Underarm Flab Frustration: The Gym Mistake That’s Keeping You From Sexy Arms

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: Women want sexy, sleek, toned arms and are willing to do just about anything to get them. But what if I told you that doing that 10th set of tricep extensions is NOT, in fact, going to reduce the amount of flab under your arms but, instead, will just develop the muscle and potentially grow the area? It’s actually true! Don’t believe me…yet? Keep reading.

One of the biggest mistakes I see most women making with their workouts is trying to reduce their underarm flab by doing excessive tricep extensions. Ahhh…when I see this, I want nothing more than to scream from the mountaintops: No amount of weight lifted or number of reps completed will get rid of flabby arms! In fact, the heavier the weight, the more muscle you will build, making the tricep region appear even larger than it did before!

Consider this: By doing extensive amounts of arm-centered exercises, you are just expanding the muscle. You are NOT burning the fat in that region, so that same pesky layer will be there no matter what tricep-focused lifts you do.

Unfortunately, you can’t spot reduce fat. That’s the honest truth. And trust me, I wish I was wrong about this one. Any extra fat will leave your body in its own unique way, and that can be so frustrating! Some people lose weight first in their faces, others in their chest, and others lose in other areas. But don’t lose hope!

How to Get Sexy Arms

There are plenty of ways to get those sexy sculpted arms of your dreams, AND it’s surprisingly simple. The key to decreasing that underarm flab….(you ready for this?)….is all about what you eat and about building the muscles around the underarm flab to create the illusion of slimmer triceps.

Start with nutrition.

In order to get rid of any extra fat, including that underarm flab, you MUST eat fewer calories than you burn—you must be in a calorie deficit. Every single day. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about this one. And while this is simple science, let’s take it one step further. Protein, and eating enough protein, is key to helping you not feel hungry and for helping you to retain muscle while you’re in that calorie deficit. Protein is the most immediately satiating macronutrient, which means you’ll feel fuller faster and stay feeling fuller longer (helping to curb any cravings), and it’s also crucial for building and repairing so many things in your body. Including those sexy arm muscles.

Build the correct muscles

We often get so fixated with the old-school body building mentality that we need to do bicep curls and tricep extensions to sculpt those limbs, all the while, we are neglecting the most important muscle groups that actually help create the appearance of a slim and sculpted arm: The shoulders and the back. By focusing more on compound movements that fire your back and shoulder muscles first, you will automatically (and secondarily) work the appropriate bicep and tricep muscles without risking overdeveloping your arms.

Before we dive in, take a look at the muscles in your shoulder. It’s made of up of 3 different muscles:

  • Anterior delt
  • Lateral delt
  • Posterior delt

It’s important to know and understand the angles of your shoulder so you can strategically make sure you’re working all three muscles instead of focusing on just one area. When you work all three, you can achieve that rounded, strong appearance that will set the tone for giving you your dream physique.

Related: Click here to read more about how your shoulders can make your waist appear smaller

Think about it like this: The nicer the shoulder boulder, the slimmer the arm appears. I’ll bet you’ve never seen a woman with nice shoulders who didn’t have amazing arms as well, right? They go hand-in-hand! Same goes for your back. The more sculpted your back, the nicer your arms AND the slimmer your waistline will appear. Who knew it was all about the optical illusion?? (wink, wink)

It’s time to graduate from old-school to new-school and start sculpting that upper body look you’re dreaming of…toned underarms and all.

Here are a few of my fave compound shoulder and back exercises to help you create those beautiful arms you’re wanting:

Aim for 3 sets of 12 of each exercise on your upper body days, and don’t work out these muscle groups two days in a row. That day or two of rest in between will help those muscles become even stronger AND more shapely.


Related reading:

How to Burn Fat While Building Muscle || Body Recompositioning 101
10 Minute Upper Body Workout
5-Minute Workout for Sculpting Sexy Arms
The Dos + Donuts: Your Top 5 Nutrition Questions Answered
No Equipment? No Problem! At-Home Upper Body Workout

59 Responses

    1. Hi,
      I also love the shoes. Went to the site, but can’t find them. Could you please tell the name of the shoe? I realize Reebok FuryLites, but they are not there, other FuryLites are, but not these.
      Thank You,

  1. Hi Heidi!
    What’s the best way hint to eat or drink before a work out? Recently I started an int nose workout called Orangetheory and I’ve been burning around 600 calories but when I leave I’m starving! What should I eat or drink to get ready?
    Ps thanks for the arm advice!!

    1. Click on the exercise names in the article and it will take you to a video demo of each exercise

    1. Hi Angie: How each person’s skin reacts to weight loss can be very different, but working and building those muscles underneath the skin can definitely help! 🙂

    2. Try a retinol cream. Yup… the same as you would use on your face. I lost 125 pounds and had awful underarm skin.

      I didn’t want surgery because that would leave a scar, and I would be just as self conscious of that as the flabby skin.

      I have tried every overpriced cream going. The only thing that did anything was retinol. Don’t expect to see results in a few days or weeks tho… it’s slow. Start looking for changes after about 6 months of daily use.

  2. Oh thank God for you Heidi! I dislike strongly tricep extensions! ? cant wait to focus more on back and shoulders. Struggle a lot with my back, so ill try these moves more than the lamo biceps and tricep curls! Yay!

  3. I don’t have a gym membership. Is it possible to do these upper body exercises at home? If so, how?
    Thanks for your time.

    1. Yes! If you have this equipment (which is minimal), you can totally do these at home!

  4. So are you saying that we should never do bicep curls and tricep extensions? Because I love doing tricep extensions.

    1. I’m wondering the same. Although I hate triceps extensions so I’d be happy to never do them again haha.

  5. You are so awesome! My daughter is 13 and I got her wkg out we go together! She also swims so I am getting her ready to swim for high school next year at Corona Del sol and I love that you are from AZ! I was wondering when you are free sometime if we could meet up and you can show me some stuff at the gym I am still learning and I want to teach my daughter the right way of training! We live in Tempe and I work for the Kyrene school dist in the preschool at Kyrene De Las Manitas school! I love it! Thank you for being so awesome and I hope to hear from you soon! And I am on Facebook to I am one of your friends Tracie Conway Radawec! Thank you, Tracie 🙂

    1. Hi Marie: You can substitute a different type of row – using dumbbells – that mimics the same movement without the T-Bar. 🙂

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