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Personal Trainers’ 6 Favorite Arm-Toning Exercises

DC fitness experts share the secrets to getting muscular arms the natural way.

A recent report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that arm lifts were the most popular plastic surgery procedure in 2012. Personal trainers say it's possible to get toned and muscular arms with the right exercises. Photograph via Shutterstock.

Blame it on Michelle Obama: The most popular plastic surgery of 2012 was the arm lift. Last year 15,000 US women went under the knife to remove loose skin from the backs of their arms. That’s a 4,478 percent increase in the rate of that surgery in the past decade.

For the rest of us who would rather get killer arms the natural—and less painful—way, local personal trainers are here to help. We rounded up six of their go-to arm-toning exercises for you to try next time you’re at the gym.

Tricep Dips

A favorite among a majority of the fitness pros we polled, bench dips work the triceps and are ideal because they can be performed almost anywhere, says trainer Elizabeth Brooks.

How to do it: Place your hands behind you on the edge of a steady chair or bench and keep knees bent. Bend elbows to 90 degrees (dip). Extend the elbows to starting position and repeat. (For more of a challenge, straighten your legs.)

Photograph via Shutterstock.

Dumbbell Kickback

A top choice for Misook Issa of Peloton Cycling, dumbbell kickbacks are an isolation exercise that work the triceps.

How to do it: Holding dumbbells in both hands, stand with feet together and knees slightly bent. Bend at the waist and start with elbows bent at 90 degrees. Extend your arms behind you and repeat.

Photograph courtesy of Flickr user campdarby.

Rope Grip Inverted Row

Called a “self-limiting” exercise because it’s hard to go wrong, an inverted row targets the arms, shoulders, and core, says Josef Brandenburg of the Body You Want.

How to do it: Using a TRX suspension trainer or a rope hanging from a steady surface, grasp the ends and get yourself in a supine position hanging from the ropes. Pull your chest to your hands. Return to starting position and repeat.

Photograph via Shutterstock.


Devin Maier of Balance Gym says a pushup is relatively easy to perform once you get the form down. Not only do pushups work multiple arm muscle groups, but they also engage the core, chest, and back.

How to do it: Perform modified pushups on your knees or from a secured elevated object, such as the back of a chair or bench. Progress to a regular pushup, and avoid dipping or raising your hips. (For help, consult our guides to Four Different Ways to Do a Pushup and How to Perfect Your Form.)

Photograph via Shutterstock.

Turkish Get Up

“This works your arms from nearly every conceivable angle,” says Brandenburg. Bonus: the Turkish Get Up is also a full-body exercise.

How to do it: Lie on your back with your right arm behind you holding a kettlebell. Sit up slowly and then stand, keeping your right arm extended with the kettlebell remaining above your head. Slowly return to supine position and repeat.

Photograph via Shutterstock.


Contrary to popular belief, with some consistent training the majority of us can do a pullup. Like the pushup, pullups work opposing muscle groups and engage the core and back, says Maier.

How to do it: An assisted pullup machine is the easiest way to build up strength until you can progress to a full pullup. (Consult our guide on How to Do a Better Pullup.)

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  • Sorry , read too fast, it was number 1

  • I was surprised not to see dips ?

  • Yes, I hear brachioplasty is up, however breast augmentation and liposuction are still most the most sought procedures in my practice. Ms Obama, the latest in women to emulate, does have well toned arms. I think one might have to work out a little to get those arms, however. Well toned with nice biceps. Lift weights, ladies. Brachioplasty is a helpful surgery for people who have lost a large amount of weight. And yes, it does leave a scar. I still say, stick with being the best YOU possible, and that may mean working out in addition to surgical procedures. Good post!

    Dr Rhys Branman
    Little Rock Cosmetic Surgery Center

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