Ever wave hello and notice a little jiggle under your bicep that keeps moving even after your arm stopped? Yup, those are called “bat wings,” aka “underarm flab” or simply “flabby triceps”.
“Bat wings can be the bane of our lives,” says Alex Parren, U.K.-based Sundried certified personal trainer.
“The most important thing to remember is that you can’t ‘spot reduce’ an area,” says Parren. Translation: You can do every arms exerciselisted here every day, but if you don’t also amp up your cardio and follow a healthy diet to reduce your overall body fat, you won’t see the results you want. Try going for a brisk walk or a run twice a week, or going swimming or cycling, he suggests. “All of this combined will mean that eventually your arms will be something to be proud of and you’ll want to show them off.”
Adds Melissa Paris, N.A.S.M., a pre- and post-natal fitness expert: “Any workouts that get people moving in different directions are really important. People love boxing right now, and I think it’s great.”
Keep that in mind when you’re trying different cardio classes—make sure you’re incorporating workouts that make you move laterally, not just running and cycling.
Here are some of the best exercises to blast underarm flab and get you the slim, toned arms you’ve always wanted.
“This classic exercise should be your go-to for toning the back of your arms,” says Parren. It will not only target your triceps, but also work your chest and shoulders for an all-around, upper-body blast. You’ll need to find a sturdy surface; this can be a park bench if you’re outdoors, or your sofa or a coffee table if you’re working out at home.
Face away from the bench or sofa, and place your hands facing you on the surface. Make sure to keep your body close to the surface throughout the exercise, as you may find yourself moving further and further away. You can choose how hard you want to make the exercise by where you place your feet: The further outstretched they are, the tougher it will be—and the more you’ll work your muscles. Slowly lower yourself down so that your shoulders are in line with your elbows; then use your triceps to push you back up. “You should really feel the burn with this exercise,” says Parren.
Try 10 reps to start with, and aim for two to three sets.
You may have done triceps extension before in a class or during bootcamp workouts, since it’s such a classic exercise.
Grab a weight (it can be a dumbbell, kettlebell, or plate). If you’re working out at home, this could even be a can of beans or a full water bottle. Standing or sitting, hold the weight in both hands above your head and slowly lower it down behind your head, bending at the elbows and keeping your arms as close together as possible, suggests Parren. Squeeze the weight back up above your head and feel the back of your arms working.
Do 12 reps, and aim for two to three sets
“This one is a killer, so take it easy and use variations if you need to,” says Parren. To do the full version: start in a plank position on your elbows. Keeping your hips as still as possible, push up onto your hands one arm at a time. Once you’re up, lower yourself back down into the plank position one arm at a time. Repeat this for 30 seconds. This will work not only your arms, but also shoulders and abs—so it’s a great exercise to add to your workout. If this variation is too tough, try doing it on your knees instead of your toes.
Bear crawls work your triceps, chest, and shoulders. “I love recommending bear crawling as a way of connecting your mind and your body,” says Paris.
To do them, place your hands on the floor and get into a crouched position. Walk forward using your hands and feet and “crawl” on the floor as far as you can. Then, back up by “crawling” if you’re coordinated enough, or turn around and crawl forward again.
Aim to do 30 seconds at first and work up to a minute, or work up to a certain distance.
You can start by doing this exercise (aka the “farmer’s walk”) with light dumbbells, and then increase the weight later as you get stronger. Paris recommends it for building overall strength.
Place two dumbbells on the ground, about hip-width apart. Squat down to pick them up and stand, then walk with quick, short steps while holding the weights. Try to walk at least 10-15 steps, depending upon how much space you have, then turn and walk back. Start with 30 seconds, building up to a minute or increasing the distance.
“If you’re doing farmer’s carries one day, you’re not going to be able to hang on the bar the next day and do any pullups—it’s just too much [work using] hand grips,” says Paris. She suggests doing arms workouts three days a week when you’re starting out.
Some pushing exercises could be pushups, or even pushing a sled. Pulling exercises that target the arms could be seated rows, barbell curls, and biceps curls. Learn more about creating a pushing and pulling routine here.