When summer comes around, and the sun is high in the sky, the jackets come off and the short-sleeved tops come out, it’s time to display your arms for all the world to see. The arms that have been covered up for the whole of winter, pale and…Oh No! What have we here? Could there be…might there be…some “chicken wings?” Or “bat wings?”.

One thing is for sure, you’d rather keep them covered. 🙁 Not for long. Let’s take a look at the best arm exercises for women, and the best part – you don’t need a gym membership to get toned arms!

Simple arm exercises you can do at home

Here are some simple arm exercises to do at home, either with some simple equipment, objects you use around the house (like water bottles filled with water or sand for weight), or just your own body weight.

Biceps Muscles

For your biceps muscles (those are the muscles in the front of your arms – the “Popeye” muscles):

Seated dumbbell curl
Seated one arm dumbbell curl.

Biceps curls: these require some simple dumbbells, 3 to 10 pounds to begin with. You can stand or perform seated dumbbells. You will do sets of 10 to 12 repetitions (reps) without resting.

For seated curls, sit on a Swiss Ball or a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Holding a dumbbell in one hand, fingers pointing out, rest your elbow against your inner knee (shown in picture).

Lower your arm down towards your ankle, then raise it up slowly towards your shoulder. That’s one rep.

For standing curls:

Biceps curls
Standing Biceps curls

Hold the dumbbells in each hand, arms extended and fingers pointing away from your body.

Slowly raise the dumbbells towards your shoulders and slowly lower again for one rep.

You will repeat these movements for a certain amount of reps, depending on which workout program you’re doing, usually no more than 12 reps without a break.

Hammer curls: stand for these, holding a dumbbell in each hand, arms loosely at the side of your legs, fingers against your legs.

Keeping your elbows close to your body, bend them and raise them perpendicular to the floor. It’s a smaller movement to the biceps curls as you only raise your arms to waist height, not towards the shoulders.

Triceps Muscles

These are the muscles at the back of your arms – you know, the ones which wave goodbye in the other direction when you wave your arms:( That’s right, the chicken wings, or jiggly arms.

Triceps extensions
Seated Triceps extensions

Triceps Extensions – You can do this seated or standing.

Hold one dumbbell (or bottle) in both your hands, fingers clasped together.

Extend your arms over your head, keeping your elbows as close to your head as possible. Slowly lower the dumbbell towards the bottom of your neck, all the while keeping your elbows close to your head.

You should feel the burn. Be careful not to hit yourself at the bottom of your neck.

Slowly raise your arms again, elbows close to your head until your arms are fully extended again. That counts as one rep.

Seated Triceps Dips

Triceps Dips

Sit on the edge of a chair or bench, hands holding the bench next to you. Walk your feet away from the bench, keeping them flat on the floor.

Lift your behind off the bench, bend your elbows and lower yourself down a little. Your back should be straight. (see picture).

Lift up to the level of the bench again but don’t sit down. Continue to lower and lift yourself for the required reps.

Push Ups or Modified Push Ups (on knees)

Although push-ups are primarily a chest exercise, they can work wonders for shaping and strengthening your arms.

If you’re not strong enough to do full push-ups, do knee push-ups to begin with. Done properly, you should be able to feel the burn very well.

Best way to do this: get into the full push up position (don’t worry, it’s only for a sec), then drop your knees to the ground. Keep your back straight – you should not have “mountains” (behind in the air) whilst just bending your arms, or “valleys” (dropping your hips to the ground).

You should feel it if you have the correct form! If it’s too easy you’re doing it wrong! (I was teaching PT classes in high school and some of the girls told me “This is easy ma’am! I can do 50, no trouble! Guess what? Mountains and valleys galore! The strongest girls could only do 20 reps properly…)

Knee push up
Modified push-up

Personal Note: Don’t be alarmed if you struggle with these arm exercises.

Women are generally physically weaker on the upper body than men – we just need to persevere and keep at it until the strength comes. And it does, ladies. You will get stronger, you can bet on it!

Home Work Out (for 2 days of the week)

Workout 1

Warm up

Arm circles: extend your arms out to the sides, wrists level with your shoulders and keep them at that height.

Make a small circle forward to the count of 20. Then increase the size of the circle (make bigger circles) keeping your wrists level with your shoulders for a count of 20. Then make large circles to the count of 20. You should feel a little tension in your shoulders and arms.

Shoulder rolls: roll your shoulders forward 20 times, and backward 20 times.

Shake (flick) out your hands and arms.

Workout 

10 x push-ups (or modified push-ups)

10 x biceps curls – using dumbbells or water bottles

10 x triceps extensions – holding 1 dumbbells in both hands

How to do it:

  •  Use no more than 30 seconds to move between each exercise (push ups-biceps curls- triceps extensions).
  • Repeat this process 2 to 5 times (depending on your fitness levels).
  • Use no more than 2 minutes between sets. A set is comprised of all three exercises.
Workout 2

Substitute the exercises in Workout 1 for these:

10 x Hammer curls

10 x triceps dips

10 x push ups

Use the same format as Workout 1. Use 2 – 5 sets.

Pick two days to do this per week. Preferably not back-to-back.

Progression

Follow the above program for 3 weeks. By then, you should have done each program three times.

Now, increase the weight you’re lifting, or increase your reps to 12. Both if you’re up to it. Continue for the next two weeks.

You should be feeling stronger by now, and able to do more push-ups. Try to do some full push-ups. You can even do half full and half on your knees.

Aim to do 10 full push-ups in good form (straight back) without stopping. From there, you can attempt other arm exercises (find online or email me) and keep going with the push-ups until you can do 20 full pushups with good form.

At that point, you will see a huge improvement in your strength, your arms will look awesome and you will have achieved something that the vast majority (even very thin, younger) of women cannot do!

Note: If you cannot manage to do 10 modified push-ups to begin with (and I have trained many women who can’t do it properly), please email me at natalie@maturewomanfitness.com and I will instruct you on how to start off even easier.

About the equipment:

It really is possible to build your fitness and shape your body at home with just a few simple pieces of equipment. The pieces used here are:

Swiss Ball (Physiotherapy ball)

Exercise/Yoga mat – these come in such delicious colors!

Set of dumbbells

I’ve had these pieces of equipment for a few years, and they are invaluable for keeping fit at home.

They don’t take up much space, and there is so much you can do with them – I’ve only shown you a few arm exercises in this post, but there are many more!

I have an overhead rack in my home gym made by my husband where I store my physio balls. Actually, I’m sitting on my red ball right now as I’m talking to you – better for the core!