How to Tone Your Arms Without Bulging Out

If you ask many ladies hitting the gym why they stay away from the weights, the invariable answer will be, “I fear my biceps will bulge out and I will start looking like a female bodybuilder!” This is an unfounded fear. There are arm workouts for women which can keep them toned while staying sexy. There are fundamental differences in the physical makeup of women and men which prevents women from developing the bulging muscles seen in men working with weights.

Men vs. women muscle

Men have more skeletal muscle mass than women. These are muscles attached to the bone e.g. biceps and triceps. This is why a man and woman of the same size will have different strength. There is also a difference in the muscle make up in the two genders. Women have more slow-twitch muscle mass than men. This type of muscle fiber is ideal for endurance but not power. This is why women are able to endure cardio sessions and long tennis plays.

Is there a need for women to workout arms?

Women prefer cardio workouts in weight training. But building strength is as important as staying cardio fit. This is because maintaining muscle mass plays a big part in keeping a healthy weight. Muscles burn more calories than fat. Women who build muscle mass will find it easier to keep optimal weight. Strength training also prevents strain and injury when sudden power is exerted e.g. when you lift something that is heavier than expected.

Which arm workouts for women are ideal for developing and keeping the arms toned?

Push-ups

This is a good starting point because you work with your body weight. Pushups are compound exercises which means that you will be exercising several groups of muscles simultaneously; biceps, triceps, shoulders and the core all benefit from pushups.

  • Lie flat on the ground with your palms at shoulder width.
  • Lift yourself up while imagining your body is a straight plank
  • Lower to the ground

Overhead extensions with weights

This exercise places a greater strain on the triceps;

  • Hold a slightly heavier dumbbell with both hands vertically above your head
  • Bend your arms backward at the elbow so that the dumbbell touches the lower part of your neck
  • Raise the dumbbell to a vertical position once more
  • Do 8-12 reps per set

Biceps curl

This is a classic strength training exercise;

  • Hold a dumbbell with your palms facing upwards
  • Lift the dumbbell bending the arm at the elbow to pull the weight towards your shoulder
  • Lower your arm to a 90 degrees angle
  • Do 8-12 reps per set

Cross jabs with dumbbells

This is another compound exercise that works out the whole arm including the shoulder;

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand at chest level. Ideally, the dumbbell should be in a vertical profile
  • Throw a cross jab with each hand extending the left dumbbell until it is in line with your right shoulder, bring it back in.
  • Do the same with the right to make a rep

Correct and well thought out arm workouts for women can make a great difference in upper body appearance and strength. You stay toned without ungainly bulges.

Do push-ups to strengthen your triceps, shoulders, and chest

Lie face-down with your palms below your shoulders, elbows flared to the sides, and your toes flexed toward your shins. Breathe out as you push against the floor, extend your elbows, and raise your body. Inhale, slowly lower yourself back down until your chin and torso are just above the floor. Depending on your exercise goals, do a total of 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps for toning with light weights, or 3 to 6 sets of 5 to 8 reps with heavier weights for building muscle.

Stretch and strengthen your shoulders with arm circles

While standing, hold your arms straight out to each side. Move them forward in small circular motions. Make each circle gradually larger until you’ve extended your arms to their natural range of motion.

Target the backs of your upper arms with triceps dips

For this exercise, you’ll need a sturdy chair with armrests. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and grasp the armrest with your elbows bent at 90-degree angles. Breathe out as you slowly straighten your arms and lift yourself out of the chair.

Work your arms, abs, and chest with 2 sets of plank-ups

Start in a push-up position, then bend your right elbow to a right angle (90 degrees) so your right forearm is flat against the floor. Do the same with your left arm, and hold this plank position for 2 to 3 seconds. Then place your palms against the floor 1 at a time and lift yourself back into a push-up position.

Try doing handstands to work your shoulders and boost your balance

Stand with your back to a wall, then bend forward from your waist. With your hands shoulder-width apart, press against the floor, lift 1 leg off of the ground, and hold your foot against the wall. Carefully hop up with the other foot, and slowly walk your feet up until you’ve straightened your body.

Perform biceps curls with weights or a resistance band

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the weights by your waist. Exhale as you bend your elbows and raise the weights or bar toward your chest and shoulders. Then breathe out as you slowly lower the dumbbells or barbell back toward your waist.

Target your biceps and back with chin-ups

Grasp a pull-up bar with your palms facing you. Breathe out, flex your biceps, and lift yourself off of the floor until your chin’s in line with the bar. Then inhale as you straighten your elbows and slowly lower yourself back down. Repeat the steps to complete 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Strengthen your shoulders with standing or seated overhead presses

Sit or stand with your back straight and hold dumbbells or a barbell at chest level with your palms facing forward. Look forward with your head in a neutral position, breathe in, and lift your arms until your elbows are straight, but not locked.

Sculpt your pecs and biceps with chest presses

Lie face up on a flat bench with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Grip a barbell or dumbbells with your palms facing up and your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower the barbell or dumbbells just above your chest, then straighten your elbows and raise the weights straight up, then slowly lower them back to your chest.

Do barbell triceps extensions to work the backs of your upper arms

Also known as a skull-crusher or nose-breaker, this exercise targets your triceps. Lie on your back on a flat bench and grasp a barbell or dumbbells as you would if you were doing chest presses. Straighten your elbows to raise the weights then, instead of bending your elbows out to sides as with a chest press, lower the weights toward your head. Bring the barbell or dumbbells just above your forehead, then raise them back up to complete a rep.

Build your biceps by doing curls on a resistance machine

The exact instructions vary by machine, so check your manual or consult your gym instructor. For a typical biceps curl resistance machine, sit with your elbows straight and resting on the machine’s cushion. Hold the grips with your palms facing up, then pull them toward your chest and shoulders.

Work your chest and shoulders with weight machine chest presses

Adjust the machine’s seat so the grips are in line with your shoulders. Keep your back straight, shoulders down, and as you straighten your elbows, push the grips forward. Slowly bring the handles back to the starting position as you bend your elbows. Do 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Consult your doctor before starting a strength training routine

If you’re just starting out, ask your doctor for advice about safely becoming more physically active. It’s especially important to consult your doctor if you have a history of bone, joint, heart, or other medical issues.

Warm up and cool down by walking or jogging for 10 minutes

Before lifting weights or doing any other type of workout, warm up to get blood flowing to your muscles. Walking, jogging, or doing jumping jacks are all great warm-ups. After working out, walk or jog for another 10 minutes to cool down.

Choose weights that you can comfortably lift 12 to 15 times for toning

Your weights should challenge you, but you should still be able to complete 12 to 15 reps while maintaining proper form. If you’re just starting out, try using 5 to 10 pounds (2.3 to 4.5 kg) weights when you do biceps curls, shoulder presses, and other arm workouts.

Make smooth, controlled motions when you perform reps

Proper form is a crucial part of avoiding injury. Never bounce, use jerky movements, or push your body past its natural range of motion. Exhale as you exert your muscles, perform a rep steadily, and inhale as you slowly return to your starting position.

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