Tips from a trainer: The truth about getting toned arms

Josef Brandenburg, special to

WASHINGTON – “Give me those Michelle Obama arms” is one of the most common requests that we get in the training studio. And new members are often skeptical of the advice we provide to them upon this request.

The biggest myth in creating a pair of awesome arms is that you need to do “arm” exercises to tone up. The truth is, you don’t need to do anything at all to isolate your arms. In fact, time invested in arm-specific exercises is time that you could spend on other exercises that work your whole body.

Here are some tips to getting toned arms so you can rock that tank top by the end of the summer.

Eat better.

If you want to reveal the muscle tone that is hiding underneath some fat, then you are going to have to start eating better. You may notice (and hate) the fat on your arms, but it’s going to be losing fat, overall, that will be essential to having amazing arms.

The most important things to pay attention to, nutrition-wise, are flour and sugar. Eat less of each and replace them with protein, veggies and fruit.

Flour and sugar lack the nutritional values that other foods contain. Plus, they can make you tired and even more hungry. Sugar lurks in honey, high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar and juice.

Do total body strength training.

The most time-efficient way to sculpt your arms is to choose exercises that work most of your body. One of the best exercises for toning up everything is the deadlift, or a total-body pull up. After you complete the deadlift, try doing a few pushups to keep your focus on your core and arm strength.

Repeat that for two-to-four sets of 10 reps each.

How to correctly do a pushup.

For your next pair, a Bulgarian split squat and an inverted row will make a great combination to target everything on your body — including your arms.

How to do a Bulgarian squat:

Core workouts are another great way to tone your body, all around. This previous article provides some tips on how to work your core.

Try to get a core workout in at least two-to-three days per week.

Add high-intensity interval training to your workout.

High-intensity interval training is the perfect compliment to strength training. It helps to maximize your fat-loss, while toning up your arms and your whole body.

High-intensity interval training takes less time than traditional “cardio,” plus it works better, it gets you in better shape, it’s less boring and it’s safer, since it helps you to avoid injury.

Try my hill workout. It’s a great interval training workout you can get done in under 30 minutes.

Complete a high-intensity interval workout at least two days per week.

Pay attention to your recovery.

You only make progress between workouts, so maximize your recovery to maximize your results. For more information on recovering from a workout, read my previous article.

Editor’s Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book “Results Fitness.” In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up