When’s the last time you went sleeveless without worrying about how your arms above the elbow look naked? How does it feel to wave goodbye to someone and realize the jiggly skin on your upper arms continues to shake after your hand has stopped moving? Have you ever looked at a photo of yourself in a tank top or bathing suit and done a double take at the sight of your chicken wing arms?
For midlife and menopausal women everywhere, upper arm fat is a major embarrassment and self-esteem problem, causing many to hide their flabby appendages under sleeves year-round. And wearing sleeves in the warmer months can be very uncomfortable, especially during a hot flash!
Looking back on our youth, we longingly remember our slender, tight, toned triceps. Even if we did not regularly work out at a gym or participate in a sport when we were younger, our upper arms seemed to do just fine by themselves. Baring shoulders and entire arms in sun dresses and halter tops was effortless.
When we were young, our skin produced sufficient elastin and collagen, the connective tissue that holds everything together, to keep our skin flexible, supple and smooth. As we age, however, collagen and elastin production naturally declines, and our skin begins to dry out, wrinkle and eventually sag. This happens to the skin on every part of our bodies, not just upper arms.
What makes the upper arm a particularly troublesome area, is that sagging underarm skin also contains more fat than many other areas on the body, which accentuates the problem. And though overall excess body weight also adds to underarm flab, losing weight alone will not necessarily get rid of the problem. Older women who are well within a normal weight range, and even women who are underweight, often have flabby upper arms. In fact, losing weight often makes the problem worse, because with reduced collagen and elastin, our skin does not bounce back from being stretched out, and may sag more.
So is there a solution? Thankfully, yes!
But first, it helps to understand the musculature of the upper arm itself. There are two main groups of muscles in the upper arm: the biceps, which run along the front when your arm is resting at your side. The job of the biceps is to rotate the forearm (supination) and to flex the elbow. The triceps run along the back of the upper arm and are made up of three separate muscles: long head, medial head and lateral head. The triceps are principally responsible for extension of the elbow joint (straightening of the arm).
To tone the back of the arm, therefore, you must work the triceps. For the front of the arm, it is necessary to build up the biceps, which will then improve the overall appearance of the arm by filling the empty sagging skin with more muscle. And when you build both of these sets of muscles, your resting metabolism will be higher, which means you will burn more calories.
Exercises like chin-ups, barbell curls, twist curls and hammer curls work the biceps, and doing close-grip bench presses, triceps push-downs, lying triceps extensions with dumbbells and close-grip push-ups will work the biceps.
In doing any of these exercises, it is critical to warm up beforehand, utilize proper form, go through a full range of motion, squeeze your muscle forcefully for a full second at the midpoint of the move, control the motion slowly and steadily and never use momentum. Finally, exercise often enough to make a difference and vary your type of exercise between cardio 3-4 times a week alternating with the arm exercises 2-3 times a week. Always aim for 12 to 15 reps and 4 or 5 sets of the arm exercises.
Visit the following link for an excellent selection of arm exercises, along with short videos of each showing you how to do the exercise, and create your own workout regimen.
Before getting started with any new exercise program, talk with your doctor to be sure you are ready and able to begin and monitor your progress. Don’t overdo, especially when you’re just getting started. And if your muscles are sore in the first few days, this is not unusual, although do not ignore serious or severe pain. If your muscle aches don’t disappear after the first 1 to 2 weeks, check with your doctor.
Besides the importance of exercise to tone your upper arms, it is equally important to watch what you eat in order to maintain the optimum, ideal weight for your age, sex, height and bone frame. At the beginning of any exercise regimen, it helps tremendously to reduce your caloric intake so that you’re actually in a slightly negative caloric balance. This is especially critical for losing arm fat. That doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself or walk around feeling hungry.
You can actually eat more food and consume fewer calories if you eat nutrient dense, high volume foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains and low fat dairy, meat and fish. Monitoring caloric intake is critical, but so is eating wholesome, nutritional foods. Keep your portion sizes under control, eat slowly, chew thoroughly and stop eating when you are full. By eating more slowly and chewing your food more you will also recognize when you are full, faster, so that you stop before that second helping.
Stay away from processed and high glycemic foods like chips, pretzels, crackers, cookies, donuts and candy. Also avoid fried foods, especially deep fried foods and rich, gooey concoctions like pasta Alfredo or creamed soups. Finally, be sure to drink plenty of purified water, seltzer or herbal teas. Skip all soda, processed fruit drinks, sweetened ice teas and Ades, and alcoholic beverages.
Finally, stay away from all energy pills and energy drinks. These products do nothing more than suppress your appetite, and when the effects wear off, you are far more likely to be ravenous and end up bingeing. The stimulatory nature of these products is also extremely dangerous, especially for people exercising. Stick to the above outlined plan and in just a matter of 2 weeks, you will begin to see noticeable results, and you will begin to feel and look better, too. Then say bye-bye to flab and hello to svelte and sexy arms again!