Dossier: Exercise videos

How to tone your upper arms

It’s common knowledge that the skin and muscles on the upper arms start to sag with age. What can you do? Targeted training can help to tone the skin. In our video you’ll find effective exercises for toning your upper arms.

Text: Katharina Rilling; photo: Sebastian Doerk

Do your upper arms wobble as you move? It’s a problem area for many people, particularly in summer when you want to wear short sleeves. Who doesn’t want toned and defined upper arms?

Men and women alike are affected by “bingo wings”. However, they strike earlier and more frequently in women – and that’s because men have 10 to 15% more muscle mass. Especially on the upper arms, men are often more muscular than women. It’s also because they tend to spend more time on training big biceps and triceps when they work out.

However, if men lose their triceps muscles as they age – which happens naturally for most – sagging skin also becomes noticeable on men’s arms. The reason for this is that the muscles suddenly can no longer properly fill the overlying skin. Gravity then eventually pulls the loose skin down. Generally speaking, those who tend to have weak connective tissue are affected more severely and earlier.

Firm skin, toned upper arms: training is essential

The good news is that it’s easy to tone your upper arms, whatever your age. And it’s not only important to have strong arms for aesthetic reasons. Particularly as we get older, it’s important to maintain a basic level of fitness and do more strength training,

because any muscles that aren’t stimulated regularly start to shrink. And your strength, speed, balance and even attention span diminish. So it’s important to add strength and weight training to your training schedule when you turn 30 at the latest.

The right diet for building muscle

As a rule of thumb, to build 1 kg of muscle mass, we only need an extra 100 to 150 calories a day. The best way to do this is to eat meals with plenty of healthy carbohydrates, such as wholegrain pasta, wholegrain bread or potatoes. Protein is also key to building muscles. Healthy forms of protein include fish, meat, soy products and pulses.  

Does losing weight help reduce bingo wings?

Losing weight is not a good way of getting rid of bingo wings, because when you lose weight. your arms lose mass. This can cause the skin to become loose and start to sag. And it’s the same with cardio training. However, cardio fitness is good for your cardiovascular system in combination with strength training, so you should still do it. In other words, there’s no getting around regular and intensive upper arm training if you want to increase muscle.

Exercises to tone your upper arms – without dumbbells

Martina Stucki, personal trainer at Zone4Performance in Winterthur, shows you exercises to strengthen and tone your upper arms. You don’t need any equipment like dumbbells or resistance bands and you don’t even need to leave the house. What do you need? A mat, sports clothes and a bottle of water. The bigger and fuller the bottle is, the more strenuous the work-out will be.

Simple exercises for strong and toned arms

Half push-ups

Get into a push-up position, your knees can stay on the mat. Place your hands on the floor directly below your shoulders. Make sure your elbows stay close to your body during the whole exercise. Slowly lower your upper body towards the mat, stopping halfway. Do not lower yourself to the floor. Hold the position for five seconds, then push back up. That’s the first exercise!

Tricep push-backs

Take your water bottle in one hand and come onto all-fours with your knees under your hips. Keep your elbow close to the side of your body. Push the supporting arm against your ribs and keep it straight. Then push the arm holding the water bottle backwards, stretch right through the arm and feel the tension in your triceps. And move the bottle slowly back to the starting position. Keep pushing the arm back and then down again. Keep going with this exercise until the muscle is completely powered out. And don’t forget to breathe!

Repeat on the other side

Go back into the push-up position and repeat exercise 1. Then take the bottle in the other hand and repeat exercise 2 on the other side.

Little circles

Kneel down and stretch your arms out to the side. Turn your palms up so they’re facing the ceiling. Keep your arms out while you circle them backwards. As you’re circling your arms, move them up to the ceiling. Once your arms reach the top, circle them slowly back down again.

Repeat the exercise until your arms are tired. Keep going! Just one more set to go. This time your arms stay at shoulder height, keep making circles. Five more. You’ve done it! Shake your arms out.

Looking for more exercises? You’ll find more workouts in our dossier

How often should you train your upper arm muscles?

“You’ll see the effects of an upper arm work-out after around eight weeks if you do the exercises consistently four times a week. That’s a great motivating factor,” says Stucki. She goes on to explain that the exercises are most effective when they really tire out the muscles. “We have to push ourselves to the limit until we can’t manage any more reps.”

This leads to tiny tears in the muscles that the body then has to repair. In doing so, the body stores protein in the trained muscles, causing them to grow and the skin on the upper arms gets tighter. “After doing one set of reps, you should take a short break to let the muscles relax. And try to repeat the whole set another 2 or 3 times,” advises Stucki.

At the gym, there are dip machines that can be used to specifically target the upper arms. If you want additional training for the biceps and triceps while doing other sports, you should opt for tennis, swimming or badminton.