Toned arms are something that many of us aspire to have but training arms isn't always thought of as the most interesting session. It may be that you avoid training arms completely as you can only think of the typical exercises to add to your routine.
When looking to tone your arms, the main muscles to focus on are the biceps and the triceps, however, muscles in the back, shoulders and core may also be engaged. Toned arms are a combination of both leanness and strength. You can start to strengthen and tone your arms by adding the right exercises with a range of different gym equipment and functional equipment.
PT TOP TIP - To ensure you are getting the best out of your weights or machines, keep these things in mind:
- Avoid ‘swinging’ the final reps to complete your set. If you are struggling to complete a full set with the correct form, drop the weight. We want to ensure we are keeping our form strict so we are isolating the target muscle, to result in quicker and more efficient toning.
- Take your time with the reps, completing reps quickly won't give you the gains you are looking for. Aim for a 1 - 2 second concentric (contraction) and eccentric (lengthening) phase. Again, drop the weight if you need.
- Remember to do exercises that focus on both the biceps and triceps, focusing on just one can lead to an imbalance over time.
Equipment and exercise guide to get toned arms:
Here is our guide on the different equipment and exercises you can do to tone your arms:
The cable machine
The cable machine at the gym can look quite daunting, with different sections, handles and weights. However, it is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment in the gym. The cable machine helps to place more tension on the muscles through the entire exercise, causing the muscles to fatigue faster, helping you to see more gains.
Cable rope curls
Clip the rope attachment to the cable machine and set it to the lowest point, stand upright with either end of the rope in both hands. Curl the ends of the rope up to your chest (ensure you contract your core and keep your wrists straight whilst curling the rope), then slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 10 reps.
Cable rope tricep extensions
Keep the rope attachment on the cable, but raise the height of the cable machine as high as it will go. Grab both ends of the rope with your palms facing down. Once you are ready, use your triceps to push the rope down until your arms are extended, but down lock your elbows. Focus on squeezing through your triceps, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat for 10 reps.
Long resistance bands
These can be an alternative to the cable machine if you do not have access to the gym or a great travel tool if you are looking for a way to squeeze in a quick workout whilst you are away over the summer. Resistance bands come in several different tensions, it can be helpful to have a couple of different resistances to gradually work your muscles harder. The following exercises can be completed with the resistance bands:
Hold each end of the resistance band, with your arms by your sides and palms facing upwards, place one foot in the middle of the band to secure it to the floor. Keeping your elbows tight to the sides of your body, bring your hands up towards your chest, then slowly lower your hands back down and repeat.
Stand in a staggered stance and loop your resistance band under your left foot and hold one end of the resistance band in each hand. Bend your left knee slightly and hinge forward at the hip so your core is engaged and your back is straight. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees, keeping your arms close to your sides. From this position do a tricep kickback by extending your arms back from your elbows only, keeping the elbows tight to the sides of your body. Then re-bend your elbows to return to your starting position, do all the reps on one side, then repeat with the other foot toward.
When working out your arms, kettlebells are a great alternative to using dumbbells, especially during high-demand times at the gym. Sweatband has a range of kettlebells of all different weights, the DKN Vinyl Kettlebell Weight Set is a good starting point, as it provides a range of different weights for different exercises like the ones below:
Stand with feet hip-width apart, start with your kettlebell under your chin, grasping the horns (the vertical sides of the handle) with the ball of the kettlebell facing up towards your head. Bracing your abs, begin circling to the right, lift the kettlebell around the right side of your head, let the kettlebell drop down behind your neck and finish the circle by bringing it around the left side of your head back to the starting position. After you complete one full rotation, do it in reverse.
KB upright row
Stand up straight with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width, and your toes should be pointed slightly outwards. Grip a kettlebell in an overhand grip, and hold it at hip height with a slight bend in your arms. Engage your core and glutes and drive the kettlebell upwards until it’s almost at face height, raise your elbows higher than the handles of the kettlebells. Using a controlled movement, lower the kettlebell back into the starting position. Repeat for your desired amount of reps.
Using a step platform may not have been your first thought, but it can be a good way to include some variation. If you use a platform such as the DKN Studio Aerobic Step you can perform exercises such as tricep dips or push-ups. Try these exercises next time you use a step platform:
Facing away from the box, place hands on the end of the box shoulder-width apart and your fingers pointed towards your body. Walk your feet out until your legs are straight, lift your bum off the box and put your weight into your heels. Keeping your elbows close to your body, bend your arms so your entire body lowers towards the ground until your shoulders are in line with your elbows. Press your palms into the box and return to start. Complete 10 reps.
Start by placing your hands shoulder-width apart on the box and get into a plank position. Slowly bench your elbows and lower your chest to the box, ensure you are engaging your core. When you reach the bottom, push back up to the starting position, then repeat.
Medicine balls are available in varying sizes and weights, these can help to improve muscular power. Add some of the following exercises to your next arm workout.
A word of warning, for those without a garden or not wanting to annoy the neighbours, put your medicine ball in a backpack and get over your local park, integrating some medicine ball work into sprint drills.
Stand around two meters away from a wall with a medicine ball and have your feet spaced hip-width apart. Squat down, then as you stand up explosively throw the ball at the wall. Catch the ball as it comes down and return to your squat position. Repeat this.
Medicine ball slam
Stand with a medicine ball and your feet spaced hip-width apart. Reach overhead with the ball, and then explosively slam it into the floor. Be aware that some balls may bounce back up, so be ready to catch it in case, or squat down and pick up the ball and repeat.
Dumbbells are available in two styles: fixed weight or adjustable. Most gyms have many pairs of fixed dumbbells of varying weights. Sweatband has both types of dumbbells, adjustable or fixed – try the following exercises when you’re next working out.
Stand tall, holding a dumbbell over your head in one hand with your arm straight. Keeping your chest up, bend at your elbow to lower the weight behind your head, then slowly raise it back to the starting position. Do around 10 reps with one arm, then switch sides and repeat.
Plank with Bicep Curl
Start in a plank position, with dumbbells in your hands on the ground, ensure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your core engaged and hips stable. Slowly bring the right dumbbell towards the right shoulder, in a bicep curl potion. Lower it back down and repeat on the other side.
In a nutshell
We hope this has given you some ideas on how to use a variation of gym and functional equipment to tone your arms this summer. Use a combination of the above exercises a couple of times a week to complete an arm workout and to move closer to your fitness goals. Make sure you start with a weight that's appropriate for your level and add more weight when you feel necessary. Are you ready for arm day?