This is the foolproof formula to tone and strengthen your arms, according to a top celebrity trainer

Spoiler alert: it's all about consistency.

How to get toned arms: A woman in working kit against a blue sky
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're wondering how to get toned arms, you might feel slightly overwhelmed by the wealth of tips, must-tries, and workouts out there. That's why we've enlisted the help of a top industry expert and personal trainer to the stars to share their verdict, once and for all, on the most effective way to build arm strength, whatever your current fitness level.

Know this, before we get into it: there's no one "perfect" workout out. The beauty of being active and building a healthy lifestyle is that there are so many ways to move - the most effective being the one that you'll genuinely enjoy and by proxy stick to in the long run.

That said, some exercises do lend themselves particularly well to specific body and fitness goals - which is where this article comes in. If getting toned arms is on your wishlist, then we've done the homework for you.

Having strong arms is important for a number of reasons. Not only does it improve your overall posture, but reduces your risk of injury, stabilises your joints, and protects your bones, too. This 2019 study even found that arm strength may be important for life longevity. 

You'll likely already know that, though - increased muscle strength, tone and mass are all vital to general wellbeing. That's why below, we've got the lowdown on which exercises to focus on and which muscles to target. Ready to give them a go? Enjoy. Do scroll our guides to the best arm workouts for women, best home arm workouts, and best arm workouts for women with weights, while you're here. 

How to get toned arms: your expert-led guide

Sharma's top tips:

"To tone your arms, you'll want to incorporate a combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercise," explains Calum Sharma, head of exercise science at The Body Lab (Sharma's trained numerous celebrities so knows a thing or two about how best to build strength).  

This might look like a few arm-focused workouts a week paired with a run or two. That said, targeted weight training, in particular, is highly beneficial for getting toned arms, he continues. 

So - how many sessions should you aim for as a beginner? He recommends aiming for two to three days of dedicated upper body strength training sessions each week, allowing sufficient rest between sessions. 

Another important need to know: "When looking to tone your arms, keep the reps high," he recommends. "Aim to focus your rep range towards twelve to 20 reps when just focusing on your arm muscles." Not just that, but remember to progressively increase the weight or resistance as you get stronger, he advises.  

Of course, if you're totally new to exercise, returning after a long break, or have an underlying health condition, do consult with a fitness professional or healthcare provider before trying anything new. 

Keen to give the workouts a go? Below, Sharma's listed his pick of the best exercises to help you achieve toned and strong arms.

Sharma's go-to arm exercises to try:

1. Push Ups

What? The humble push-up. Not at the point where you can do one unassisted? Don't push it - rather, make sure to modify based on your current fitness levels. "You can modify them by doing knee push-ups if you're a beginner or elevate your feet for added difficulty," the trainer advises.

Why? "Push-ups are excellent for working your chest, shoulders, and triceps," says Sharma. 

How long? Aim for twelve to twenty reps, for three to four rounds per workout.

2. Dumbbell Bicep Curls

What? A simple move that involves working out your upper arms with either your body weight or your dumbbells. 

Why? Dumbbell bicep curls are another great option for toning arms, says Sharma, as they target the muscles in the front of your upper arms. "You can perform these seated or standing," he says, suggesting light weights to start with and then gradually increasing the resistance as you get stronger.

How long? Aim for twelve to twenty reps, for three to four rounds per workout.

3. Tricep Dips

What? Tricep dips - as the name suggests - involve you dipping off a bench or raised box and, in turn, working out the muscles in the back of your upper arms (aka your triceps). Sharma recommends giving these a go on either parallel bars, a sturdy chair or a bench.

Why? "These are a simple yet effective way of building strength and can be done from home or the gym. Top tip: "Make sure to keep your back close to the surface you're using, and your elbows pointed backwards," he advises.

How long? Aim for twelve to twenty reps, for three to four rounds per workout.

4. Pull-Ups or Chin-Ups

What? These won't be an option for everyone, but if you have access to a pull-up bar, then a pull-up or chin-up is fantastic for working your back, biceps, and shoulders, says Sharma.

