Banish bingo arms

Nobody wants flabby upper arms, often referred to as ‘bingo wings’. Which is why there has been a rise in the number of people undergoing  upper arm plastic surgery to remove it. Fortunately such extreme measures are not that necessary to have perfectly toned arms like US First Lady Michelle Obama.

Where to start

Before you begin toning exercises however, it's important not to fall into the trap of only working specific areas as it’s impossible to ‘spot-reduce’ when you’re aiming to look lean.

The mistake people make is to try target a specific muscle group, often at the expense of doing the whole body exercise that is actually more effective. That's not to say that focus on a muscle group or area is bad, because you need it, but it's better to do whole-body exercise.

So try to include some cardiovascular exercise training into your routine, including anything from running, walking, cycling, swimming, tae bo to aerobics. Pick one you enjoy and are likely to stick with and follow a programme to track your progression.

“Anything that is cardiovascular gets the heart pumping and energy-burning is most effective. I would suggest at least four days a week of cardio training, each session lasting about 30 to 45 minutes, at least. You have to build up this duration and then keep at it consistently in order to see any change."

Exercises to tone the upper arms

Registered Exercise Scientist Habib Noorhai has devised the following programme you can do to give your upper arms an intense workout. It should take you between 10 to 15 minutes to complete and should be done twice a week for maximum effect.

You can use a pair of dumbbells for each exercise, or if you don’t have access to dumbbells use two bottles of water or two cans of tinned goods. As long as they’re not too heavy to prevent you doing the complete exercise they will work.

Tricep dips (2 sets x10)

Stand with your back to a chair or bench. Bend your legs and place your palms on the front edge of the bench, fingers pointing forward. Slowly walk your feet out in front of you, until the majority of your body weight is resting on your arms.

Inhale, and keeping your elbows tucked in at your sides, slowly bend your arms and lower your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Hold for a second, then exhale and straighten your arms back up to the starting position.

Do 10 of these then rest and do another set.

Bicep curls (2 sets x 10)

Pick a pair of dumbbells  that are not too heavy but still challenging. Hold them at your sides, palms facing forward and keep your back straight and chest up. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the weights toward your shoulders. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position, straightening your arms completely. That's one rep.

Do 10 of these then rest and do another 10.

Overhead extensions (2 x 10)

Either standing or sitting, holding a dumbbell with both hands wrapped around the dumbbell handle. Brace your torso by contracting your abdominal muscles. Exhale and slowly press the dumbbell overhead until your arms are vertical to the floor. Hold it for a second and then inhale and bend your elbows in a slow and controlled manner, lowering the dumbbell behind your head. That’s one rep.

Do 10 of these then rest and do another 10.

Hammer curls (2 x sets 10)

Similar to the regular bicep curl above, the hammer curl targets the biceps muscles. However, the inward rotation of the arms mean the forearms also get a bit more of a workout. Either standing or sitting, engage your core and with a dumbbell in each hand turn the hands so that the palms face each other and squeeze the biceps to curl the weights towards the shoulders.

Hold for a second and then slowly lower the weights, keeping a slight bend in the elbows at the bottom. That’s one rep.

Do 10 of these and then rest and do another 10.

One-arm row, both arms (2 sets x 10)

Stand to the right of a bench or a chair and hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing in. Place your left knee and your left hand on top of the bench or chair for support. Let your right arm hang down and a bit forward.

Stabilise your core and as you inhale pull your right arm up until your elbow is pointing to the ceiling, your upper arm is parallel to the floor, and your hand comes to the outside of the ribcage. Hold for a second and then slowly lower the weight back down. That’s one rep.

Do 10 of these and then rest and do another 10.

Bicep curl to shoulder press (2 sets x 8)

This can be done either sitting or standing. Hold a pair of dumbbells in each hand and make sure your core is tight and your back is straight. Curl the dumbbells to your chest in a bicep curl but as they reach the top of the curl, rotate your wrists so that your palms face outwards and then press the dumbbells overhead. Hold for a second and then lower the weights back to your shoulders, rotate your hands back inward and extend your arms to your sides again. This is one rep.

Do 10 of these followed by a short rest and then another 10.

And there you have it – no need to resort to drastic measures such as plastic surgery. Just doing these exercises regularly will get you on the path to firm, toned arms even Michelle Obama would be proud to play bingo with.

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