A PT’s Guide To Toning Your Arms

When it comes to toned arms, sadly there are no quick fixes. But a few simple changes to your routine done regularly really can make all the difference. We went to three of the capital’s top personal trainers to find out how to banish bingo wings; from why bodyweight matters to the role hormones play, here’s what they said…

Start By Understanding What’s Needed

“The area we describe as bingo wings is the skin that can hang down from the upper arm when the arm is lifted – it is very common and very normal. Bingo wings are usually caused by a combination of a lack of muscle tone, stretched skin (if someone has gained and lost weight rapidly), age (skin loses its elasticity as you age) and body fat. If the cause of your bingo wings is large amounts of body fat weighing the skin down and causing the sagging effect, then cardiovascular exercise will help reduce overall body fat. If, however, they are caused by a lack of muscle tone then strength work is what’s needed. A lack of muscle tone is often apparent in very slim women, or someone who has lost weight quickly through either illness or diet.” – Hollie Grant, personal trainer and founder of Pilates PT

Age Can Also Play A Role

“As we age, our bodies slow down, and the production of certain hormones – such as growth hormones and testosterone – also slows. After the menopause, many women lose the fat covering the triceps as a result of hormonal disruptions, which can leave an excess of skin hanging from the arms. In fact, studies show age is associated with a slowing of the metabolism and lean body mass decreases with age, while body fat accumulates through adulthood. This can lead to increased body fat in post-menopausal women, for whom bingo wings can be an issue.” – Louisa Drake, founder of The Louisa Drake Method

Balance Strength & Cardio

“The best approach to toning bingo wings is a combination of resistance training and high intensity aerobic exercise. Aim to alternate your workouts between resistance only and cardio and resistance, aiming for three to five sessions per week. Exercise frequently – aiming for at least two-and-a-half-hours of moderate intensity activity per week – with a mix of moderate and vigorous exercise. High-intensity aerobic exercise such as HIIT or LDM Shape Changer (cardio and resistance training; classes are currently available on Zoom) is an effective solution for promoting fat loss as it increases your metabolic rate for the following 24 hours, even at rest. When it comes to targeting specific muscles in the arms, the biceps and triceps are key – targeting these muscle groups is the best way to strengthen, tone and firm your arms.” – Louisa  

Don’t Discard Bodyweight

“In my opinion, bodyweight exercises are vital when it comes to strengthening the body and toning. They are vital not only from a ‘changing your body’ point of view, but also a ‘you should be able to support the weight of your body’ point of view. We seem to think we need extra equipment to work our bodies but 70kg of bodyweight will do far more than those 5kg dumbbells currently collecting dust in your loft. Training methods such as Pilates can also really help, as it is bodyweight-led and helps women focus on how their body performs, rather than looks.” – Hollie 

Get Involved With Resistance Bands

“Resistance bands are kind on joints and hard on muscles. With a band, you can easily hit a full range of motion, working more places and more muscle for that satisfying burn. They are the perfect piece of kit to sculpt and define your body and improve your posture, thereby enhancing your overall silhouette and confidence. A flat, longer resistance band is super versatile and is ideal for upper-body exercises. It can also be tied around the legs or onto an anchor point such as a park bench for more variation. You can use a flat, long resistance band to do everything from standing chest presses to incline rows and standing bicep curls.” - Louisa 

Don’t Worry About Bulking Up

“Lots of women think strength training will cause them to become bulky, but this isn’t true. In fact, the more you train with weights, the more fat you burn and the more definition you will create. If you are concerned, stick with lighter weights and higher repetitions. Resistance training is the quickest way to build muscle in a particular area and should be part of a weight management programme. You won’t necessarily burn more calories lifting weights than doing cardio, but the increased muscle mass you develop will make your body burn calories during rest.” – Louisa

We seem to think we need extra equipment to work our bodies but 70kg of bodyweight will do far more than those 5kg dumbbells currently collecting dust in your loft.
Hollie Grant

Keep It Simple

“A tricep push-up is a hero move for toning the arms, but don’t think that by doing these in full plank you’ll get better results. Push-ups done correctly on the hands and knees, or in half-plank, are much better and effective than push-ups done poorly in full plank. Aim to keep the elbows tight to the sides of the body as you bend the elbows, pressing into your little finger on the way back up. Try not to slouch or sink into your arms, and maintain good posture elsewhere as you move.” – Hollie 

Machines Can Also Help

“When, and if, you can get to the gym, try curls on the cable machine for the biceps and push-downs for the triceps. Working the triceps on the cable machine is kinder on the elbow joints but still delivers a great burn. Use a high or low pulley to work either both arms at the same time or do alternate arms. You can also adjust the lower body and combine staggered stances or add squats to target the lower and upper body if you’re short on time.” – Louisa 

Remember You Can’t Spot-Target Fat

“Losing weight assists with a reduction in arm circumference but remember you can’t spot reduce fat. Overall body fat must be reduced to see improvement in specific areas.” – Louisa 

Think About Your Diet

“Balancing your hormones with nourishing whole foods, good fats, seasonal produce and keeping track of how often you eat and your portion size will all help. Try increasing your zinc intake by eating more lean meat, such as chicken breast, eggs and cheese. Shellfish are also a healthy, low-calorie sources of zinc. Nuts and seeds containing significant amounts of zinc include pumpkin and sesame seeds – try scattering them over your breakfast. Sleep also needs to be addressed as inadequate sleep impacts our hunger hormones.” – Louisa 

Stick With It

“Banishing bingo wings is a challenge – you’ll need to stick with it for at least ten weeks to see results. Start by training at least twice a week, building up to four workouts per week, for the best results, and always remember to increase the intensity as you strengthen to stay challenged.” – Louisa 

Tone your arms at home these equipment-free moves from training specialist at Freeletics David Wiener…

Plank Shoulder Taps: Start in a plank position, with your feet hip width apart. Touch your left shoulder with your right hand and return to plank position then touch your right shoulder with your left hand and continue swapping sides until the set is finished. 

Side Plank Crunches: Start in a side plank, with your right foot on top of your left foot and your left elbow on the floor. Proceed by lifting your left arm above your head as far as you can reach, then lower it back down until your hip is touching the ground.

Push-Ups: Lie on your chest, with your arms bent and palms flat on the floor next to the chest – your elbows should be close to your body, pointing backwards. Then, lift your whole body by “pushing away the ground” until your arms are completely extended. In a controlled movement, lower your body back down until your chest touches the floor. Throughout the movement, your shoulders, hips, and heels should form a straight line – as if you are holding a plank.

Burpees: Start in a standing position. Move into a squat position and place your hands on the ground in front of your feet while kicking your feet back into a plank position. Keep your arms extended, making sure that your knees, hips and shoulders are aligned. Quickly return to a standing position and jump upwards with your hands coming together behind your head.

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For more information visit LouisaDrake.com, PilatesPT.co.uk and Freeletics.com

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