Women, do you need help fighting your upper arm fat or dreaded ‘bingo wings’? I have had many questions regarding the upper arms and most recently a question came in on my Facebook group (James Schofield Fitness Training) so I thought a proper post would apply to many!
“I’m on a bit of a health kick and exercise regime but my arms just aren’t changing quickly enough. I have some muscle but they’re still ‘flabby’ underneath and make me look fat! I don’t want to have to go all-in-muscle-woman to sort them out, what can I do?”
The endless issue for many women - get ‘toned’ yes, don’t look like Madonna. With some hard work and good eating you can make progress, but you WON’T PUT ON MUSCLE. (You don’t have the testosterone to do so). I’ll outline some of the techniques I’ve used, also note the women weren’t at all ‘fat’, they were a bit pudgy but not ‘fat’ by any means. Recently they’ve come back from holidays with their friends saying how good they look and asking who they’ve been training with.
Anatomy of the Triceps Muscle
The Muscles Involved
Your upper arm is made up of the biceps and triceps. The important ones for you here are the long head (read top and a bit down the side) and the lateral head (the side) of the triceps. The biceps is less important, most upper arm size is triceps related so focusing on burning fat and building muscle here will yield greater changes to appearance.
Fat and Goals
Burn bodyfat (via circuit and intense cardio work) and strengthen the target muscles (resistance exercise). You will improve the look of the arm by increasing muscle mass and removing excess fat. A common misconception is that you can ‘spot reduce’ fat from a particular area, be it thighs, arms, upper back and so forth. Fat is fat, where you are predisposed to storing it is something that you can’t change, it’s controlled by your DNA and your hormones. Your body may burn fat in certain areas first, such is life, everyone is different. This is a great workout to add into your training alongside another cardio session.
The normal woman – not seriously large or overweight, not super slim or athletic either. If you’re a girl that can do 1-5 half decent pushups, this is you. The women I trained were all working out at home with limited equipment. Though obviously unadvisable, it can be performed with some safety without help because you can always just drop the dumbbells if you run into problems.
The Upper Arm Plan of Attack:
Complete the exercises below as a circuit – Notation: SETS*REPS. (eg 3*12 = 3 sets of 12 reps.) The 10th-12th reps should be pretty hard! If they aren’t, up the weight.
If no sets and reps are listed, perform each exercise for 30 seconds nonstop, before moving to the next exercise. When all exercises are complete, rest for a minute and a half to two minutes and get going again! Do it 3 times and see how you feel – aim for the same number of reps per circuit on the timed exercises. Make sure you are striving to get better numbers as the weeks progress!
Make sure you warm up for at least 4/5 minutes by getting your body moving, start off walking and rotating your shoulders and arms, jog lightly, skip a little bit, reach up for the sky, do some bodyweight squats and get ready to train hard.
- Increase the timed exercises to 45 seconds a time after 3 weeks
- Increase the weight by 1kg to each dumbbell every 2 weeks
Exercise: Goblet Dumbbell Squat – 3*12. Start with 6-8 kgs.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Why? You should squat. Just trust me.
How? Perform a full squat. Keep your weight on your heels, sit back at the hips (sticking your ass out) and lowering down as far as is comfortable, with your glutes activated and your stomach pulled in, imagine you’re sitting down onto a chair. Keep all your weight on your heels and drive back up to standing, keeping your abdominals braced the whole time. Don’t round your back over and hunch around the weight, stand strong… See later part of article on squatting, but hold the dumbbell vertically between your hands and pulled into your chest / under your chin, whilst keeping your upper back tight and back straight. Watch me Goblet Squat with a kettlebell on the Youtube channel.
Things to avoid? Smashing yourself in the face with the dumbbell. Also don’t hunch your back over, keep straight and stand tall.
Exercise: Push-Up (for time)
Why? The king of bodyweight upper body exercises.
