A PT’s Guide To Toning Your Arms

Who doesn’t want toned arms? But like so many things, it’s easier said than done. We asked several industry insiders – from PTs to Pilates instructors – for their advice. From why lighter weights can be better to the roles hormones and cardio can play, here’s what they told us…
ISTOCK/VIKTOR_GLADKOV
All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.

Alex Parren, PT & running coach, says…

Focusing On Shoulders Helps
“When it comes to toning the upper body, the shoulders are a great focus. The shoulders – or deltoids – are split into three muscle heads: the anterior (front), the lateral (middle), and the posterior (rear). By focusing on all three of these muscle heads, you’ll be toning the complete upper arm, which will improve things from an aesthetics perspective.”

Supersets Are The Way To Go
“Doing supersets – i.e. two complementary exercises back-to-back with no rest in between – is a great way to tone the arms and back. A superset only works if the two exercises go together. For example, it wouldn’t work to do squats and bicep curls as they target different muscle groups. Superset exercises can be done using either the same muscle group or opposing muscle groups. For the arms, a good example would be tricep dips and bicep curls. Or, to target the same muscle group, tricep dips and tricep extensions.”

If You Do One Move, Do A Press-Up
“Not only do they work your whole arm, but they incorporate multiple other muscles. They’ll help to strengthen and define your arms, as well as working the triceps, an area that often requires special attention. Many women find push-ups tricky, which is because we tend to have underdeveloped chest muscles. But a press-up doesn’t just target the chest. You’ll find that the more you train your chest and triceps, the easier a press-up will become.”

Planning Out Your Week Is Key
“For the best results, split your upper body into muscle groups. The most popular way to split upper body training is: chest and triceps, back and biceps, shoulders and core. You would then do legs on another day, giving you a four-day workout routine. You could double up any that you want to focus on and include cardio at the end of each workout. This would leave two or three days for rest and recovery, which is the perfect ratio. It’s important to remember that muscle is actually built during the rest and recovery phase, so rest days are just as important as training days.”
 

Visit PHD.com

Nathalie Mewes, founder of NRG Barrebody, says…

Using Light Weights Will Result In A Lean Look
“I teach half of my classes without weights and the rest of the class with small weights, no more than 1kg each. Why? Because barre is all about high repetition. You could end up doing choreography with your arms and not letting them drop for five minutes, so even 1kg can end up feeling heavy. By training the muscles in this way, you’ll lengthen the muscle and build endurance, instead of bulk, resulting in longer, leaner and more defined arms.”

Resistance Bands Are Just As Effective As Weights
“A resistance band may seem like a small piece of kit, but don’t underestimate its potential when it comes to shaping the body. The number of exercises you can do with a resistance band is endless and the burn is real – you can make it as hard as you want, too. The reason a resistance band is so effective is because you work with and against the resistance compared to weights, when people often load the muscles in one direction and then release for the second part. When using a resistance band, there’s constant tension, meaning you’ll get more out of it.” 

Treating Strength Separately To Cardio Will Supercharge Results
“If you want to tone your arms, treat a strength session differently to a cardio workout. Don’t fixate on getting your heart rate up; instead, take the time to feel the burn and focus on the muscles you’re working on. Cardio has its place, but remember that cardio will burn the calories needed to recover from strength training, and a muscle that isn’t recovered enough won’t get stronger. The ideal upper body session should be slow, controlled and not necessarily sweaty. Work your arms for 30 minutes twice a week and you’ll see results after six weeks.”
 

Visit N-RG.co.uk

Cardio has its place, but remember that cardio will burn the calories needed to recover from strength training, and a muscle that isn’t recovered enough won’t get stronger.

Nathalie Clough, Pilates instructor, says…

Think Of The Body As A System
“A low-impact workout that emphasises core strength, flexibility and alignment, Pilates has long been associated with long, lean muscles and the arms are no exception. The beauty of Pilates is that it targets small muscle groups – think 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. Remember muscles work in pairs – you want to target groups of muscles rather than just one so you can build strength and look leaner.”

Consistency Pays Off
“In an ideal world, we’d all be spending at least five to ten minutes daily on upper body work – ideally longer. This may not sound like much, but we spend an increasing amount of time with our heads down, so doing exercises that counteract this will help you correct your forward flexion and improve posture. If you’re completely new to resistance training, whether done in the form of Pilates or lifting a pair of dumbbells, you’ll see results within two weeks.”
 

Visit Lifebody.io

Louisa Drake, PT & founder of The Louisa Drake Method, says…

Balancing Strength & Cardio Is Key If You Want To Lose A Few Pounds
“If you want to lose weight as well as tone, the best approach is a combination of resistance training and high-intensity aerobic exercise. Alternate your workouts between resistance only, and cardio and resistance, aiming for three to five sessions per week. Over the course of a week, aim for at least two-and-a-half-hours of moderate intensity activity. Including some HIIT can promote 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.”

A Long Resistance Band Is Essential
“You can use a flat, long resistance band to do everything from standing chest presses to incline rows and standing bicep curls. It can also be tied around the legs or onto an anchor point such as a park bench. Don’t discount the power of a resistance band – they’re the perfect piece of kit to sculpt and define the body and improve posture.”

Remember You Can’t Out-Train A Bad Diet
“Diet matters when it comes to toning your arms. Balancing your hormones with nourishing whole foods, good fats, seasonal produce and keeping track of how often you eat and portion size will all help. Try increasing your zinc intake by eating more lean meat, such as chicken breasts, eggs and shellfish. Nuts and seeds containing zinc, such as pumpkin and sesame seeds are also great to scatter over porridge and yoghurt.” 
 
Visit LouisaDrake.com

Shop SL’s equipment picks here…

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.​

DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at info@sheerluxe.com.