Want to Tone Your Arms Without Bulking Up? Here Are the Ways

Putting up with unwanted arm fat is the worst, and it can be difficult to achieve those iconic Michelle Obama-like upper arms, no matter how hard you try. Even if your cardio is on point and you’ve got your clean eating routine dialed, there are just certain problem areas that will remain just that. And for women, flabby upper arms can be an area of great frustration. Luckily, we’ve nailed down some moves that, rather than focusing on building muscle in your arms alone, engage other parts of your body as well. If you’re looking to tone your arms without bulking up, here are five exercises to try right now.

1. Standing rows

Girl working out in gym

Standing rows are great for your back. | iStock.com/LunaMarina

Using a heavy dumbbell anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds, stand with your feet hip-width apart, then bend your knees and lower your torso until it is parallel to the ground, shifting hips back. With one hand pressed against a wall for support and balance, perform a rowing motion with the dumbbell in your other hand as you bend that elbow up to the ceiling. Maintain a flat back throughout the entirety of the motion, and keep glutes and core engaged. Do 10 reps on each side.

2. Triceps down dog

woman doing push-ups in gym

This move seriously works your triceps. | iStock.com

Start in a plank position, and lower yourself toward the ground by slowly bending your elbows. Go as far down as you can without touching the floor, then slowly straighten your arms back up. As you lift back up toward your starting plank, lift hips up and continue to push yourself back into down dog position. Press your heels toward the floor, and then return back to plank. Repeat sequence 10 times.

3. Twisting knee plank

Fit woman doing full plank core exercise

You’ll work your core at the same time. | iStock.com/undrey

Engaging more than just your arms, this move tones your upper and lower body, abs, and butt all at once. Relying on your arms for strength throughout the exercise, begin in a plank position. Then, bring your left knee forward to touch your left elbow and hold in that position for a moment. For an added workout, bring that same knee to the opposite elbow for an extra twist. Return to center, and repeat with your right knee. Repeat sequence 20 times.

4. Triceps lifts

Dumbbells on the gym floor

You’ll feel the burn with this one. | iStock.com

For this move, start with a light dumbbell anywhere from 2 to 3 pounds. Standing in a split stance with your right foot forward, bend your right knee and hinge forward from hips until your torso is parallel to the floor, maintaining a flat back and square shoulders. Place your right hand on your hip, and hold the dumbbell in your left. Keeping your left arm straight, lift the dumbbell back and up to shoulder height, squaring off your shoulders and hips once again. Then, raise and lower your left arm one inch, keeping your torso parallel to the floor and belly button drawn up and in. Make sure your chin is lifted off your chest, and keep your left arm as close to your side as possible. Do 30 reps on each side.

5. One-leg rear delt raise

woman exercising with dumbbells

Your whole body will get a workout here. | iStock.com/robertprzybysz

If you’ve ever taken a yoga sculpt class, you’ve probably done this one before. Using 5- to 8-pound weights, take one in each hand with your palms facing in. Begin standing tall, then slowly bend forward at your waist, letting arms hang as you simultaneously lift one leg back so it’s in line with your torso. Then, raise both weights out to sides until arms are parallel to the floor. Hold for a moment, then slowly lower arms, then straighten your body back to starting position. Do 15 reps, switch legs and repeat for maximum toning of your core, shoulders, biceps, triceps, back, hamstrings, and glutes.