Top 5 Arm Toning Exercises

Toning the arms, like the legs, is one of the most sought after women’s fitness information on the internet. I am constantly getting emails asking how to tone the arms. Here are the top 5 exercises for toning your arms.

Toning Muscles

As I have said many times before, if you want to get a toned muscle you need to lose fat. If you have built some nice muscles but there is a layer of fat covering it then you will never have the firm, defined muscle that you so desire.

However, weight training is a big part of muscle toning too. Not only does it build the actual muscles that you want to show off, but it speeds up the weight loss process so they get toned faster.

So, if you want to tone a muscle you need to remember these things:

  • Weight training is essential;
  • You need to lose the fat covering the muscle;
  • Cardio and a good diet are essential;
  • The right exercises are second in importance to doing the exercises right.

Arm Toning Exercises

Top 5 Arm Toning Exercises

Here are my favorite exercises for working the arms and getting them nice and toned. I use them myself and get many of my clients to do the same.

NB – When I talk about toning the arms I mean the biceps and the triceps. I will not be looking at forearms or shoulders in this post.

1 – Barbell Bicep Curls

This should be the core bicep exercise in your bicep routine. It allows you to go heavy and is one of the easiest to do in terms of getting the technique correct.

How to – Stand with feet shoulder width apart and lift up the bar bell. Lift up your chest so that your shoulders are lower than your chest but your back is still straight. Curl the bar bell up to just above your pectoral muscles and slowly lower back down.

It is of paramount importance that your elbows do not move during this exercise. Make sure they stay solid next to your side.

2 – Skull Crushers

This is a tricep exercise that will pack on the progress if you do it correctly. If you don’t, it might pack on the injuries!

How to – Lie on a flat bench and take light bar bell. Lift the weight over your head with your palms facing the roof. Now shift the weight backwards so if you were to drop it it would land on the floor behind your head and so that your triceps are pointing behind you instead of straight up. In this fixed position, lift the weight up until you have a straight arm and then lower it slowly until you get a deep stretch.

This is one of my all time favorite triceps exercises and has allowed me to make some significant growth.

3 – Alternate Dumb Bell Curl

The alternate dumb bell curl is a great biceps exercise as it allows you to focus on one arm at a time and gives the other arm a rest. For this reason you can handle more weight and perfect your technique at the same time.

How to – Take two dumb bells and stand with your back straight. Assuming the same position as in the bar bell curl, curl one dumb bell up to your shoulder as if you were trying to curl it PAST your shoulder. This gives a tighter contraction. Slowly lower the dumb bell and rotating it until it is in the resting position by your side, lift the other weight at the same time.

Tip – Make sure this exercise is down slowly and with extra control.

4 – Close Grip Bench Press

This exercise allows you to use a heavy weight in a safe way. However, it is slightly more tricky to perform than it looks.

How to – Take a medium bar bell and lie on a flat bench. Push the bar bell up until you arms are locked and then lower it down slowly. Just before it hits your chest push it up quickly with a little bouncing motion for about two inches. This short stop and bounce stops your chest muscles coming into play here and keeps the weight on your triceps. It’s a great secret.

5 – Cable Curls

As you know I’m not a big fan of exercise equipment but the cables allowed me to build my biceps so fast I got stretch marks at one point! This exercise has been core in my biceps routine for a long time.

How to – It is exactly the same as the bar bell curl but there is a constant tension on your muscles because the cable is always trying to pull the weight back down. For this reason you will fid it much harder to handle a lot of weight. Remember to keep your elbows still and your chest up.

Those are the top 5 exercises for toning the arms. What other favorites do you use?

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. Christine N says:

    I can’t really do skull crushers (mild scoliosis, a trainer advised me to avoid them). Any other suggestions for triceps?

  2. RT says:

    Skull crushers can do that sometimes. I’d stick to the pushing motions for triceps like close grip bench press, tricep pushdowns, etc. Hope it gets better!

  3. lilly says:

    For a woman is it bad for the shoulder joint to raise dumb bell weights over your head? As in holding the dumbell at shoulder ht. then raising your arm straight up over your head and back down repeatedly. I was told that tears up the shoulder joint. Thank you for your response.

  4. Anastasia says:

    I want to lost about 25-30 lbs b4 swimsuit season. How do I tone up and slim down in about 20 weeks? PLEASE HELP!!!

    • Chiara says:

      Hi Anastasia! I’ve lost 15 pounds in only 6 weeks without stepping foot in a gym. How? Very simple. I changed my eating habits. I’ve completely cut sodas and juices out of my daily lifestyle. The amount of sugars in sodas and juices is unnecessary. Water is all natural and has helped improve my skin, and how I feel throughout the day. I haven’t completely cut out carbs, but it helps if you skim it down to once a week. Make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Also, cardio is great for fat loss. There are tons of workout routines on youtube that you can try out. I’m sure you’ll do great!

  5. Dana-Marie says:

    I want to tone up my thighs but NOTHING wroks!!! I NEED HELP NOW!!!

  6. Hailey says:

    Anastasia: I am by no means an expert, but I have consistently lost an inch off my waist for the last three weeks, and I don’t mind sharing how. First off, make sure you’re eating healthy. Try to take in 5 servings of vegetables a day, and consider cutting meat from four meals a week. Secondly, take up running. I’ve been running on the elliptical for about a mile, and it’s drastically improved my fitness level. Try to do so three days a week to start with. And most of all, you need to weight train. Try working your arms and abs one day, your back and legs two days later, and your chest and abs two days after that. Good luck!

  7. me says:

    how do you run on an elliptical? What level would this be considering “running”? Thanks!

