- Three personal trainers shared their workout routines for strong, toned arms.
- Favorite techniques include heavy weight lifting, supersets, and lots of dumbbell work.
- For maximum gains, recovery and rest time are crucial, too.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
As everyone is shedding their sweaters and sleeves for warmer weather, it’s peak season for showing off strong, defined arm muscles in a tank top or at the beach.
But you don’t need to do hours of arm circles every day to get a more chiseled upper body. Lifting weights, training for full-body strength and sticking to consistent workouts are key, according to the experts.
Insider talked to three personal trainers about their workout routines and the exercises they love for arm day.
Isopure athlete, Ashley Joi, loves longer workouts with full body exercises
No matter what your athletic background is, strength training doesn’t have to be intimidating and it can be a great way to smash your fitness goals, according to certified personal trainer and ISOPURE athlete Ashley Joi.
“Women shouldn’t be afraid of their strength. I think people underestimate the strength it takes to do a yoga class or pilates, and then are afraid to lift weight because they don’t credit the strength they already have,” she told Insider.
Joi said she trains three to five times a week, alternating between heavy weight lifting days for lower body, and upper body and core training, with rest days in between.
Longer sessions of an hour and a half to two hours that allow her to get in plenty of work on all of the targeted muscle groups, as well as some stretching and mobility work. For example:
- Warm-up: Joi always starts with a warm-up, usually on the rowing machine, which is one of her favorite exercises. Depending on the day, Joi might work in some time on the battle ropes, or some core exercise too.
- Main workout: She’ll cycle through twelve exercises total, doing each two or three times. She’ll often use a HIIT style routine of 40 seconds of work, followed by 20 seconds of rest. For arm day, Joi likes variations of body weight moves like planks, push-ups, pull-ups, and tricep dips, as well as weighted movements like the chest press, chest fly, and bicep curl.
- Burnout: Joi likes to end with a short, high-intensity burnout of several exercises performed back-to-back for around a minute each – with no rest in between. For example, she might alternate between a minute of medicine ball slams and dumbbell-weighted lunges, for four minutes total.
- Cool down: Finally, it’s time for a cool down walk, some stretching, and a session in the steam room or with a Theragun.
Joi also likes to vary her workouts quite a bit. For full body workouts, she’ll throw in compound exercises like deadlifts, hang cleans, and sled pushes and pulls, which work multiple large muscle groups at once for maximum strength-building and calorie burn.
“The beauty of exercise is that it varies depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s really important to listen to your body and know what your goals are,” she said.
Beachbody trainer Joel Freeman swears by dumbbell training
Joel Freeman, Beachbody trainer and creator of LIIFT4, is a huge advocate for lifting weights, and told Insider the exercise can help you develop your arms and get the “toned” aesthetic many people strive for.
“Toning is a popular term, but it’s a misnomer. You either build muscle or you don’t,” he said “What it comes down to is you want to burn fat but also build muscle to show the shape of the biceps, triceps and shoulders.”
If you’re focusing on a specific muscle group like arms, it’s helpful to train those muscles twice a week, but make time to strengthen the rest of your body too, according to Freeman.
For him, a typical week includes four days of strength training, along with two days of boxing.
He travels frequently, and likes to keep workouts between 45 minutes and an hour. Here’s what his routine looks like:
- Warm up: To get the blood flowing before a workout, Freeman likes a mix of cardio and movements that target the muscles he’ll be training. Arm circles or jumping jacks work well for an upper body workout.
- Main workout: Freeman follows a classic old-school lifting routine of three sets of 10 reps each. He’ll superset each exercise, meaning they’re combined in sets of two movements back-to-back with minimal rest between. A sample arm day workout includes shoulder presses, hammer curls, shoulder flies, upright rows, supine bicep curls, front raises, and tricep push-ups.
- Cool down: After a workout, Freeman makes sure to get in some protein and hydrate, and will stretch to help keep his muscles loose.
Fitness CEO Noam Tamir supersets his arm workouts for maximum gains
For more defined muscles, a combination of heavier, challenging weights and lighter accessory work is key, according to Noam Tamir, founder, CEO and coach at TS Fitness.
“If you want to build muscle tone in those arms, put those light weights away and go for weights that you can do 10-12 times to start. Don’t worry, you won’t get bulky,” he told Insider. “Then go into higher volume with lighter weights and bands to finish.”
He likes to combine heavier supersets with lighter tri-sets (three exercises in a row), doing three rounds of each set with about a minute of rest in between. For example:
- Dumbbell bicep curls and dumbbell skull crushers (eight to ten reps each)
- Dumbbell hammer curls and dumbbell overhead extensions (eight to ten reps each)
- Tricep dumbbell kickback, tricep banded pulldown, and bench dips (12-15 reps each)
- Dumbbell wide curls, resistance band curls, and dumbbell wide hammer curls (12-15 reps each)
For best results, Tamir suggests adding a tempo to your exercise: slowly complete each rep to the count of two, with a pause at the top, and then slowly return to the starting position. This maximizes time under tension for your muscles, which can lead to better gains.
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