There's no shortcut to toned arms. It just takes time and the right exercises. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
There’s no shortcut to toned arms. It takes time and the right exercises. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Arm flab. Bat wings. Arm charm.

Whatever you call it, it’s a pesky problem for many women.

So if you have flabby arms, are you left to swear off sleeveless tops and simply covet the toned arms that women like Michelle Obama sport proudly and prominently?

Or, is there a way to get rid of arm flab forever?

The answer, of course, is found in fitness. You need to embrace a fitness routine that works for you and includes good exercises for your upper arms and shoulders, according to Phillip Adler, ATC, manager of the Spectrum Health Medical Group Sports Medicine team.

“You can’t just do arm exercises and expect to get rid of arm flab,” Adler said. “It’s part of a bigger picture.”

He urges women to first reduce their overall body fat, when needed, and then focus on muscle toning for the whole body.

And don’t give up—it can take four to six weeks, with progressive resistance, to see change. Start with lighter weights and more reps and then increase the weight and decrease reps, he said.

In your overall body workout, include exercises that target your triceps, biceps and shoulders.

Adler recommends 5 key exercises:

1. Pushup

The great thing about this traditional exercise is you can do it anywhere, without any equipment. Start on your knees (move to your toes later as you grow stronger) with your hands planted on the ground under your shoulders, and lower your upper body toward the ground. Then raise your body up, keeping your back straight and parallel to the ground. Repeat.

Another variation of this exercise, called the triangle pushup, can target the triceps even more directly. For this, move your hands together under your body, with your thumbs and left and right middle fingers coming together to form a triangle. A triangle pushup looks like this.

2. Triceps press

Grab a soup can and you have all you need to do a triceps press. Sit in a chair, or you can also do this standing. Raise one arm, holding the soup can, straight over your head with your elbow by your ear. You can support your arm with the other arm if you would like. Bend your arm at the elbow, raising and lowering the soup can as you curl. It should look like this.

3. Kickback

Keep your soup can (or use a small weight) and find a flat bench. Lean one knee on the bench with the other foot on the ground. Place one arm on the bench in line with your shoulder and hold the soup can or weight in your other hand. With your upper arm parallel to the floor and not moving, kick your forearm back. It should look like this.

4. Biceps curls

Adler urges balancing the triceps with biceps-strengthening exercises. Stand, holding your weights, with elbows tucked and shoulders back. Curl your arms up, squeezing your biceps as you do. It should look like this.

5. Six-way shoulder

With a soup can or small weight in each hand, stand with arms to your side, palms facing in. Raise your arms forward to shoulder level. Pause. Bring them back down to side. Now raise your arms out to the side with palms facing floor. Pause. Bring them back down to side. Now bend your arms up, like a scarecrow, with upper arms parallel to the floor and elbows at 90 degrees, with hands hanging down and palms facing back. Rotate your hands up, keeping elbows bent at 90 degrees, until your palms are facing forward. Rotate your hands back down into the scarecrow position. Lower your arms back to your side. It should look like this.

There’s no cookie-cutter method to battle arm flab, Adler said, but a regular fitness routine including these exercises will have you well on your way to your own set of coveted, toned arms.