four sets of band curls for speed — 30 seconds each
- Four sets of tricep pull-downs — 10 reps
- Four sets Arnolds — 12 reps
- Four sets skull crushers — 12 reps
So, if you’re looking to tone up those arms, we recommend starting here.