Why? Because this move is another simple but effective way of working out your arms. Just make sure to get your form right - the below YouTube video is a good explainer of how to do it correctly and highlights any common mistakes.

How long? Aim for twelve to twenty reps, for three to four rounds per workout.

5. Hammer Curls

What? Hammer curls target your biceps and brachialis muscle, which is located underneath the biceps. "Hold the dumbbells with your palms facing your body and curl them up simultaneously," says Sharma.

Why? Hammer curls are one of the most effective weighted workouts you can do to target your upper arms - plus, they'll build your strength quickly so you'll be able to see how much you can lift week on week. 

How long? Aim for twelve to twenty reps, for three to four rounds per workout.

6. Tricep Kickbacks

What? Hold on to those dumbbells because this is another one that calls for them. "These can be done with a dumbbell in each hand or on the cable machine," says Sharma. "Bend at the waist, keep your upper arms parallel to the ground, and extend your forearms to work your triceps."

Why? Out of all of the moves in this article, these are great for strengthening the backs of your arms.

How long? Aim for twelve to twenty reps, for three to four rounds per workout.

7. Planks

What? You'll likely all have heard of the humble plank - primarily a core exercise, says Sharma, that also engages your arms, shoulders, and chest. 

Why? As above - because it's simple yet effective and can be done from anywhere while also being seriously effective. Do note, though: Sharma warns that maintaining good form is essential to maximise its effectiveness. Not sure if you're doing it right? Follow the guidance in the below video for an effective plank.

How long? Aim for twelve to twenty reps, for three to four rounds per workout.

Other workouts that are great for toning your arms?

1. Cardio workouts

If your aim is to reduce overall body fat, including in your arms, incorporating cardiovascular exercises like running, swimming, cycling, or brisk walking is recommended according to Sharma. 

"Try not to make the cardio too intense as this will cause you to use glucose as a respiratory substrate as opposed to fat," he says. "Lower-intensity cardio is preferred when looking to reduce build strength and reduce body fat." 

Running tips for beginners, at the ready.

2. Yoga and Pilates:

Many yoga and Pilates poses and exercises engage the arms and shoulders, says Sharma. As a result, they can help improve your flexibility, balance, and muscle tone.

Don't miss our guides to yoga for beginners and 30 minute Pilates workouts, while you're here.

3. Resistance workouts

Resistance band exercises are such a simple yet effective way of working out your muscles. The easy-to-use piece of equipment certainly earns its keep as one of the best bang-for-buck pieces of gym kit. 

Sharma is a fan of them too and says that using resistance bands is yet another effective way to tone your arms. "You can perform various exercises, like bicep curls, tricep extensions, and lateral raises using resistance bands," he says.

Shop MC UK's go-to workout kit now:

Amy Sedghi

Amy Sedghi is a freelance journalist, specialising in health and fitness, travel, beauty, sustainability and cycling.

Having started her career in The Guardian newsroom working with an award-winning team, Amy's proud to have reported on a variety of topics, speaking to a range of voices and travelling far and wide to do so. From interviews on ski lifts to writing up breaking stories outside courtrooms, Amy is used to reporting from a range of locations (she’s even been known to type up a story in a tent).

She also loves being active, spending time outdoors and travelling - with some of her favourite features she’s worked on combining all three. Cycling and eating her way round the Isle of Man, learning to sail on the Côte d'Azur and traversing the Caminito del Rey path in Spain are just some of her highlights.

Covering a diverse range of subjects appeals to Amy. One minute she may be writing about her online styling session with Katie Holmes’ stylist and the next she’s transporting readers to the basketball courts of Haringey where she joined a group trying to lower knife crime in the capital.

While at university, Amy was awarded The Media Society bursary. Following her stint at the Guardian, Amy worked at Google and as well as writing for Marie Claire, she regularly contributes interviews, features and articles to National Geographic Traveller, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, Stylist, Refinery29, Glorious Sport, Cycling Weekly and Rouleur.

When she’s not writing, Amy can be found trying to get through her towering stack of books-to-read, cycling down at Herne Hill Velodrome or looking for the next place to eat and drink with friends.