Tone Your Triceps

Banish batwings with these targeted arm exercises.
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Tone your triceps with bench dips

Bench dips are a great exercise for tightening your triceps

Arm flab plagues every woman as she gets older and some who are young—because it’s one of those parts of a woman’s body where fat tends to get stored. Unfair? Yes. Fixable? Yes, if you know what to do and do it.

Did you know...Flab on the backs of the arms will shrink with a combination of triceps exercises and the right diet.

Two Sides to Toned Triceps

Flab on the backs of the arms will shrink with a combination of triceps exercises and the right diet. Although flabby arms can afflict skinny women, they’re more likely when there’s overall excess body fat. Triceps exercises will plump up and define muscles. And fat loss, through diet and exercise, will make them more visible, giving arms a more defined, toned look.

What’s the right diet? The basics: no sodas, no junk food, not a lot of starch or sugar, and no overeating, at least most of the time.

The Bulkiness Myth

In case you’re concerned about building bulky muscles, don’t be, because it would take an almost superhuman effort. For her boxer role in Million Dollar Baby, Hillary Swank did one-and-a-half hours of weight lifting and two-and-a-half hours of boxing daily, six days a week, and ate an exceptionally high-protein, low-carb diet. In three months of that grueling regimen, she gained 19 pounds of lean muscle.

Triceps Basics

The triceps muscle has three parts but if the back of your arm is not well-defined, it might feel like one. Called “heads,” all three parts are attached to the elbow at the bottom end. Here’s how they differ:

  • Long head: This part attaches to the shoulder blade at the top and runs along the back side of the arm closest to the torso. If you raise your arm as if swimming backstroke, bend the elbow and lower your hand behind your head, you should be able to feel the long head just above the armpit.
  • Lateral head: When developed, it’s visible on the upper, outer-back side of the arm, and attaches to the upper-arm bone, or humerus.
  • Medial head: A smaller part in the mid-back of the arm, it runs up from the elbow, under the other two parts, and attaches to the arm bone.

Best Exercises

To identify the most effective triceps exercises, the American Council on Exercise sponsored a study at the University of Wisconsin. Researchers attached electrodes to the arm muscles of 15 athletic women and measured muscle activity during different triceps exercises. Triangle push-ups were the best, followed by kickbacks and dips.

  • Triangle push-ups: Just like a regular push-up with one major difference. Instead of putting your hands directly below the shoulders, move them in to the center, at a 45-degree angle, so that the tips of the index fingers touch and the tips of the thumbs touch, leaving a triangle-shaped space in between.
  • Dips: Sit on a bench or sturdy chair with palms of the hands resting on the chair next to your hips, fingers hanging over the edge. Extend your legs in front, keeping feet together. Move your buttocks forward and down, until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push back up with your arms, slowly drop down, and repeat.
  • Kickbacks: Kneel on hands and knees, hands under shoulders, with most of your weight on your left knee and hand. Hold a weight in your right hand and raise your right elbow so that your upper arm is parallel to the floor, forearm straight down. Keeping the elbow in place and close to your torso, slowly straighten out your arm until it makes a straight line, parallel to the floor. Slowly return to the starting bent position, and repeat. A popular way to do this exercise is with the left knee and hand resting on a bench, right leg straight, standing on the floor, but it’s easier initially to start off on all fours.

Do one of these exercises every other day. Start with one set of 8 to 12 reps. Build up to one or two more sets, resting in between. Proper form is vital to avoid injury and work muscles correctly. And remember that consistency is key. Don’t expect results overnight, but if you stick with it the magic will happen.

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