The Workout Guide: How To Tone Your Arms Without Bulking Up

Having flabby, undefined arms can be a source of frustration for people. Though, there can also be hesitation in targeting your arms during a workout, especially if you don’t want bulked-up, Arnold Schwarzenegger sized arms. So, what are some ways for how to tone arms without bulking up?

How to Tone Arms without Bulking Up

Whether you’re trying to tone your arms to make daily tasks easier or to get rid of your “bat wings,” there are several ways to focus on your arms without bulking them up.

Use Lighter Weights

When the goal is to tone your arms rather than bulking up, you need to adjust the amount of weight you’re using and the number of repetitions you do. When you do various strength training exercises, choose a lighter weight and do more reps for toning.

This is the opposite of what you would do when building muscle mass, which is where you would want to select heavier weights and perform fewer reps. 

Woman lifting a barbell

Lose Body Fat

While you can’t specifically target exclusively losing body fat within your arms, you should focus on reducing your overall body fat percentage. In doing this, your arms will lose flab, allowing your muscles to become more prominent.

Body fat can be reduced by making healthy choices in the kitchen and reducing the amount of fat and sugar you consume. Additionally, aim to incorporate 3-5 hours of aerobic exercise into your routine each week. Doing both of these will help lower your body fat percentage.

Eat Healthy

The most important thing you can do in terms of nutrition for maximizing the toning for your arms without gaining additional mass is to minimize the amount of fat you consume. While it’s true that you have to consume some fats to maintain a healthy diet, you can lower this amount to the absolute minimum necessary.

By doing this, you’ll prevent your body from stockpiling fat. This is what often keeps arms less toned than they would otherwise be. Body fat makes the tissue surrounding your muscles and bones softer and curvier. This is because fat is generally used by the body as a stored energy source in case of exertion

Consume Lean Meats

Eating lean meat helps replace muscle fibers as they are damaged or formed during your daily and weekly workouts. If you never consume any lean meat to replace protein molecules, you’ll eventually lose strength and definition, and your toned arms won’t look very impressive.

The best meats to consume are things like chicken and salmon. Other types of fish and even eggs are also good. These don’t have a lot of saturated fat or other compounds that can take away from toned arms. Instead, these sources are great for replacing protein that’s been torn through exercise.

Steak and mixed vegetables on a plate

Exercises to Tone Arms

In order to tone your arms, working out the different muscles in your arms is key. As mentioned above, for strength training exercises, remember to increase the number of reps you do with a lighter weight in order to focus on toning your muscles.

Biceps Curls

Bicep curls is a staple move when it comes to toning arms. Your biceps are very visible on your arm, so tightening these up will visually give you are more defined and toned looking arm, even if the rest of your arm is not toned.

Along with working your biceps, this move also targets your forearms, shoulders, and back muscles. If you are limited on time during your workout session, incorporate this move into your sets for the day since it works multiple muscle groups.   

Tricep Kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks primarily target your triceps, as the name suggests. When it comes to toning arms and firming up flab, this is an important muscle to focus on, since it makes up about ⅔ of your upper arm. Overall, this move is meant to tone up your arms rather than bulk them up.

As you execute the move, be sure that you are raising your arm slowly and not using momentum to drive the movement. For this move, you don’t need a very heavy weight in order to feel the effects of it. 

Lateral Raises

Lateral raises help to develop your deltoids and strengthen your shoulders. As you tone other parts of your arms, it's important not to neglect your shoulders. Even though you’re not focusing on bulking up, you still want to keep your body looking proportionate. Because of this, your shoulders need some basic toning as well.

This move is often done to give you shredded shoulders, so as you perform it, be sure to pick a lighter weight. After a few reps, you’ll feel the burn, even if the dumbbell you chose is lighter than usual.

Bent Over Rows

Bent over rows are primarily known to target your back and shoulders. So why is this important when it comes to toning arms?

Similar to lateral raises, as you begin to tone your arm muscles, it’s important to tone the surrounding muscles in order to give you a balanced appearance. Additionally, when you do this move properly, you’ll work out your biceps and pectoral muscles.

Woman doing a bent over row at the gym

How Long Does it Take to Tone Flabby Arms?

The amount of time it takes to tone arm muscles is dependent on several factors, including:

  • Your starting point and the current state of your arms
  • How often you’re working out your arms
  • Your eating habits

There is no standard time that it takes to tone arms, and everyone with this goal will experience the results at a different time. Some may begin to see their arms tone out after a few weeks of improving their diet and arm-based exercises, while others may take several months.


When working out, remember that the key is to use lighter weights to avoid getting ripped muscles. Finding the proper balance between doing the right exercises and eating healthily will help you tone your arms without bulking up.

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