Ask any trainer. They’ve all heard the same unfounded request from clients: “I want to get toned arms without the bulk.” I totally get that, because, girl, same. I have good news for you, though. You’re not going to get bulky. I’ve worked with the same trainer for over two years while I myself am studying to get my Personal Trainer’s certification. Everything I’ve heard from my certified PT and everything I’ve studied over the past 12 years of my fitness career is that women in their natural state (i.e. no muscle building supplements) are pretty unlikely to build a lot of bulk. Lifting as we would naturally, we simply won’t lift heavy enough, often enough or consume enough food to make us bulk up. Remember, you want to increase muscle and work on a healthy diet. Not just one or the other. Still nervous about picking up the weights? Here are some things to keep in mind. If you want to build strength go for heavier weight and do fewer reps. If you want to build muscular endurance, use a lighter weight and do more reps. Here are 9 tried-and-true arm workouts to build strength and help rev up your metabolism.
1. Upright Row
This is one of the best muscle builders for back and shoulders. Start with legs at a shoulder-width distance apart and your arms down in front of your thighs. Standing straight with a supported abdomen, lift the weights straight up towards your chin keeping elbows and arms parallel to the ground. Lower and repeat.
2. Shoulder Press
Start with your arms at bent shoulder height (in the shape of a “w”) with your palms facing away from you and your feet shoulder-width distance apart. With your core braced and your gaze facing forward, press your arms straight up towards the sky. Bring them back to shoulder height and repeat.
3. Bent-Over Tricep Extension
Start by bending your knees slightly and leaning your torso forward (make sure to keep your back straight). With your arms in a 90-degree angle, begin to straighten your arm using your tricep bringing your forearm parallel to the ground. Lower your arm back to the starting position and repeat.
4. Bicep Curls
This exercise is simple but essential! They might just become your biceps best friend. Start with your arms hanging by your side. Keep your elbows close to your sides and your palms facing forward. Curl your weights up to shoulder-level keeping your upper arms stationary. Lower your forearms and repeat.
5. Lateral Raises
Start with your arms at your sides with your palms facing your thighs. Double-check to make sure your back is straight and your core is engaged! Slowly raise your arms up and out to the side until they are parallel with the ground. Lower your arms and repeat.
6. Bent-Over Fly
Just like the bent-over tricep extension, start by bending your knees slightly and leaning your torso forward (make sure to keep your back straight). Begin the exercise with your arms hanging down towards the ground with your palms facing inwards. Slowly raise them up and out towards the side. Lower and repeat.
7. Overhead Weighted Tricep Dip
Start with feet hip-width distance apart and—you guessed it—core engaged. Raise your arms straight up over your head, Keeping everything from your shoulders to your elbows stationary, bend your elbows bringing the weight behind your head to a 90-degree angle. Raise your arms back up and repeat.
8. Weighted Punches
Start with your arms at shoulder-height with your arms bent and palms facing in. In a controlled motion, punch your arm out in front of you keeping it steady and parallel to the ground. It’s okay if your torso rotates slightly! Bring your arm back in and switch sides. Repeat!
Much like a bicep curl, push-ups are a classic workout that’s a must for building strong arms and shoulders. Start in a plank position and slowly lower yourself towards the ground keeping your elbows close to your torso, back straight, and core engaged. Push yourself back up and repeat.
I’m doing all of the weighted exercises with 8lbs here, but you do whatever is best for you. If that’s 2lb, great! If it’s 35lb, cool. Just modify this according to your goals and you will notice your arm muscles getting more defined in no time. After each workout, give yourself a hug—you deserve it! Plus it’s a great way to check your progress!