Women’s Beginner Arm Toning Workout

Every woman who writes to me seems to want toned arms. In this post I will go through some of the basics of an arms toning workout and then put it all together in a routine that you can take to the gym.

The Essentials of Arm Toning

If you have only just found this site then there are a few things we talk about over and over that you need to know when you are trying to tone your arms.

1 – To tone a muscle you need to lose fat
This is the big essential tip that you need to learn from this post. Arm toning is not possible without losing fat. And, sadly, it is not possible to lose fat off of only your arms. This means that if you want to tone your arms you need to start a weight loss program that will help you lose weight off of your whole body.

It is only when your body has a low body fat percentage that your muscles will start to shine through as defined and firm. So, weight loss is just as important as muscle gain when it comes to arm toning.

Women arm toning workout

2 – You need to work with weights to build muscle
On the other side of the equation is it the muscle that you build that shows through whatever fat you have on your arm. The bigger the muscles the better they will show through.

Many women worry about getting bulky but this isn’t really a concern as women do not have the necessary testosterone to get big. However, if you WANT to get big there are many ways to do it but that is for another post.

3 – You need to work with heavy weights
If anyone at your gym tells you to use light weights with high reps to tone your arms then I want you to spit on their shoes! Just kidding. Working out with lighter weights and higher reps is a bad rumor that we should all ignore.

The reason is simple. When you weight train your break your muscles slightly and them rebuilding is muscle growth. Heavy weights obviously stresses them more and will amount to more muscles being torn and rebuilt. Heavy weights will also speed up your metabolism which in turn will burn more fat thus helping you tone your arms.

The exercises for the workout
The exercises you will be using for your arm toning workout are simple weight lifting exercises that are done with free weights (bar bells and dumb bells). They are:


1 – Bar bell curl
Standing with your feet shoulder width apart grab a bar bell about shoulder width apart. With your elbows locked firmly to a position by your side, lift the weight up using your biceps to the top of your chest. Lower it slowly down without moving your elbows and repeat.

2 – Alternate dumb bell curl
Standing with feet shoulder width apart grab two dumb bells and let them rest at your side. Tensing your bicep curl one dumb bell up and twist it so that when the dumb bell reaches it’s top position near your shoulder your palm is facing your shoulder. As you lower this dumb bell down to it’s starting position repeat with the opposite arm.


1 – Close grip bench press
Laying on a bench take a medium heavy bar bell a bit narrower than shoulder width grip and bring it down to your lower ribs. Push the weight up using your triceps and lower it to the same position. Just before it reaches your chest fire it up in the pushing direction again before it gets a chance to rest on your body. This prevents your chest from taking over with the weight lifting.

2 – Tricep kickbacks
Take a light dumb bell in your right hand. Place your left hand and left knee on a low flat bench. Keeping your back straight lift your elbow so that your upper arm is in line with your torso. Slowly tense your tricep and lift the dumb bell to a position where you arm is almost locked out straight. Lower and repeat.

The arm toning workout
These are the basic four exercises that you will use to build your foundation of strength and technique. Remember, without perfect technique you will not make any progress so exert yourself in making sure that your posture and lifting method is perfect.

  1. Warm up with some cardio, stretching and light weights.
  2. Bar bell curls – 4 sets of 10-15 reps
  3. Narrow grip bench press – 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  4. Alternate dumb bell curls – 4 sets of 8-10 reps
  5. Tricep kickbacks – 4 sets of 10-15 reps

Remember, when a rep number says 8-10 it means that you should pick a weight that causes you to ‘fail’ in that rep range. It does not mean that you pick a light weight and only do 8 reps. It means you should be struggling to get to 8.

Perform each exercise with care and slowly. Do not be tempted to pump out the reps quickly.

For more workout routines see Muscle&Strength.

Mixing this weights training workout with a good diet and some cardio will bring results in no time. Soon I will post an intermediate workout and then an expert workout that we can use to progress with our arms training.