  8. Ashley says:

    I know nothing about weight training and would like to know the fastest, easiest and most efficient way to tone up for summer.

  9. sherry says:

    hi i was wondering about what size bar bells in total would i need to use to tone my upper arms and lose weight off them,i have a total of 8 pounds but 4 lbs on each arm but i am afraid that might make my arms bigger which i dont want bigger arms or to build muscle i want to tone more and lose weight off them. i was told by my sister to tone and not get bigger 2 pounds for each arm? and do 3 sets of 15 ? if u could answer this would be great!

  10. Lorraine says:

    I have been advised to use 2kg weights for toning my arms and my friend has been advised to use 3kg and has moved up quickly to 4kg. Can you tell me what I should be doing to tone but not build muscle.

  11. Csheroan says:


    The best way to slim down is cardio and limiting yourself to a calorie counting food diary. You can go to and find out the right calories for you. Also, you need to make sure you eat a low fat diet but make sure you are eating enough protein and staying w/in an equal amount of carb to protein diet. Increasing your cardio and still making sure you get in a toning muscle workout will help to.

  12. shell says:


    I “run” on the elliptical all the time. It is great for people who have bad knees and dont necessarily want to pound the pavement…or the treadmill. I have found that the elliptical actually burns more calories than both the treadmill and the stairmaster, but I like to alternate between the 3 for variety.


    I think the amount of weight you use depends on your body type. I personally have long limbs and don/t think I could bulk even if I wanted to. To tone my arms I use 10 lb dumb bells or a 20 lb barbell for curls. The secret to longer leaner muscles is less weight and more reps, but I/m not sure 2 lbs is going to do anything…

  13. Savannah says:

    As far as I know no one has brought this up, so just to let everyone know: you should Never, I mean Never Ever lock Anything. Never lock your joints for any reason whatsoever. Very bad idea.

  14. Mercedes says:

    I am wondering how many sets and reps you should do of each of thses excersizes. Thanks

  15. Naester says:

    Definitly the key to losing weight is eating 6 small meals,protein with each meal(fish, chicken, small amounts of cheese, nuts, pbutter etc)lots of vegetables and fruit

    water is for sure important

    NO: fast food, pop, chips, chocolate, alcohol is huge…have one day designated to your cheat day but dont over do it and purge on all the bad foods. no processed foods (sauces, boxed and premade food)

    Cardio is huge, you can weight train all you want but to lose weight you need to get rid of the fat over your muscles.

    Leaning your muscles out for more definition, high reps like 12-15/ 4 sets and lighter weight like start with 5 or 10 and increase the weight per set, example start with 5 pounds then by the last set build up to 7.5 or 10 or 12.5 pound weights

    try doing a 2-4 day split for muscles

    4 day split example do:
    back and biceps
    chest and triceps
    shoulders and calves
    quads and hamstrings
    doing abs everday or every other day

    2 day split:

    upper body exercises
    lower body exercises

    abs and cardio

    Hope this helps!

  16. bob says:

    i have found this web sit very useful and a 1st

  17. geraldine says:

    I am 66years old, thin and have rheumatiod arthritis in hands and wrists and not able to lift any heavy weights, are there any excercises I can doto improve flabby arms.
    with thanks Geraldine

  18. hannah says:

    hey yall, i really wanted to tone up my arms because they look like twigs (i’m sorry but they do) i’ve tried all of these and none of them are working, any suggestions?

  19. Mary says:


    I too have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am 68, my arms looked like I was 108, the muscles in my arms were just withered away.
    The Dr. suggested I go for Physio therapy. I thought to myself I can do this on my own.
    I started with 2 tins of tomatoes ha ha , then advanced to 2lb weights. Now I’m using 5lb weights. You wouldn’t believe how I’ve build up my arms in about 1 month.
    I too have bad RA it in my hands and wrists but it doesn’t seem to make them any worse. I might add, I couldn’t lift my arms above my shoulders now I can put them right straight up over my head.
    Please give it a go you will be amazed.
    I feel for you.

  20. crystal says:

    kay so i want to start eating healthy for life, im picky but if you know any protein foods, vitamin foods, fat-free foods, or any healthy foods or drinks please give me a heavty list , im sort of knew to this whole thing …. etc thanks :D

  21. Ruth says:

    Does anyone know how to get rid of flabby arm fat?


  22. Ruth says:

    Can anyone help me? i have fat flabby arms and I like to know which exercises who help me lose that flabbiness.


  23. preeti jain says:

    i want to slim my arms and want to loose fat on there any exercise which works

  24. za says:

    i lost the use of my left hand in a car accident. As a result, im disabled on my left wrist, and i cant grip anything with my fingers.
    the muscles in my entire left arm are starting to waste away.
    i used to swim alot, and havent really done this or any other excercise in a while.
    i want to start working out asap, and want to know what i can do to develop stronger muscles in my left arm (upper and fore arm). i can grip small weights with my right arm, and am thinking about using the small strap on weights on my left wrist. Would you advise this?? I really need all the advise i can get. please help! i would like to build and tone my arm muscles.

  25. donna says:

    I have post polio syndrome with extreme weakness in my upper arms. I can hardly put on my own coat. I see these programs above & know I cannot do them. I want to get stronger, but how?

  26. ramya says:

    i have to lose my arm fat i m going to gym but suddenly it grows bigger. now i have stopped doing dumbbells. what i have to do?

  27. dawn hillman says:

    this actually site could use pictures, just to make sure of the right positioning of sum of the routines.

  28. everly says:

    please show us a lot of pictures. thakns

  29. j.t.ferman says:

    in the mighty words of kurt donald cobain the first YAY!!!!!!

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