The Best Arm Exercises for Toned Arms, According to a Trainer

Arm exercises



So your arms don't feel or look as strong as you'd like—it honestly makes sense. Most of our contemporary lifestyles don't exactly involve the types of activities that produce toned, powerful biceps, triceps, and shoulders. (Though, fun fact, I recently read that according to evidence from bones found in Europe, prehistoric women had arms stronger than today's most elite rowers, simply because they worked so hard farming.)

Anyway, the point is, we need to put a little extra effort into toning our arms these days. To help us do that as easily and efficiently as possible, we tapped one of our most trusted trainers, Meghan Pickrell, M.S., a kinesiologist, movement specialist, and the owner of Mind & Motion Pilates in Los Angeles.

“An often overlooked aspect of working one area of the body (such as toned arms) is how the rest of the body is participating. As the old adage goes, ‘It’s all connected,’” Pickrell told us. "We want to feel how the arms are connected to our back. This helps us engage our back body. Because the shoulder girdle moves at several joints, the placement (or movement) of our shoulder blades is equally as important; so is how our spine and shoulders relate to each other."

Keeping all of that in mind, Pickrell put the following three easy at-home arm exercises together. Keep scrolling for her step-by-step breakdowns and demonstrations. Arms as long and strong as our prehistoric ancestors are soon to come.

1. Gravity Weight Shoulder Sequence


Meghan Pickrell

In the first exercise, we are using gravity as our weight. We often think of gravity in a negative light—something to fight as we age. But gravity is our best friend when we exercise.

Just try holding your arms out to the side (parallel to the ground). We could do a few variations on this theme, but gravity remains constant. Use this to your advantage when getting your arms working. This is how ballet dancers have such toned arms; they know how to hold them up away from the force of gravity.

This allows for your deltoid (primarily) to work as you hold your arms up parallel to the ground. Hello, sleek shoulders.

1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart (around six inches).

2. Bend your knees slightly.

3. Feel your bones stacked: head over ribs over pelvis over feet.

4. Extend your arms horizontally to the side. Hold them parallel to the floor, palms down. Keep an ever-so-slight bend at your elbow. Think about lifting the back of the elbow up so it’s facing directly behind you while keeping your shoulder blades down. Feel these lines of energy or pull—the crown of your head reaching up as your feet anchor down and your shoulder blades pulling down as your elbows are reaching up. Just hold this position for a moment. You should already start to feel arms because of the effect of gravity.

5. Bend your elbows, keeping your palm facing down, then extend your elbow. Do this until it burns and then do three more. Breathe throughout.

6. REST.

7. Go back to the same position with arms extended.

2. High Plank to Side Plank


Meghan Pickrell

1. Try a plank with the arms extended rather than on your elbows. This will challenge your arms more. 

2. Try a “mini push-up”—just bend the elbows slightly and then extend them. Pelvis and spine placement is really crucial here. Again, think full-body. Shoulder blades should be back on the ribs, the spine is neutral, and you’re feeling your full body participate.

3. Now try a side plank—this requires more back body. Balance on the sides of the feet, bottom foot in front of top foot. Your shoulder blade should be placed on the ribs. 

3. Tricep Dip


Meghan Pickrell

1. Anchor in your feet.

2. Press your palms down, fingers facing feet.

3. Hands should be under your shoulders, feet about hip-width apart, and you should be looking up at the ceiling. Rise into table position.

4. Lower the hips down, then lift the hips up. Lower and lift maybe 10 times.

5. Next move: Hold hips up, bend the elbows slightly and extend. Bend and extend 10 times. 

6. Repeat this sequence three times or until fatigue.