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. Fiance to Be says:

    That pushing up quickly tip for the close grip bench press really works. Thanks for that!

  2. RT says:

    I love your name!

    Yeah the tip is a good one. I saw a guy doing it years ago and was surprised how much it helps isolate the triceps.

  3. Michelle says:

    Thanks for all of these exercises, but especially for the tip about how to determine the weight that should be used. No one has ever put it so clearly – the “fail” range. Looking forward to the intermediate and expert workout.

  4. RT says:

    No worries Michelle. It is a very important little tip – glad it helped.


  5. jenny says:

    I am in relatively good shape, But I feel I need to work the backs of my arms better. I don’t want anymore muscle to my biceps, as they are big enough. What exercise can I do while I am on my step climber to work this area? I want to kill two birds with one stone!!

  6. RWF says:

    Hi Jenny,

    There’s not a lot you can do while you’re actually on a stepper…I’m thinking you might have trouble balancing doing most tricep exercises! I’d suggest you just spend 10mins or so after your step workout hitting them.

  7. m says:

    I’m not the type who can really bring herself to go to the gym so I do most of my exercising at home. I can see doing most of this at home with free weights easily, but is there an alternative to the bench press that I could more easily do at home alone that would still work the same muscles?

  8. ruth says:

    It states that to tone muscle I need to lose fat. I am 5 foot 1 inch and weigh about 100 pounds. I have no fat to lose; however, my arms are still very weak and flabby. I’ve been working on them for months, but my underarms (triceps), are still flabby. Is there anything I can do that will tone just that area of my body. This is my personal problem area I’ve been dealing with for some time.

  9. emmajane says:

    im 103kgs, and i badly need to loose some weight. Im concentrating on my arms 1st (as these are seen more often now that the summer is approaching).. Any other “At Home”instruments that i can use, as i dont have any dumbells or excersise equipment at home..

  10. Jessica says:

    if you are looking to get rid of flabby underarms and tone up triceps you need to do the kickbacks, and do overhead tricep extensions which will definitely tone that area up. Stand and grab dumbell and raise so that your tricep is parallel to your head (almost as if you are looking at your armpit), make sure sure that your arm is straight and the dumbell should be behind you the bottom of it at the back of your shoulder. Then slowly raise it in the air until your arm extends straight up in the air above your head. But be careful that it is still somewhat bent so that if you drop the weight it lands on the ground. There should be demonstrations on the internet for this exercise if I you cannot visualize my poor instructions. This exercise is hard, but it is very good in defining your triceps, I started with 8 lb. weight and couldn’t even make it to my 10th rep in my last 2 sets out of 3. You will see results!!!

  11. florence says:

    any idea how to loose weight & burn arm fats

  12. Hana says:

    How long does one need to do the tricep kick backs and over head extensions before we see results and how much time ought one to spend – say 20 minutes on these? or more? I do about 40 minutes on the cross trainer and 20 minutes running or cycling and 30 minutes swimming.

  13. Kim says:

    What are some simple excercises you can do at your home that will make your arms bigger that you dont need equipment for?

  14. sami says:

    you know wat i am a younge women and i am overweight but i am trying to get in shape becuase i am scared for my life but i have been doing this and i have seen major weight loss in my arms . its amazing .


  15. sana says:

    I started lifting light weights ( 2kg) 3 weeks ago and I noticed my arms are no longer flabby; they are quite toned. I want to use 5kg weights so as to get them more toned but my dad says they are too heavy and my arms will grow bulky rather than looking toned.

  16. Alexis says:

    I am going to use the information in the article & in the comments (specifically the overhead tricep ext). Thanks everyone!

  17. Mimi says:

    i absolutely LOVE this website.

    love mimi

  18. Sharon says:

    If you dont have weights you can use tin cans or waterbottles (increase water/bottle size). I know someone who used to press their baby -they got stronger as their baby grew!

  19. Sandra MG says:

    I was just wondering how many times a week I should do this routine? I am 10lbs overweight and I do between 45 min and 1 hour of cardio (stairmaster, spinning, tae bo) 5 days a week.

