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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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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