|Toning the upper arms is particularly important to women, while men prefer to increase muscle mass. In either case, there are two points to consider when attempting to tone or increase muscle size in your arms.
The first consideration is that exercise is not a substitute for a proper diet. If your muscles are hidden beneath layers of fat, no amount of exercise will be able to tone and define the muscles visibly. To achieve visibly toned arms you must first lose the fat. This can be done with a proper reducing diet. Keep in mind, however, that no diet, regardless of their claims, can "target" a specific area of the body for fat loss. The body will consume fat reserves, including those on your arms, while it also reduces fat stored elsewhere on the body.
The second consideration in toning or defining the arm muscles is to exercise them regularly. Targeted exercise can build muscle strength and endurance. Women will not build up muscle to the degree that men will, unless, of course, they are intentionally training to do so. So, women, don't fear that weight training will make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. What you will get out of it are toned, beautiful arms that accent your figure and improve your appearance.
Suggested exercises for toning biceps (muscles on the top of the upper arm):
Curls - These are done while sitting or standing. With your upper body straight, head up, take a weight in your hand with a firm grip. Slowly bend the elbows and rotate your forearm as you "curl" or bring the weight up toward your shoulder. When finished the upswing, your palm should be facing toward you. Slowly lower the weight and repeat at least ten times. Repeat this for the other side. Note: you don't need to invest in handweights or dumbbells to do curls. A simple milk jug full of water weighs approximately 8 pounds. As your strength and endurance improve, you may want to consider a dumbbell set so that you can gradually increase the weight. In lieu of increasing the weight, you can perform more repetitions.
Push Downs - Get into a push up position (up on your toes, arms extended). Make sure you keep your abdominal muscles tight and your spine straight. Slowly lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Hold for a count of 3. Slowly rise to an extended-arm position. Repeat 10 times.
Flyes - Stand, feet apart at shoulder width. Take a weight in your hand (use handweights, dumbbell, filled water bottle, or a book). Keep your abs tight, bend at your knees, and lean forward from your hips. Place your unweighted hand on your mid-thigh for balance. Keep your upper body steady, raise your weighted hand to the side, arm straight, until it is parallel to the floor. Pause for a count of ten, then lower your arm. Repeat ten times then switch sides.
Wall Outs - Similar to push-ups, these can be done anywhere, almost any time! Stand facing the wall with your feet set apart at shoulder width approximately 12-15 inches from the wall. Holding your upper arms alongside your body, reach your lower arms toward the wall, placing your hands flat against the wall, fingers pointing upward. Focusing on your upper arm muscles, push your weight away from the wall until your arms are slightly extended and your arms are supporting much of your weight. Hold for a moment, then lean forward, bending your arms but keeping your elbows in line with your sides (not bowed outward), until your nose nearly touches the wall. Hold and repeat 5-10 times. If needed, keep one foot back slightly to balance during the push-out. Remember to keep your energy focused on your upper and lower arms, keep your back straight, keep your hips tucked, and breathe!
Bent-Over Flyes - Stand with a dumbell or hand-weight in your left hand. Bend your arm at the elbow and center the weight in front of your body. Keep your abs tight. Bend at your knees and lean forward from your hips. For stability, put your right hand on your right thigh. Keep your upper body steady and raise your left hand to the side until your arm is parallel to the floor. Hold for a count of 5-15. Return to starting position. Repeat several times. Then switch to opposite side.
Suggested exercises for toning triceps (muscles on the underside of the upper arm):
Tricep extensions - These are done while lying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet slightly apart on the floor. Hold the weights with your palms facing each other. The weights should be held straight up above your chest about as far apart as your shoulders. Slowly bend your elbows and lower the weights until the elbows are bent at 90 degrees. The upper arm should remain in the upright position as you lower your lower arms bringing the weights down toward the floor. At the end of the extension, the lower arm should be perpendicular to the floor. Hold the position for ten seconds, then slowly straighten your arms at the elbow until you are, once again, in the straight arm (extended) position. Repeat this for at least 10 times. Rest for one minute, and repeat at least one more time. To increase the tension on the muscle, you can increase the weight or develop the exercise until your lower arm allows the weight to touch the floor near your ears. Note: you don't need to invest in handweights or dumbbells to do extensions. Books are easy to hold on to and you can vary the weight by choosing thicker books. As your strength and endurance improve, you may want to consider a dumbbell set so that you can gradually increase the weight. In lieu of increasing the weight, you can perform more repetitions.
Overhead press - These are done while standing. Set your feet apart even with your hips. Keep your knees slightly bent. Holding weights level with your shoulders, palms facing each other, steady the weights. Press the weights over your head, extending your arms straight up. Keep palms toward each other. Do not arch your back or lock your elbows. Hold the weights steady for a count of ten, then slowly lower to starting position. Repeat 12-15 times. You can use hand-weights, dumbbells, cans of vegetables, or any other weight that can be safely held in your hand. Increase weight as your muscles become stronger. Increase repetitions to 20-25 times each session as you adjust to the weight.
Tricep Dips - Sit on the edge of a chair with feet on the floor. Keep your knees bent. Place your hands close to your body with your fingers wrapped around the corners of the chair. Face thumbs forward. Straigten your arms and lift your buttocks up and out in front of the chair seat. Slowly bend your elbows as far as comfortably possible. Allow your hips to drop below the level of the chair seat. Straighten arms and lift hips back to seat level. Repeat several times. To intensify this exercise, spread legs farther apart and bend knees less. To simplify this exercise, move feet closer and bend knees more.