    Gotta get rid of some fat in my arms for ever.

    Thanks so much for the routine and tips from everybody. ;o).

  20. Evanjalina Marie says:

    Wow. This really burns… haha. I’m learning how to do my back-handspring. I can practically do it by myself, the only problem is that I bend my arms when I flip soo… I need to strengthen my arms… badly haha

  21. Liz says:

    Evanjaline Marie: To help strengthen your arms for your backhandspring, try holding yourself in a handstand against the wall a couple times for 1-3 minutes.

  22. jme says:

    can sumone explain plz how to do the tricep kick backs i dont understand

  23. Kassie says:

    m said: I am not the type who can really bring herself to go to the gym so I do most of my exercising at home. I can see doing most of this at home with free weights easily, but is there an alternative to the bench press that I could more easily do at home alone that would still work the same muscles?

    I didnt have a bench press at home several years ago when I was training and used a big body ball instead…you actually end up using your core muscles also b/c you have to balance on the ball to do your upper body exercises!! Its a lot cheaper than buying a bench

  24. sulaika says:

    What is the weight of the dumb bell you can use and do you have a programe to read all these information in dutch?

  25. rose says:

    what is the best sized (how many kg) weights to use?

  26. leighton says:

    this is really good. this is a great arm workout for teens that are trying to lose weight, like myself!

  27. M. Allen says:

    Should I do these exercises everyday?

  28. Stephanie Weber says:

    Finally a site on arm toning (and other of course) that seems serious.
    If you say the weights should be heavy, how heavy should they be approximately?
    Thank you,

  29. anne says:

    how do you actually lose the fat from your arms and how long do you think it takes to actually see results? thank you

  30. Kaitea says:

    I’ve been losing weight on and off, and everything has gotten slightly smaller but NOT my arms. It really sucks that no matter how much weight I’ve lost… my arms just stay the same size. I can’t even wear a tank top because my arms are beyond flabby. (It’s so flabby, the fat just hangs down and moves around when I wave my arms. LOL) The gym in my area totally sucks when it comes to the necessary equipment needed to single out arms. I live in a small studio apartment and all I have are 3 lb dumb bells. Would a resistance band help me lose the fat and tone?
    Someone please help me. I don’t have room for all of those things said above.

  31. shadea anne says:

    i lost 15 lbs i finally fit in my skinny jeans

  32. Juliet says:

    You should include pix cause I am not very imaginative. When I read this I was all like “Wah!? What does she mean to do? I have no idea what this is trying to tell me to do!” :)

  33. JenMadelyn says:

    I have the kind of flab that hangs over the sides of my bra in the front right below my armpit. you know the area i mean. its not my triceps its almost closer to my pectoral muscles… but i have no idea how to fix it! i want really badly to get rid of it but i dont know how!

  34. jaye says:

    What if you don’t have any weights at home or a gym near by? is there anything you can use as an alternative?

  35. NADIRA RAHAGIR says:

    i want to tone up my arms & make it little thiner without using any weight.

  36. Green Eyed Girl says:

    I have just challenged myself to get toned and I would love any advice or tips.

  37. Amanda Brosnan says:

    go and buy some dumbbells in target stores or an argos or somewhere. they are really cheap and you can tone your arms, legs, and obliques with them with out even leaving your bedroom.

    Do tricep extensions with 2/3 kg weights to tone flabby arms…. you will notice the difference. do bicep curls also with these with a 4/5kg weight.

  38. Ani says:

    I have very muscular upperarms, but I want them to look feminine, and I do not want to lose weight because I am skinny. Is there any cream or something of that sort which I can apply to the affected area in order that this problem is solved. Please help me, I need your advise.

    Thanks a lot.

  39. belinda says:

    Im tryin my best to reduce my arms …but still only my arms look huge and hard..suggest me some good exercise wer i can reduce my arms at home ..without using dumbells cos i dont hav them..

