Should You Use Heavy Weights For Toned Women’s Arms?

Heavy weight toned armsShould women use heavy weights to tone their arms?

I am often asked by women whether they should use heavy weights when they are trying to tone their arms. This is a popular issue here at Real Women’s Fitness and one that many women seem to be misinformed about. Here are some things you should know about toning your arms and using heavy weights.

How do you tone your arms?

If you want to tone your arms there are a few things you need to know. Knowing these things is important because it will save you a lot of time and effort. And, if you think you already know these things then you should continue to remind yourself of how important they are so you don’t get frustrated later on.

To tone your arms you need to remember these things:

1. Fat loss is paramount
If you want toned arms you need to lose the fat. It is the fat that covers them that makes the arm not toned in the first place. It is the fat that gives the arms the wobble and the soft feel.

So, if you want to tone your arms so that they are firm and defined then you need to get into a weight loss program where you will lose fat off of your entire body. Remember, you cannot lose fat off of just one part of your body. If you want to lose the fat on your triceps then you need to lose fat off of your whole body.

2. Weight training is necessary to build the arm muscles
After you have lost the fat off of your arms you want there to be some muscle to show. This is why weight training is important because it builds the arm muscles to a point where the muscles become visible.

Also, weight training is important because it helps you burn fat. Fat and muscle do no co-exist together and the muscle will always win. The more muscle you have on your arms the less fat you will have.

Also, weight training boosts your metabolism so you will not store as many calories as fat during the day. This is an important advantage of weight training that many women overlook.

So should women use heavy weights?
The answer is YES! Women should use heavy weights on a regular basis, especially if they are trying to tone their arms. Here are the reasons why.

1. You won’t get bulky
Women are worried about getting bulky but due to the lack of testosterone this will not happen. However, for those women who WANT to get bulky there are ways to do it. It involved high amounts of protein and a very specific type of training. For the rest of you though, you do not have to worry about heavy weights making you bulky. Besides, even if you do find yourself getting a bit bigger than you would like you just cut back on the weights and increase your cardio.

2. Heavy weights build muscles faster
Every time you weight train the muscle tears slightly. When it re-builds you get muscle growth. This muscle growth happens a lot faster when you use heavy weights. And, as we have already learned the more muscles you have the less fat you will have so this is a positive for arm toning results.

So, put the light weights and high reps aside and start working out with heavy weights and low reps. Start pushing your muscles at the gym so they feel challenged and respond by growing. Light weights are doing nothing to tone your arms.

About Katie

Katie has transformed her body from a flabby 186lbs, to a fit & toned 124 pounds through healthy diet and exercise. Katie joined the Lean Curves team in 2007 and has posted hundreds of articles on fitness, fat loss and healthy eating.


  1. Billie says:

    Yep. Ever since I started reading this blog I’ve been using heavy weights. And, Im not bulky, Im more toned and Im much stronger. Thanks and great post.

  2. RT says:

    Glad to hear Billie! So many women think it is going to make them bulky without realizing you can cut back as soon as you hit your target size.

  3. Nessajane says:

    I tend to carry excess weight on my arms whereas my overweight friend doesn’t. I guess it all comes down to the gene pool lottery.

    So the realisation has come, I must lose the extra weight I am carrying before I can have nice arms. Okay I can do that. Now to get stuck back into the weights.

  4. RT says:

    Hi Nessajane.
    Yeah, a lot has to do with genetics but there are even more things you can do to change your current condition. Give the heavy weights, explosive cardio and healthy eating a try and you’ll see heaps of difference.

  5. jennifer says:

    yah ok well i weight lift with 10 pound dum bells and was scarred i was gonna bulk up to cause im scene results now im gonna workout with 15 pounders ok ill let you know how it goes thanks alot you really heiped me with my question

  6. TAMMY SMITH says:


  7. nat says:

    I dont know about everyone else, but I been training with 5 lbs dumbells for the last month to thin down my arms and i progressivly added a whole inch to my 11 inches of already fat arms, so what the $%%, i hate weights! Im not going to use them anymore!

  8. RT says:

    Hi Nat.

    An inch is a huge amount when it comes to bodybuilding. Most men would kill for gains like that.

    Are you sure the added size has nothing to do with added fat? I haven’t seen anything like this before – it usually takes women a lot more to add size.


