6 Workouts That Give You Tank Top Ready Arms

A woman flexing her arms

A woman flexing her arms | Source: iStock

Suns Out, Guns Out! You know the deal. You check the weather on a daily basis.

But do you know how those hotties out there, under the sun, toned up those tank top ready arms? If you’re thinking, “Uuuuh, no? But do tell, please!” You’re in luck, because we’re about to. Before we pick up the weights, and I start cuing you through a seriously effective routine, we have to first get a solid grasp on what it takes to tone.

1. Muscle Mass

So, those cuts. Yeah the ones right there defining the shoulders right as they meet the triceps. Or those running along the inside of the bicep. Well, if that’s what you’re looking for, you need to first build some muscle mass; because you can’t sculpt muscles that have experienced atrophy, let alone layers of fat. To build muscle mass, you’ll want to begin lifting heavier loads at  low rep range — say 5 to 8 reps for about 3 to 5 sets.

2. Rep Range

Speaking of rep range, toning calls for a rather high rep range — around 15 to 20 reps. Once you’ve got the mass to work with, you’ll want to change up the load (we’ll get to that next) and rep range. When you’re powering through these reps, it becomes a cardio burst; in which heart rate increases, calories are burned, and body fat begins to melt away.

3. Load

OK, so with load, we don’t want to drop to a weight that’s simply going to fatigue the target muscles, we want to be sure we have a weight that will still assist in building lean muscle mass. If you were at 10 to 12 pounds when building mass, now you’ll want to be at 5 to 8 pounds.

4. Tempo

It’s not just about breezing through 15 to 20 reps at a lighter weight. It’s about getting every last toning benefit you can out of each rep, which is why tempo is super important. You’ll want to ‘power’ the weights up into the top of the movement, and slowly lower them in a controlled manner to the bottom, starting position, of the movement. Pacing in this manner will break down muscle fibers, ultimately resulting in a regrowth of defined mass.  

5. Consistency

Hitting the arms once a week for 30 minutes isn’t going to cut it. If you want tank top ready results, we’re talking at least three to four days of lifting. You can do two days on, one day rest, two days on, two days rest. Just be sure you give yourself a rest period to allow for muscle recovery and growth.

6. Nutrition

Just like you make abs in the kitchen, that’s also where you make arm muscle. Honestly, it’s where you make any lean muscle or toning gains. You’ll want to be sure you’re pairing your strength training routine with a meal plan that weighs the importance of balancing lean proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats.

Now that we’ve got a handle on all of that, let’s get to lifting!

Shoulders

A woman doing side shoulder fly exercise

A woman working her shoulders | Source: iStock

When it comes to the shoulders, you can’t rely on just one movement. You need to hit these guys from all angles.

Overhead Press:

Target: Overall

  1. Grab those dumbbells, stand with feet hip-width apart and bring the weights up so that palms are facing forward and elbows are bent at 90 degrees and in line with your armpits. This is starting position.
  2. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and drive the weights up above your shoulders as you straighten out your arms. Pause for a second at the top of the movement as you breathe out.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting position. Continue for recommended number of reps.

Front Shoulder Raise:

Target: Front

  1. With dumbbells (preferably at the lighter end of the weight range) in hand, palms facing front of thigh and knuckles down, stand with feet hip-width apart. This is starting position.
  2. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and drive the weights up bringing them in line with the front of your shoulders as you keep the arms fully extended. Pause for a second at the top of the movement as you breathe out.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting position. Continue for recommended number of reps.

Lateral Raise:

Target: Side

  1. With dumbbells (preferably at the lighter end of the weight range) in hand, palms facing sides of thighs and knuckles down, stand with feet hip-width apart. This is starting position.
  2. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and drive the weights up bringing them in line with the sides of your shoulders as you keep the arms fully extended. Pause for a second at the top of the movement as you breathe out.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting position. Continue for recommended number of reps.

Bent Over Reverse Fly:

Target: Rear

  1. With dumbbells (preferably at the lighter end of the weight range) in hand, stand with feet hip-width apart and slightly bend at the knees as you hinge at the hips. With a straight back, roll the shoulders slightly back creating a high chest and let the dumbbells hang in front of your knees, palms facing each other. This is starting position.
  2. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and draw the weights back by squeezing through the shoulder blades. Your head should be down, as to not strain the neck, and your palms and forearms should be facing outward as you pull your elbows back and down behind you. Pause at the top of the movement for two seconds as you exhale.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting position. Continue for recommended number of reps.

Bring out the biceps

Girl doing biceps in a gym

A woman doing bicep exercises | Source: iStock

All it takes is a one-two move to activate the biceps. No need to get fancy here, results come from that which is tried and true.

Alternate Bicep Curl:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and dumbbells at your sides with palms facing forward. This is starting position.
  2. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and curl one dumbbell upward bringing the front of your knuckles to your shoulders. Pause for a second as you squeeze through the biceps and breathe out.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to starting position. Repeat the movement with the other hand and alternate until you complete the recommended number of reps.

Toning the Triceps

The shoulders and biceps wouldn’t be anything without the aesthetic support of the triceps.

Tricep Extension:

  1. With dumbbells (preferably at the lighter end of the weight range) in hand, stand with feet hip-width apart, and bring your arms up above your head so that your hands are in line with your shoulders. Slowly bend the arms at the elbows bringing the weights down toward the back of your shoulders. This is starting position.
  2. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and drive the weights upward hinging through the elbow and squeezing through the triceps. Pause for a second at the top of the movement as you breathe out.
  3. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to starting position. Continue for recommended number of reps.

The Formula

  • Reps: 15 – 20
  • Sets: 4 – 5
  • Load: 5lbs – 12 lbs

Movement order:

  • Overhead Presses
  • Alternate Bicep Curls
  • Tricep Extensions
  • Bent Over Reverse Flies
  • Front Shoulder Raises
  • Lateral Raises

Ellen Thompson is a National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer at Blink Fitness in New York City, where she serves as head trainer at the Penn Plaza location. Ellen’s approach to training is that “anything is possible.” Endurance, strength, and stability/agility training are at the core of her fitness programming. She holds a master’s degree in New Media Publishing and Magazine Editing from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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