Everyone in a fitness journey has specific goals or milestones that they’re working very hard for, and growing nice and sculpted arms is a common one - because who doesn’t want to look great in a tank top, or be able to lift as much weight as you set your mind to? Having strong arms is practical in every way, from helping your workouts be more effective and your daily life easier to just making you look amazing in general! But how exactly do you tone your arms?
Well, toning essentially means building muscle, so if your goal is getting nice, toned arms then you need to start strength training to grow those strong arms that you’ve been dreaming of. And yes, strength training takes a lot of hard work, but don’t worry! We’ve put together a list of the best tips and the most effective arm toning exercises for your fitness journey, as well as some mistakes that you’ll need to avoid if you want to prevent setbacks and actually see positive results. So let’s get into it!
Try different angles and positions
Training your biceps is important, but they're not the only muscle in your arms! If you want to build bigger and stronger arms on your upper-body days, you need to make sure you’re not neglecting any muscle group from your workouts. This means changing up your workout routine and assuming different positions when working out so that you can hit your arm and shoulder muscles from a variety of angles, helping you grow bigger arms all around instead of just one specific muscle group. If you already did some bicep curls during your upper-body workout, you can modify the movement and do a few triceps curls to shift the focus to your triceps or do a completely different exercise such as a shoulder press with a barbell to give your shoulders a good burn.
Another issue that arises when focusing too much on just one muscle group is that you can risk overworking said muscle. Repeatedly using your biceps to lift weights back to back on different exercises can cause muscle fatigue and possible injuries, and you don’t want that! If you fatigue your muscles, you won’t be able to keep performing as effectively for the rest of your workout because each rep will get harder and you’ll start losing control of the weights. And injuring yourself will only hinder your progress since you’ll need to rest for longer and take extra care of your muscles. So try to mix up your training and alternate between different muscle groups by trying out new exercises to get the most out of your upper-body days!
Be consistent with your strength training
You made up your mind to start getting serious with your fitness and your new goal is building bigger arms, so you start a new strength training routine. This is when the real challenge begins: being consistent. This is key when building muscle because you need to keep them working to truly see progress. Muscle loss can happen quickly, so neglecting your strength training is something that you should avoid at all costs if you want to see positive results in the future. You also need to keep in mind that even if you’re lifting consistently, you can still reach a plateau where you’re no longer building new muscle, you’re just maintaining it. This happens because your muscles get used to the usual movements and weights that you lift during your workouts, meaning that they’re already at the maximum level needed to perform said movements effectively and have no reason to keep growing or getting stronger.
The solution to this issue is called progressive overload and it’s a method used by weightlifters and gym-goers to keep stimulating their muscles. It consists of changing up your workouts so they get more challenging with time as your muscles adapt and grow. You can do this by increasing the resistance, volume, frequency, or overall intensity of your workouts so that your muscles don’t hit that plateau and can keep making progress and getting stronger. So never stick to the same workout for too long, and if you do, make sure to change it up a little bit from time to time so you’re not stuck doing the same thing over and over again without getting any results!
Get enough rest
Building muscle doesn’t happen overnight… Or does it? Strength training is just one half of the toning process, the other half is getting enough rest and a good night’s sleep! This is because muscle growth happens when your body is recovering after your workout, working to repair the muscle tissue tears that were caused by your strength training and making your muscles grow in the process. Not only does it promote better and more effective muscle growth, but it also helps your muscles prepare for your next intense workout so you can give it 110% when you hit the gym!
Something to keep in mind is that your arm muscles are much smaller than other muscle groups in your body, such as your leg or back muscles, so they need extra care to make sure that you’re not overworking them to the point of fatigue. Having tired arms can mess with your general upper-body progress since you’ll most likely struggle to perform other movements such as back, chest, and shoulder exercises, and you won’t be able to build muscle if you don’t let them rest in the first place. Proper rest is key for a successful fitness journey, so make sure that you get enough time to recover - and always listen to your body!
Work on your form
Before you start getting more serious with your strength training workouts and adding more weight, you need to master proper form first! Make this a priority when you’re first starting, so that you can make progress smoothly and without any setbacks. Good form varies between exercises, but not keeping your back straight is a common mistake that can happen in almost every exercise, as well as rounding your shoulders instead of keeping them down and back. It’s a good idea to master your usual exercises first and make sure you’re going through the whole range of movement correctly before trying out more difficult exercises. This is so you’re able to hit your arm muscles the right way and actually work them out instead of putting all the work on different muscles or risking injury!