  9. Alyssa says:

    I’m in the weight loss phase – I do lots of cardio and spend about 15-20 minutes weight lifting focusing on the arms. Should I not be weight lifting until I’ve lost the weight or can I do what I am doing – spend the majority of my workout in cardio and a bit of time weight lifting. I am challenging myself with the weights and really pushing it…but I’m concerned my arms are going to still be big b/c they are fat only with muscle built up. I want small toned arms. Thanks!

  10. jessica says:

    I’d like to add that no matter how much weight you are lifting, unless you are pushing your muscles, you aren’t going to see much progress in strength and muscle gain. For example, for bicep curls right now I can only do 2 sets of 10 with a 12.5 lb weight – that 11th rep just isn’t going to happen! When I can do more than my chosen number of reps…then its time to increase the weight. Also, each muscle and/or muscle group in your body will have varying strength. Just because i can curl 12.5lbs doesn’t mean I can/have to lift that much when doing triceps.

  11. jaleen says:

    I loved your site. I’ve been strentgh training for about 8 months now and have never had more women comment on my body. One thing that you didn’t mention was form. I think that that is one of the most imortant factors when it comes to lifting free weights. One other thing amoung many that I love about heavy weights is if I let it go for a while it only takes me one week to get back my fantastic results. Both in my mind and body.

  12. Jann says:

    nat I have been doing pump class for 6 weeks twice a week and my bicept tricept area is bigger…which I don’t want .

  13. Kellye says:

    I have just started working with weights and this article answered my exact qeustion. I am quite thin and fit (do cardio everyday and eat right) but have no definition in my arms so I needed to know if I should use light weights/high reps or heavy weights/low reps. Now I know! Thanks. Now, I need to know what are the best weight exercises to get that cut triangle at the upper arm???

  14. belle says:

    I am not convinced by this, because I do a workout a few times a week with lots of heavy weights and press ups every night and I have broad shoulders and big arm muscles. I also do a lot of swimming, but I am not a top competitor, so I don’t have a huge training schedule. I like my broad shoulders, but if you don’t want them, be aware that women can get broad, muscular shoulders without exercising like a trojan.

  15. Jeanine says:

    Thank you sooooo much for this info. A few years ago, a fitness trainer told me that women should use low weight with a lot of reps. The clarification is greatly appreciated.

  16. 1959r says:

    So If I us a 10 pound hand weights on each hand to tone up my arms I wont get

  17. susan says:

    Hi, can I use 15 pound hand weights or should I stay with 10 pounds and how many reps should l be doing also can l do it everyday or every second day? thanks

  18. Siobhan Connelly says:

    Ok well I have lost tons of weight! 120lbs and I am getting more toned arms… now what do I do with all the extra skin and fat that wont go away!

  19. Jo says:

    Hi, I just want to know what weight should I start with to tone my arms? 5, 8 or 10 lb. hand weights?

  20. Katie says:

    My question is this: I work out about 6 days a week and am not looking to lose weight. I do about an hour and a half of cardio and about 30 minutes weight training. As for the weight training, I do four sets of 16 reps working various arm muscles/groups (biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, back, etc.) and 50 pushups. I always use 10-12 pound weights. I don’t want to “bulk up”, but I do want better arm definition and tone. I have been doing this (the weight training aspect) for about 6 months now and although my arms are more toned than they were, I want them to be better defined. Should I move to using 15 pound weights and doing fewer reps? Thanks!

  21. Kristin says:

    I have recently started lifting with a personal training to get in shape for my wedding next September. However, I went for a dress measurement again this past weekend, and in the past 6 weeks, I have gained 1.5 inches in the bust area, 2 inches right below the bust area, and an inch in the hips. Also, my weight has gone up about 2-3 pounds. I took it to my trainer, and he was as confused as me. Any advice on what to do?