  40. janzz says:

    Ya the above exercise is fine can u help me !!
    ive got harmonal troubles and im taking drugs for it…
    I was thin but now im on the higher side ive joined aerobics but im scared that i can have break throughs in my exercise btu badly wanna lose wt!!

  41. Tricia says:

    Hi there, I hate my jiggly upper arms and after reading so many webpages this seems like the best one I have found to do something about this. The only thing I am confused about is how heavy the weights should be for both the barbell and the handweights….any ideas? I need to do this as quickly as I can but in a healthy way, I live in Florida and summer is fast approaching. Please help! It will be MUCH appreciated….thanks.

  42. claudia says:

    I’m a fitness instructor and have gained a lot of weight (yes, even us are human). And started an exercise program since October. I’m happy to say that 2 of my students have lost 50 and 90 lbs!! What I give my students is 3x a week is heavy weights (5-8 lbs) of 3 set of 16 reps of different arm exercises along with other weight workouts of course: Bicep curls(singles),then alternating. Hammer curls(singles) then alternating, Overhead curls (behind the head)-singles for the triceps, concentration curls, “Arnold’s” which is fists facing YOU up and fists facing you as HAMMERS down, Skullcrushers, and Tricep kickbacks singles, and both arms. That will tone and get the GOOD soreness you’re looking for! You’ll see results in 4 weeks.

  43. Daiseyal says:

    i injured both of my arms from using weights that were to heavy. My orthopedic Dr. advised me that a beginner should never start with weights heavier than 3 pounds. my trainer said if its burning its working. “wrong” you are damaging your muscles too much. now i need surgery to repair the damage.

  44. huskerluver says:

    Just found this website. I have lost 80 pounds in the past 13 months with 30 left to go to hit my goal weight thanks to the Realize Band. I walk a mile to a mile and a half on the treadmill a minimum of 4 times a week. I now need to start toning. My upper arms look like they could fly me to the moon right now. I have 3 pound hand weights and plan to start using your exercise suggestions this week. Any other words of advise for a former couch potato?

  45. Glynis Webb says:

    i have lost a stone and need to lose more weight, due to not only being overweight, but theres heart disease in my family, and i have high cholestral, i am nearly 61 and have back problems, desperatly need to tone my body, especialy my arms and stomach, havent a clue what to do, and it needs to be exercises ect, that i can do at home,

  46. lmc says:

    hi . for a little over a month ive been eating sensibly and walking on a treadmill . actually starting to lose weight , can i use hand weights whilst walking , if so what size should i start with and what would i gain from this.. toned arms ? abs ? / thankyou for this site , amazing !

  47. Gael says:

    I am 57 and have had a viral pneumonia for a month; I’ve never even had a cold in the last 10 years – so this was a real shock. I eat well and have been going to the gym 4 times a week for a couple of years. I was slim and reasonably toned, but now I’m gutted that I’ve lost further weight (which I could ill-afford) and my arms are just hanging in shreds. I’m desparate to rebuild them as soon as possible, but wonder at my age if I have less chance of doing so – there’s just been so much muscle wastage! Do I need to be able to put fat on in the arm to support (or add shape to the arm)?

  48. Simon says:

    Hi, I would like to ask few things about teaching women at the gym….since, I do teach mostly men in the gym and that includes women. What are the best thing oer exercises that you can recommned to me for those who needs to lose wieght like for example a 60 kkgs lady would like to lose weight. can you help me this please.

    Thanks amd more power to your article.


  49. Clare says:

    hello, i havee been a constant at the gym three times a week for a long time, i do weight sets and cardio, and i watch what i eat but for some reason i retain the same weight and the same physical form. i was just wondering why? i am happy with my body, because i am very slender and tall, but i would like to know why i am not seeing results from my tone up work out?

  50. Trisha says:

    what is the best sized weights to use for doing barbell curls and tricep kicbacks. I am 5ft 1″ tall and weigh 160 pounds. I am trying to loose weight and would lie to tone my upper arms wiyh these eercizes. Pls suggest what would be the appropriate weight to use so as not to damage my shoulders.

