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. Thank you for posting this! I have been focusing so much on legs lately that I’ve totally neglected my arms! After doing these exercises for a couple weeks my arms already look so much better! What a difference strong shoulders can make in your physique!

  2. Please advise! I have been going to the gym for a year now. I am 48 years old and every time I work my upper body I suffer for a week with trap and rhomboid trigger points. How can I fix this. It’s horrible and I dread doing upper body because of this. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Renea: Have you talked with your healthcare team about this? If not, I’d see what they think is the problem and go from there. I hope it gets better! 🙂

  3. What advice do you have as far as working out with auto immune diseases? My whole life has turned upside down and I have celiac disease and hypothyroidism. I have no energy and feel bad all the time. I was told not to do cardio and to lift weights. I’m at a loss because I can’t lose weight. I feel stuck. Any advice please. Thank you and God bless

    1. Hi Krystal: It’s always best to follow your healthcare team’s recommendations as far as working out, but a huge part of weight loss is nutrition, and you can check out the nutrition part of Chris and Heidi’s carb cycling program here: https://heidipowell.net/2713. It’s awesome, and it works! 🙂

  4. My husband read this and just said sorry to me for all those heavy arm days!! ? I hate my arms and work them out so much, and they just get bigger and fatter! Where have you been all my life!

  5. I cant afford a gym membership, what exercise can i do at home that will help get rid of these bat wings….

    1. Order the Body Gym system with resistance band from QVC. You will ??It for what you’re looking to do . Cost me $39 last year. Read the reviews. It comes with a great instructional video, but you can always You Tube a segment of Marie Osmond on the show giving great instructional video as well.

  6. I’d also like to know- should I now sub these moves for days I would’ve done triceps, essentially no longer have tri days?

    1. Hi Cece: These exercises work your arms, shoulders, and back, so they can replace any tri moves you may have been doing, plus you get the bonus of working other muscles in addition to your tris. 🙂

  7. So happy to see this!! I already do these so I’m glad to know I’m on the right track, or will be. After months of being out due to medical issues I will happily walk back into the gym TODAY!

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