  22. kate says:

    Kristin – you gained fat, simple! You need to look at your diet, any medication your on, or if there is a medical reason.
    it is impossible for weight training to make your bust bigger – your breasts are made fo fat so if they have got bigger, you have gained fat. As was pointed out above, gains of several inches in 6 weeks are practically unheard of for women. I think you really need to look at your diet – weight training is a great exercise but you need to eat right too, and perhaps add a few sessions of cardio (ideally interval training) weekly.
    As for all the things people are saying about ‘getting bulky’ – it is nonsense. The only exception, is that women following a regular weight training program will probably get slightly broader, more toned shoulders, but this will come with a slimmer, more toned figure all over. Personally, I love having broader, toned shoulders – it makes my waist and hips look smaller, and gives me an athletic look.
    High reps, low weights is a waste of time, in my opinion. It will build endurance but ‘toning’ is a bit of a myth. Your body only knows how to gain muscle or lose fat – there is no ‘toning’ setting. Say it was possible to subtly ‘tone’ or ‘shape’ a muscle – you wouldn’t even be able to see it under the layers of fat. For your arms to be visibly toned and defined, you need to build muscle (and lose fat) and to do that you need to continually challenge yourself with heavy weights (and lose fat all over if you need to).
    Women simply do not have the genetic capacity to get big and bulky because we have a fraction of the testosterone levels of men – and even men struggle to gain muscle.
    You will not wake up one day looking like Arnie. You might be thinking of female bodybuilders – honestly, they do not look like that by accident. Many of them are on steroids, and all of them follow specific intensive diet and weights regimes. For shows, they drop to abnormally low body fat levels which makes their muscles look even more ‘cut’ and defined.
    Look at off-season competitors in the ‘natural’ contests – they look lean and toned. And how about female olympic weightlifters – whose objective is strength rather than a muscular appearance -many of them are tiny, lithe and lean.
    Also- to the lady who said she was lifting weights to ‘thin her arms’ – it is impossible to ‘spot reduce’. Lifting weights won’t make your arms thinner, doing sit ups won’t give you a flat stomach, doing leg exercises won’t give you lean legs. Your body knows how to build muscle, and lose fat – that’s it – your body shape is what is is, and your aim should be to be the best possible version of your body type. If you want thinner, more toned arms you need to lose fat all over through diet and some cardio, and lift weights.
    Please don’t be put off by any negative comments ladies, lifting weights is one of the best forms of exercise you can do.

  23. Melissa says:

    Kristin – were you on or about to go on your period? Could you be pregnant? I know when I would go for fittings on my period, my waist/bust measurement would be off an inch or two.

  24. melisssa says:

    I have started lifting weights and i wanted to get the expertise of the ladies here. I am a tall slender woman with a weak upper body. I was wondering what would be normal to expect in the upcoming months. Can you add several inches to the pecs and lats? i know you cant spot train, but if you lower body is developed, can working out the upper body even out the whole look of the body?

  25. Katy says:

    You ladies worry to much!! I love the toned muscular look, my arms are muscular but not at all manly! Lift heavy and about 3 sets of 10-12 to failure, you won’t bulk up-just look great!!

  26. Liz says:

    I agree with Kate 100%.. Spot on!

  27. karen says:

    I agree with tammy that a woman can bulk up with heavy weights!

  28. jc says:


    Women simply do not have the testosterone needed to “bulk up” like men do…BUT I strongly believe that weight training results for women varies depending on genetic background.
    We’re talking strictly muscle growth, not fat, not water retention, just muscle growth.
    Of course if you are building muscle underneath an existing layer of fat on your arms, your arms will obviously look bigger.
    You need to LOSE FAT in order to show your hard work underneath…

    Example? I’m about 15 lbs overweight right now (for me), but have been strength training for 7 years or so. My weight has always fluctuated…at one point i was a size 3 and very toned…and my arms were SMALL!!! Never in my life did I think I could get them that small and toned because I will lose fat everywhere else but my arms have always been the hardest area for me to lose weight.

    You cannot spot reduce.

    Lose fat overall, work with weights and change up your routine every few weeks, eat SUPER clean…and you will see change.

    At the end of the day the ultimate goal should be health, and strength…once you start focusing on those aspects, everything else will fall into place.

    And be thankful you HAVE arms.

  29. priyanka says:

    I was confused with the weights, and the reps, as we all are. Now I have also increased the weights to being 5kgs each as a free weight. Is it fine for me being a lady of 30 yrs. Please help.
    And yeah, thanks, nice blog.

  30. Jan Anrews says:

    I am a senior citien,started arm lifting weights 8 weeks ago. no changes in bicepts yet but will keep it up. enjoyed your site. Thank You

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