  51. zina says:

    hi, I’m a excersise freak, in the last few years I been working out with heavey not very heavey, but I noticed my muscle got bulky rather toned, espcialy around the biceps and shoulder area. can anyone tell me why I’m getting bulky? I thought they said women can’t get bulky. how many kg should I work out with?

  52. Melissa says:

    I am just beginning with this. My arms are so weak it is pathetic. Should I start with 10 lb weights? Also, how long should I stay with the same weight before I up it? I use the fitlinxx program at my local YMCA but am relatively new at all that too. Thanks

  53. neha says:

    ho ican reduce my lower sagged abdomen?n my arms

  54. Lavrine says:

    Hi,jst wanted to knw if i do these exercises will b able 2 tone up my arms in 10days????….

  55. judy says:

    I went to a pre-employment agility test a few days back. One test was, lifting a box handles in middle of box, with 50Lbs in side and put box on shelf above my head. To my surprise …I couldnt even get close. I need strength! What type of upper arm work out do i need to pass that test. No I was not hired due to failing that test!

  56. sara says:

    how can children workout?

  57. lanie says:

    I am skinny so I want to gain more muscles on my arms…how will I attain that?

  58. sharon says:

    i am very thin and slim i wanna bcome a little fat and toned

  59. lorraine says:

    .im gonna try this…hope it will work…ty

  60. sophia says:

    i dont have weights,but i really need to reduce my flab in 2 weeks,am so sick of them,and im really desperate…

  61. supsperb says:


    I have flabby upper back just below my arms which looks very odd.

    Can anybody tell me how to tone them or get rid of them? I am also overweight and working on to loose the same.

  62. Michelle89 says:

    hii … am 22… weigh 70kilos … i ve broad shoulders n flabby arms makin me look really big… i also have huge buttocks n thighs …. as i read in previous posts for flabby arms … tryin skippin for 20min n then weight liftn for another 20 b4 jumpin back to skippn .. will this work …. i also heard for reducing buttocks n thighs 8 sec sprints n then 12 secs moderate cyclin …. m really desperate to lose weight coz ppl keep makin fun of me as a body builder …. plz help me out n tell me the most efficient way to lose weight ….. thanks

  63. michelle89 says:

    also i dont have weights so any other alternatives …

  64. Heidi says:

    Hi, I have lost 114lbs so far….I have gone from size 22 to 8. I have very flabby arms now and my back needs help also. I would love to wear short sleeves for summer, but I am embarrassed of my arms. Will these really help?? and how much progress will I see.??

  65. workout exercise says:

    On the other hand, the exercise workout by lifting weights is an anabolic process that helps strengthen the
    tissues and thus prevent their weakening.
    That is why we do a workout exercises by lifting weights strengthens and enhances the security of your muscle
    mass and increase your long-term health.

  66. Lindsey says:

    I work out daily with weights and I have noticed that my left bicep is bigger than my right. Even my sleeves are fitting differently. One is tight and the other is loose. What can I do to get my right arm caught up with my left??

  67. sujana says:

    iam a physically challegened girl …is there any exercsise to tone flabinessin my under arms….

  68. Sonia says:

    Over the past year I have lost quite abit of body mass and a fair amount of weight too. I have a slim petite size 6 figure and desperately want to add some body mass to look more healthy. My arms and legs are now very thin and can do with abit of fat and muscle. I am considering taking some weight gain protein shakes. Could you tell me what sort of exercise rountine I would have to carry out along with the protein shakes to effectivley gain body mass and to get back to my size 8 figure again.

  69. amber says:

    m really upset …vid wt is gng vid me these days ….i getting fat..n i dun like my self ….cn anybdy temme ..the best fat burner …n sum effected exercises for side fat n arms……

  70. cee says:

    i wanna lose 50kg in 3months
    how do i go about it?

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