Female Performing a full push up
How? With your hands extended and shoulder width apart put your hands on a bench in front of you and lower your body in a line to the floor so that your chest is almost touching the floor. Keep your abs and glutes tight so your body stays rigid, drive back up through the arms and chest to the top position.
Things to avoid: Head bobbing. Many people move their heads down as if bobbing for apples, creating the illusion of being closer to the floor. Get someone to watch you, or simply put a pillow on the floor, close your eyes, then lower yourself for the push up.
Regression: If you can’t do a push-up, learn by starting higher: Do push-ups on a bench for example (incline push up) to raise your upper body higher and they will be easier. A good strategy is to use the adjustable steps or even some stairs (don’t hit your head)- start with the step as high as it can go, and when you can perform 12-15 good push ups in a set, lower the step to the next level down, which will make the exercise harder.
Proression: When you can perform push-ups on the floor to a decent level, either raise your feet slightly (on a step for example) or move your hands slightly closer together to emphasise the triceps if you want to feel it more in your arms.
Exercise: Dumbell Squat, Bicep Curl, and Overhead Press. All three movements = 1 rep (for time). Start with 5kg dumbells.
Why? A huge training effect from a large multi joint compound movement will raise your heart rate and burn fat. Triceps are heavily involved in the overhead press and biceps with the bicep curl (as the name suggests).
How? Holding the dumbbells by your sides with a neutral grip (palms facing inwards towards you)), perform a full squat by sitting back at the hips with your weight on your heels and lowering down as far as is comfortable, keeping your glutes and abs tight. Drive through your heels to standing and then immediately bicep curl the dumbells so your palms are facing towards you, before rotating your wrists away from you and pressing them overhead.
Things to Avoid: Leaning too far forward when you squat. Try and keep your chest up and head forward. A female personal trainer explained it to me as “show the mirror your boobs” – which in essence is the thing to do, that, and remember to sit BACK into the squat (use a chair if you don’t get it).
Regression: Use lighter weights. You will fail on the overhead press first, so be careful when you get tired and slow down a little bit.
Dumbbell Bench Press – 3*15. Start with 6-8 kgs and adjust accordingly.
Flat Dumbbell Bench diagram
Why? Bench pressing works the chest and triceps, and stabilisers in the chest and upper back such as the serratus anterior and traps.
How? Lie down on a bench, and get secure by planting your feet. Tighten your abs and glutes and try to ‘lock’ yourself into the bench. With your arms extended, lower the dumbells to touch your chest by bending at the elbows. When your elbows reach a 90 degree angle, push the dumbbells back up above you.
Things to avoid? Moving your feet around or lifting them up, and not lowering the dumbbells down a decent distance. The range of movement is important.
Regression: Use lighter weights.
Exercise: Lateral Raise (for time)
Why? It’s hard work for the shoulders and triceps, and also gets your upper back involved using the traps and stabiliser muscles.
How? Start with 3kgs, and let the dumbbells hang by your sides with a neutral grip. Move your arms in an arc up to shoulder height, keeping them extended but not with locked elbows. Focus on squeezing hard at the top of the movement, before lowering with control. This gets hard very quickly.
Things to avoid: Swinging the dumbbells violently. Use a controlled movement. Also try and keep your arms quite straight, with only a very slight bend in the elbows. As you become tired there will be a tendency to bend the elbows more to make the movement easier.
Regression: Use lighter weights.
So remember, repeat this 3x and then it’s time for a bit of cardio…
Cardio finishers are great when the resistance part of the workout is complete.
Set a stopwatch to 30 seconds and do as many mountain climbers as you can in that time. Rest for 45 seconds to 1 minute, you want to have your breath back.
Then do the same for burpees.
Repeat x3. Stretch, cool down, and enjoy the endorphin release.
Alongside your other strength and cardio training, this will help you really get at what you want to target.
If you have any questions or comments or anything at all post at the very bottom of the page or join the discussion on the James Schofield Training Facebook.
Thanks very much, Happy Christmas
James. / Twitter/Instagram: @JSchofTraining
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