When people look to get in shape and tone up, one of the most popular areas of the body to target are arms. This can be one of the first things people notice when they see you, especially if you often wear t-shirts and vests.
Stronger and more toned arms can also change your life in terms of being able to lift things easier, becoming more confident, feeling great and dealing with physical impact much better, which can lead to fewer injuries. However, many people struggle to develop their arms as a result of a few common mistakes. So, how do you overcome this? What are the key points when it comes to toning your arms so that you can look and feel great for life?
The biggest priority when you are looking to tone any part of your body, let alone your arms, is resistance training. Many people make the mistake of trying to do different things around it, such as running with weights and going to exercise classes, and though you may see some toning, it is nowhere near as effective as resistance training sessions.
This does not mean that resistance training has to take over your life, far from it, but it needs to be a priority if you want to tone your arms. So, two to three sessions per week are going to be ideal for your goal. During your sessions, aim to combine your arm training with exercises for other muscle groups. Good examples include doing an upper body workout which includes exercises for your biceps and triceps, or training back and biceps one day and then chest, shoulders and triceps the next.
The great thing about this is that you can indirectly work your arms while doing other exercises, particularly compound movements, that do not specifically target them. For example, chin/pull ups and barbell/dumbbell rows, while mainly working your back, also work your biceps, while bench press and overhead barbell press can work your triceps, as well as your chest and shoulders. You can also train arms (biceps and triceps) as a standalone session if preferred.
So, do your resistance training sessions, combine other muscle groups during your workouts and you will see a greater breakdown of the muscles, which will lead to more toning.
When you are training, it is absolutely essential that you do so with the right technique. Resistance training is not all about lifting heavy and hoping you will get more toned. The reality is that if you are not performing each exercise with the correct form, your progress is going to be hindered significantly. And if you are not able to feel the target muscle group working, the likelihood is that you are not executing the exercise properly.
Technique is so important, not just so that you can hit the target muscle(s) to maximum effect, but also to prevent injury. Many people end up doing damage to their body when they focus more on lifting too heavy, too early rather than first focusing on the correct execution, particularly on the heavy barbell compound lifts, such as deadlifts, squats and bench press. So, execution is essential for results and injury prevention.
If you are unsure about the correct technique, hiring a coach or doing some research in your spare time are two great options to help you progress quicker and more safely, as well as improving your knowledge of each exercise.
Push Yourself With The Correct Tempo
When you work out, it is very important that you push yourself and not just stroll through the session. If you do not work your body during your training, you will see limited progression in a number of areas, such as fat loss (due to a fewer number of calories burned), muscle gain, strength, fitness and enjoyment. This is particularly evident when you look to tone your arms. While it will be easy to add muscle when you don’t have much initially, if you want to develop them more, you have to train with intensity.
How can you do this? Aside from performing effective exercises and nailing your execution, make sure your tempo (the speed at which you lift) is slow and controlled, so that you maximise time under tension, which encourages muscle development and growth.
Also make sure that you are lifting an appropriate weight for your strength levels – go off the reading of performing ten reps, with the last few being challenging – and then gradually work up from there as you get stronger. Adding in advanced training systems (supersets, drop sets, tri sets, giant sets) can also be effective at a later stage, particularly if you are struggling to break through strength barriers.
Finally, to fully maximise arm toning, you need to combine your training with the correct nutrition. This means getting 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, which is vital in the process of muscle recovery and repair when you are looking to build more muscle or tone your body. It has ‘building blocks’ called amino acids that the body uses to build and repair muscles and bones, in addition to making hormones and enzymes. Protein is also essential for retaining the muscle you have already gained and can be used as an energy source.
Furthermore, you need to make sure that your calorie intake is aligned with your overall goals. If this is fat loss, you need to be in a daily calorie deficit (burning more calories than you consume) of 400-500, while if you are looking to add more muscle, you will need to be in a daily calorie surplus (burning more calories than you consume) of 400-500.
If you are a beginner with not much muscle tissue, you will be able to build some muscle and tone your arms in a calorie deficit. However, if you already have some muscle tissue and are looking to add more, a calorie surplus may well be what you need. Be sure to also add plenty of slow-releasing carbohydrates into your diet, so that your energy is high during workouts and that the glycogen stores within your body are replenished, which is important for adding muscle and toning up.
So, to develop and tone your arms, you need to prioritise resistance training two to four times per week, with a mixture of compound lifts and isolation exercises that target the biceps and triceps included in your sessions.
You must also make sure that you are executing each exercise correctly, pushing yourself during your workouts, and backing up your training with a protein-rich diet that is aligned to your goals. Do this consistently, and you will notice great development in your arms when it comes to toning.
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