Toning upper arm “flab”

By April 4, 2014Health Tips

An eDoc client recently wrote in asking about ways to reduce excess fatty tissue in the upper arm region that she referred to as “chicken cutlets”.  Several factors should be taken into consideration in regard to firming the upper arms:   

  1. Is overall weight reduction needed?  If general weight reduction is needed, improvement in overall weight will also be reflected in the upper arm region. To lose fat anywhere on your body you need to burn calories by following a program that involves both cardiovascular
    training and weight training. In doing so, you will decrease fat stores throughout your entire body, including the problem areas. Sometimes following a significant weight loss, people have problem areas that won’t go away despite aerobic and toning exercises. In these cases, consideration may be given to body contouring plastic surgery.
  2. It’s hard to fight genetics.  You have to consider the effects of genetics on your body composition since it is very difficult to change something that has been genetically programmed.  This means that some people may carry more fat in certain locations that they would like even with overall weight loss.  And unfortunately, “spot reduction”, or losing weight in a specific area of the body is almost impossible to achieve. Sit-ups, for example, will definitely strengthen your abdominal muscles, but sit-ups alone will not get rid of the layer of fat that is covering the muscles.  Everyone is a structured differently, and achieving a “movie star” physique may simply be unrealistic.
  3. Exercise to help “tone” the upper arms.  As mentioned previously, exercising a specific area of the body in order to decrease the amount of fat just doesn’t work.  Nevertheless, there are benefits to performing strengthening exercises, both for the body in general, as well as for the upper arms. “Toning exercises”, those that typically involve lighter weights and higher repetitions, can easily be performed at home with improvement in upper arm strength and endurance. Strengthening exercises can also help with overall weight reduction and in maintaining bone density. Here are a few example of  simple upper arm exercises:
  • Triceps kickbacks—Use a small dumbbell or some substitute (such as a can or bottle). Bend over at the waist, resting your hand on a chair, so that your back is flat. Grasping the weight in the other hand, bring your bent elbow up to your side and keep it there. This is the start position. Now, keeping your elbow close to your side, extend your arm back until the elbow is straight, then lower and repeat 12-15 times. Do two to three sets. As this gets to be too easy, increase the weight.
  • Standing Biceps Curl with Dumbbells— Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, or sit in upright position. Grasp the dumbbells with an underhand grip (palms facing forward), arms hanging down at your sides. Flex at the elbows and curl dumbbells up to approximately shoulder level. Keep elbows close to the side throughout movement. Pick a weight that allows you to complete between 8 and 12 repetitions.  Perform two to three sets of each exercise before moving on to the next exercise.
  • Lying Triceps Extension with Dumbbells—Sit in an upright position on a flat bench. Rest the dumbbells on each thigh. Then lie on your back and bring the dumbbells to your chest. Press up so they are directly over your shoulders with your palms facing in. Lower dumbbells toward your forehead by bending elbows to 90° with the elbows remaining pointed forward.
  • Bench dips—Sit up straight on the edge of your bed or a sturdy chair with your palms planted on each side of your hips and your feet flat on the floor.  Move your feet slightly forward so your buttocks just clear the edge. Use your arms to lower yourself until your elbows are at 90 degrees and your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Then push yourself back up to starting position. Continue to raise and lower yourself 12-15 times for two to three sets.

While “spot reduction” of excess fat in the upper arm region is unlikely to be successful, overall weight loss and toning exercises can make a significant impact on the upper arm “jiggle factor”.

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