Not everyone wants to get jacked when they work out. If you’re looking to get trim and toned rather than sculpted, read on.
Let’s get this out of the way: it’s NOT POSSIBLE to burn fat just on your arms.
What you can do, is create an exercise plan that burns fat ALL OVER YOUR BODY, then supplement this with exercises designed to tone your arm muscles.
That way, when you start to lose weight in a healthy, controlled manner, there will be toned arm muscles waiting underneath.
And in this article, we’ll tell you how to do it 🔥
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How to Burn Arm Fat
If you’re asking yourself whether it’s possible to just burn arm fat, let us break this to you gently…
There is no way to only burn fat on your arms.
It would be lovely, wouldn’t it? To exercise an area of your body and burn fat from that area at the same time.
This idea, called spot reduction, is quite prevalent. But the sad truth is, it is a myth. And here’s why 👇
Unlike toning muscle, where you can target specific areas, burning fat affects the whole body at once.
This is because of how your body uses fat: excess fat is stored around the body in bundles called triglycerides. Then, when your muscles need energy, they burn the fatty acids stored in these triglyceride deposits.
It may be tempting to think that a muscle uses fatty acids from its nearest triglyceride deposit, but they don’t. When you need energy, fatty acids are taken from triglyceride deposits all over the body.
If you don’t believe us, several scientific studies have proved spot reduction wrong:
- One study found tennis players had just as much fat in their arms as the rest of their body (1). If spot reduction worked they’d have skinnier arms.
- One study asked people to train only one leg, and no difference in fat levels were found between the two (2).
- One study got people to do tons of pressups: again, no difference was found between abdominal fat ratio and elsewhere.
It’s not possible to burn fat in just one area of the body. This idea, called ‘spot reduction’, has been disproven multiple times.
How to Burn Fat on Your Arms
Don’t be discouraged, though: you can still burn fat from your arms.
But you’ll just have to deal with burning fat in other areas of your body at the same time.
Combining fat-burning exercise with muscle-toning exercises will give you arms that look great.
We’ll take a look at both in the next section. But first…
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Exercises for Toned Arms
Now we know that you can’t target specific areas for weight loss, we have more exercise options to work with.
Cardiovascular exercise – or just cardio – is a favourite for fat burning. It increases your daily energy burn, and you can increase or decrease the intensity as needed.
Any exercise that increases your heart rate can be considered cardio, so you’ve got a lot of options. Things like:
Your aim should be to do enough cardio each week to burn fat on your body. As you do this, you’ll notice all areas getting more trim, including your arms (read here to find out how long it takes to notice weight loss).
How to Tone Your Arms Without Building Muscle
We mentioned toning, too.
This is important for making sure your newly-thinned arms look strong and toned.
And don’t worry: we’re not going to recommend exercises that give you big, beefy biceps.
It takes more work than you think to build huge arm muscles, and achieving a bodybuilder physique requires special and intense exercise regimes.
Because of the oestrogen in your bloodstream (any men reading: this obviously doesn’t apply to you), it will be hard for you to ‘accidentally’ build large muscles.
Instead, you’re aiming for gently toned muscles to make your arms pop.
A study confirmed the beneficial relationship between cardio and resistance exercise: “resistance exercise can benefit dieters by helping to preserve lean mass and metabolic rate in the face of a persistently negative caloric balance” (4).
Instead of burning just arm fat, build an exercise routine that burns fat and tones muscle all over.
Cardio is best for fat burning, and resistance exercise is best for toning.
Resistance Exercises to Tone Your Arms
Here’s a handpicked selection of exercises that will get your arms nicely toned.
1. Bicep Curls
This exercise will target your biceps.
Choose a weight that you can comfortably lift 15-20 times. You can use a milk bottle full of water if you don’t have weights.
Hold the weight and let your arms hang by your sides. Your elbows should be straight, and your palms should be facing in.
Raise one arm slowly, turning it as you lift. At the top of your lift, your palm should be facing your bicep.
Lower your arm, then raise the opposite arm in the same way.
Aim for 15-20 raises per arm. This makes a full set.
Aim for three sets, with a minute break between each.
2. Tricep Kickbacks
This will target your triceps.
Choose weights with the same criteria as before: heavy enough to be challenging, but where you can lift 15-20 times.
Hold a weight in each hand, down by your sides and with your palms facing inward.
Bend your knees slightly, keep your back straight, and bend forward at the waist. Aim for just shy of parallel with the ground.
Your upper arms should be parallel with the ground, and your forearms holding the weights should be at a right angle to the floor.
Extend your so that your forearm becomes parallel with the floor, then return to the right angle.
Repeat this 15-20 times per side, then swap sides.
3. Lateral Raises
This will target your shoulder muscles.
Hold a weight in each hand with your hands by your sides, then simply raise both arms until they are parallel with the floor. You will be in a T shape.
Repeat 10-12 times. Sounds easy, but it is surprisingly hard!
You can find more arm exercises in another article we’ve written: Gym routines that tone your arms.
Follow those, and when the fat does drop off, there will be lean muscles waiting beneath.
Bicep curls: 3 sets of 15-20 raises per arm, with a minute break between each.
Tricep kickbacks: 1 set of 15-20 raises per arm.
Lateral raises: 1 set of 10-12 raises per arm.
Dietary Advice for Burning Arm Fat
It is important to lose weight in a healthy and controlled manner.
By combining exercise with a safe caloric deficit, you will see fat reduction in all areas of your body.
But you still need to eat enough calories to fuel your metabolism.
Your diet should include all five food groups, and a good amount of fresh fruit and veg. If you’re working on your muscles, you’ll need to pay extra attention to protein in your diet.
You’re best primed to absorb nutrients in the half-hour or so after exercise, so a protein snack will help your body rebuild muscles.
You don’t have to shell out on expensive protein snacks. Instead, you can eat things like:
- Trail mix
- Tuna and hard-boiled egg
- Peanut butter (spread it on celery sticks for an interesting snack)
- Check out our list of healthy snacks for more inspo
Try to avoid eating too many unhealthy fats, as well. There’s not much point in doing extra exercise to burn fat if you’re still eating a high-fat diet, so ditch junk food high in saturated fats. Go for avocadoes, eggs, and other foods that contain healthy fats instead.
And don’t just take our word for it: one study we read emphasised “the crucial importance of low-fat eating if exercise is to have an optimal impact on fat stores” (4).
Spot reduction is a myth: you can’t target specific areas for fat burning.
But you can create an exercise plan and diet regime that help you burn fat all over your body.
It’s the same time-tested combination that will help you to trim your arms: a safe caloric deficit, a healthy diet, and the right exercise routine.
Disclaimer: The information on the Leanbean blog does not constitute medical advice and should not be used as such. If you would like to learn more about your dietary requirements and related aspects of your health, speak with a registered medical professional.