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Tips for Toning Your Arms

Menopause & Aging Well

After women reach their 40s, muscle mass in the arms may begin to decrease. Whether you loathe wobbly arms or don't mind a little extra flab, you should know that toning the arms isn't just a vanity issue, because strength is associated with healthy aging and body weight.

Arm-strengthening exercises have the added benefit of working the muscles in your lower back and shoulders, which may lead to better posture. Also, strength-training exercises are known to help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures.

It may be a good idea to invest in two sets of dumbbells, depending on your current strength. Sets of three- to five-pound weights are ideal for beginners, and you should move up to eight- to 10-pound dumbbells when you feel comfortable. A lightweight alternative that's also good for travel is a resistance band, a rubber device that can be stretched and pulled to tone muscles.

Plan on doing arm exercises two or three times per week on nonconsecutive days for optimal results. Aim to do two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, taking short breaks in between.

If you're using dumbbells or hand weights, you can simultaneously strengthen your abs and arms with the sit-up pullover. For this exercise, begin by lying on your back with knees bent and arms extended overhead, holding the weights. Engage your abs and slowly curl up, bringing your arms over your head to your knees. Hold this pose for a second or two, then reverse the movement.

The overhead triceps extension may help firm up the underarm, a common problem area. Begin standing with feet hip-width apart and a weight in one hand, arm extended overhead. You can stabilize the weight-bearing arm by holding the elbow with your opposite hand. Slowly bend your extended arm downward, then bring it back up. Do this for both arms.

It's easy to do a biceps curl using a resistance band. Just secure the band under your feet while standing with feet hip-width apart, and hold the ends of the band in each hand. You can increase or decrease resistance by wrapping excess material around the hands. Keep your elbows in and slowly curl the arms up, engaging the biceps. It's important to keep your shoulders stabilized while doing this exercise—only the elbows should move.

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