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5 Moves to Tone Your Arms

Tighten your triceps—and more—with these arm-toning moves.

Medically reviewed in February 2020

Updated on March 15, 2022

a middle aged white woman spreads her arms in a yoga pose and looks to the sky
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Ever wish you could spot-tone certain parts of your body when you work out, whether your waist, thighs, or arms? Alas, it’s not possible to reduce fat only in certain areas, but—as part of an overall cardiovascular workout routine—you target certain zones for special attention. Add these exercises—targeting your shoulders, chest, triceps, biceps, and forearms—to your workout routine to strenghten and firm your arms.

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How to get started

When doing any type of workout, it’s important to use proper form to prevent injury. You can check out online videos from Sharecare’s certified fitness trainers, or visit a trainer at your local gym to get started.

Most of these exercises include using dumbbells, so which weight should you choose? A lot depends on your fitness level and your individual goals. It may take a bit of trial and error to find the right combo for you. Keep in mind that for the exercises involving dumbbells, you’ll want to choose a weight that allows you to perform 8 to 12 repetitions, with two to four sets of each. You can always begin with a lighter weight and move up to a heavier one. Perform these exercises at least two times per week on nonconsecutive days. Allow at least two days of rest between workouts.

Now, it’s time to get started!

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Pushups

All you need for this basic move is a floor surface that’s comfortable enough to push against (or kneel on, if you’re doing a modified version).

Muscles worked: pectorals (chest), anterior deltoids (shoulders), triceps

How to: Get into a plank position with your legs extended straight back and feet together. Place your hands directly under your shoulders, your fingers facing forward, your arms straight. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor, being sure to keep your back, ribcage, butt, and thighs tightened. Keep your elbows tightly hugged to the sides of your body as much as possible. Once you’ve lowered down so that your chest or chin have touched the floor, press on your hands and arms and straighten your elbows to come up. The downward and upward movement completes one push-up. If that’s too difficult, you can do the push-up with your knees bent on the ground.

Do 8 to 12 repetitions, two to four times each, then work your way up to more when you’re ready.

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Triceps dips

Another equipment-free, do-anywhere move is the triceps dip. All you need is a stable bench, chair, or couch.

Muscles worked: triceps

How to: Start by sitting on a bench or stable chair with your palms on the edge—your hands should be on either side of your hips and your fingers hanging over the edge. Put your feet together and extend your legs directly out in front of you or keep them bent. Move your butt off the bench, then bend your arms at the elbows and lower your hips toward the ground (you don’t need to reach the ground). Push yourself back up using your hands instead of your legs, to complete one full move.

Do 8 to 12 repetitions, two to four times each.

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Overhead presses

Overhead presses can be done standing (shown) or seated. You’ll need a set of dumbbells for this one.

Muscles worked: deltoids (shoulders), biceps, triceps, abs

How-to: Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lift them to shoulder height (shown). With your palms facing forward, press the dumbbells overhead so that your elbows are straight. Then slowly bend your elbows and lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

Do 8 to 12 repetitions, two to four times each.

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Tricep extensions

This isolation move is effective for toning the backs of your arms.

Muscles worked: triceps, forearms, latissimus dorsi (upper arm and lower back)

How to: Stand with one foot a couple of feet in front of the other in a split-stance position. Hold a dumbbell of equal weight in each hand, or hold one heavier dumbbell with both hands. Start with elbows bent and the dumbbells held behind your head (shown). Slowly press the dumbbells overhead so that your arms are straight; keep them as close to your ears as possible. Bend your elbows again, lowering the dumbbells to the starting position. If done correctly, you should especially feel this in the backs of your arms.    

Do 8 to 12 repetitions, two to four times each.

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Triceps kickbacks

Triceps kickbacks can be done at the gym or at home. Just grab a dumbbell and you’re ready to go.

Muscles worked: rear deltoid (shoulder), triceps, abs

How to: Hold a dumbbell in your right hand while propping your left knee on an exercise bench with your right foot on the floor; place your left hand on the bench. Slightly bend forward and pull your shoulder blades down and back. Bend your elbow, bringing your right upper arm parallel to your torso. Slowly straighten your arm behind you, lifting it as high as you comfortably can. Bend your elbow again to return to the starting position. To work the targeted muscles, your upper arm must remain stationary as you perform this move. If you don’t have a bench, do the move while standing in the split-stance position, with one foot a couple of feet in front of the other. Slightly bend forward, keeping your back straight. Switch sides after you’ve completed one set.

Do 8 to 12 repetitions on each side, two to four times each.

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