Having a personal trainer or a workout buddy can be helpful because they can give you feedback while you’re performing each exercise, but you can also try working out in front of a mirror so you can see for yourself what you need to fix or improve since a lot of arm exercises don’t need a machine, so you can move freely at the gym. And just like we previously said, arm muscles are smaller than other muscle groups, so you need to be careful with your weights and make sure you’re not swinging them or tossing them around while working out!
Don't try to rush your workout
This is also an important step when you’re working on mastering good form. Rushing through your workouts won’t be practical for you because you won’t get any stronger, just fatigued, so try to be patient and perform each rep accordingly so that you can get the most out of every arm workout! Being patient just means performing your exercises in a controlled manner, maintaining your stability, and feeling the burn on your muscles with each contraction so that you can benefit from the exercise that you’re doing. At the end of every rep, make sure to hold for a second or two while squeezing your muscles, this will apply enough resistance so that your muscles can grow.
Taking your time while working out will also help you get better breath discipline, which is very important when working out since your muscles need regular oxygen, and breathing quickly or holding your breath while rapidly performing your repetitions can cause dizziness and muscle cramps. Additionally, breathing properly allows you to lift weights with better control, so make sure you’re taking your time to inhale and exhale! And if you find yourself in a hurry because you need to get somewhere else after your workout, shorten your routine instead of rushing it, and try to build a workout routine that’s a better fit for your lifestyle so you can get the most out of your gym time properly.
Choose the right exercises
Your fitness efforts can only do so much for you, but choosing the best exercises for your strength training days will truly help you get those toned arms that you desire! A good mix of isolated and compound exercises will help you target your arm muscles more efficiently, making sure you’re working every muscle involved. Typically, compound exercises are the best ones to start with because they work the bigger muscles with the support of the smaller ones, and isolated exercises are perfect for finishing off your workouts. There are a variety of exercises that you can try with your body weight, or with dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and so on, so you can pick the ones that work better for you at any given time, whether you’re at the gym or home!
That said, here are some of the most effective isolated and compound exercises for building bigger and stronger arms:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lean forward until your torso is at a 45-degree angle.
- Tuck your arms to your sides and grab a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Begin by extending your arms behind you, pressing the dumbbells back until you feel the contraction on your triceps.
- Squeeze, then return to the starting position and repeat.
- Stand straight with a dumbbell in each hand while keeping your elbows close to your torso and rotate the palms of your hands until they are facing forward.
- Begin by curling the weights up to your shoulders while contracting your biceps.
- Pause for a second, then go back and repeat.
- To get into a push-up position, lay face down and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor, holding your torso up with your arms straight and the tip of your feet on the ground.
- Begin by lowering yourself until your chest almost touches the floor, then press back up again while squeezing your chest.
- Pause for a moment in the starting position and repeat.
Rear delt fly
- Your initial position will be feet hip-width apart while hinging at the hips until your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
- With a dumbbell in each hand and your arms slightly bent, begin by raising the weights up and to the sides until your shoulder blades are squeezed together, keeping your palms facing downward.
- Hold at the top of the movement, then go back and repeat.
- Grab two dumbbells and stand straight with your palms facing the front of your thighs.
- Begin by pulling the dumbbells to the front of your shoulders with your elbows leading out to the sides, allowing your wrists to flex as your raise the dumbbells.
- Pause for a moment, then lower the weights and repeat.
By keeping these tips in mind you’ll have a better and more efficient fitness journey so that you can achieve those toned arms that you’ve been dreaming of! Taking care of yourself is key when working out towards any goal, so don’t forget that a healthy and balanced diet is as important as your workouts to get that lean and strong body that you’re working so hard for, especially if you’re on a weight loss journey.
And if you want to make sure that your arm and shoulder workouts are as good as they can be, take a look at the Fit With Iulia app! Iulia plans new goal-focused workouts each week with effective training splits so that you can really sculpt your arms on your upper-body days. Try your first workout for free by downloading the Fit With Iulia app, choosing a goal, and starting your first workout with Iulia – no subscription required!