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Strength Training Is Crucial
For a lean, toned appearance, cardio alone won’t cut it. The most effective way to get toned arms is to build lean muscle through resistance training, says personal trainer Caroline Idiens. “From the age of 30, we begin to lose muscle mass (along with bone density) and many women start to notice a lack of definition in the arms. The good news is that with consistency and commitment, you can make a difference. The muscles in your arms react to resistance (i.e. weights) quickly and will soon adapt.” And if you still believe lifting weights will make you bulky, think again. “This is one of the biggest myths in fitness,” says Caroline. “In fact, it’s very difficult to build a bulky, muscular appearance. You’d need to dedicate months, if not years, to training hard and eating a calorie surplus to bulk.”
It's Never Too Late To Start
Though arm shape stays consistent throughout your life, muscle tone is the main variable and the best way to improve a slackened appearance is to lift weights. “It’s never too late to start using weights,” Jillian Michaels, PT and creator of the Fitness App by Jillian Michaels, tells us. “If you exercise your triceps (think triceps dips, push-ups, triceps extensions with dumbbells and triceps kickbacks), stay out of the sun, eat foods high in antioxidants that help boost collagen production and hydrate, you’re onto a winner. Remember, cardio is great for calorie burning, but not for muscle maintenance.”
It's Important To Keep The Body Challenged
If you’ve never used weights before, it can be intimidating and confusing to know where to start. “Think about a scale of one to ten,” says Brett Durney, co-founder, running coach and PT at Fitness Lab. “Pick up a set of dumbbells and select a weight which is between seven to nine out of ten on the effort scale when done for between six to 12 reps. The right weight should enable you to hold good form but at the same time challenge you to the point where you have one or two reps left in the tank.” When this effort feels more like a six or seven, that’s the point at which you can increase the weight and/or change the number of sets, says Brett. If heavy weights still feel intimidating, Caroline says you’ll still see results with lighter weights. “Using a 2kg set of dumbbells for higher reps (think 12-15, depending on the exercise) and then repeating each exercise for three sets is still great. This is a good way to build muscle endurance if you’re a total beginner, and you’ll find you will progress quickly.”
There’s No Need To Exercise Every Day
If you can dedicate two or three sessions a week to strengthening the arms, you will notice the benefits, says Caroline. “Just 30 minutes a couple of times a week is great, and you can then intersperse these sessions with gentle cardio and leg workouts. Stick with this for four to six weeks and you will notice a difference in the definition and strength of your arms. Focus on the triceps and shoulders (planks and press ups are great for the latter), and if you have no equipment at home, don’t discount the power of your own bodyweight.” Bodyweight-led workouts can not only help strengthen and tone, but also mean you’ll be better able to support your own body as you age.
Pilates Is A Good Alternative
Pilates is a great workout for toning muscles, as it works on strengthening small muscle groups while focusing on posture and alignment at the same time. “Pilates has long been associated with long, lean muscles and the arms are no exception,” adds Nathalie Clough, a Pilates instructor. “The beauty of Pilates is that it targets small muscle groups, such as the rhomboids, serratus and rotator cuff, which help connect the shoulders. If you try and tone the biceps and triceps without toning these too, you won’t get nearly as good results.” Pilates is also a great option if you are recovering from an injury and can improve posture, balance, breathing, core strength, coordination and stability.
Protein Is Key To Building Muscle
If you’re making the effort to put in weekly arms-focused workouts, be sure to give the body a helping hand when it comes to repairing and rebuilding muscle, too. “If your primary focus is to improve body composition and tone, the best approach is resistance training, managing the diet and staying active where possible, whether it’s walking to the shops, gardening or carrying the shopping,” says personal trainer Louisa Drake. “Protein is key to building muscle, too, and unlike carbohydrates and fats, there is no long-term storage site in the body for protein, so it needs to be consumed regularly, especially when exercising. Aim for 0.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, and opt for lean sources such as turkey, salmon, skinless chicken, Greek yoghurt, peanut butter and eggs.” Caroline agrees, adding that if you’re serious about results, a large part does come down to diet. “The body needs to be fuelled correctly for the benefits of exercise to show. Cut out excess sugar, drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet with lots of protein,” she says.
Body Brushing Is A No-Brainer
When coupled with resistance training – whether in the form of weights, bodyweight or Pilates – body brushing can take things to the next level and get your arms warm-weather ready. “Daily body brushing with a natural bristle brush is often underestimated, but it’s a great – and cost-effective – way of keeping your skin looking smooth,” says founder of Legology Kate Shapland. “With regular use, a dry brush will promote lymphatic drainage and prevent puffiness by keeping your body’s natural waste disposal system moving along. It will bring freshly oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood to the surface of your skin, plumping it up and giving it a refreshed tone.”
The Right Products Can Also Help
For a dual-action approach, pair a solid resistance training programme and body brushing with the right products. “Invest in creams that contain black pepper, arnica, menthol or caffeine – these will all have an impact on the appearance of the skin on the arms,” finishes Flavia Morellato, world-renowned lymphatic drainage expert.
“CeraVe’s SA Smoothing Cream is great for improving the appearance of the skin on your arms. It has a thick texture and contains 10% urea and salicylic acid. Another option is Neostrata’s Strong Lotion. With a high percentage of glycolic acid, it’s incredibly easy to spread and leaves your skin visibly renewed. If you can tolerate it, the results are impressive.”
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DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.