If you want to tone flabby arms to wear sleeveless tops or bathing suits with confidence, you need to exercise your triceps. Compound exercises such as dips, bench presses, seated rows and lat pulldowns exercise your triceps and other muscles in your back, chest or shoulders at the same time. Triceps isolation exercises focus your effort where you need it: the muscles under your arms. Because your shoulders help stabilize your arms when you do triceps exercises, if you have shoulder pain or injuries, consult your health care provider before doing any upper body exercises.
Underarm Fat Loss
Unfortunately, doing triceps exercises will not spot reduce the amount of fat stored under your arms. The areas on which your body deposits fat and the locations from which it burns fat are determined by your gender, age and genetic predisposition. To lose underarm fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume, either by modifying your diet or adding calorie-burning cardio sessions to your workouts. However, building stronger triceps muscles will make your arms look firmer and less flabby.
Sets and Repetitions
To build strong, firm triceps you must work hard enough to challenge your muscles. If you can do more than 12 repetitions of an exercise using good form, you need to increase the weight or resistance you're using. One set of eight to 12 repetitions is enough for general fitness, but if you want to maximize muscle growth to improve your appearance, do three full sets of your triceps exercise. To avoid plateaus and injuries, don't do the same triceps exercises all the time. Switch among cables and free weights and standing, sitting and lying exercises to vary your routine.
Cable Machine Exercises
You can use the high pulley on cable machines to isolate your triceps. Standing exercises include one- or two-armed triceps extensions or pushdowns and pullovers. Vary your routine by alternating between short bar and rope attachments for high-pulley triceps exercises. Sit or lie on a properly positioned bench with the back of your head facing the cable attachment to do lying or incline triceps extensions. Attach grips to a low pulley and face away from the cable attachment to do overhead triceps extensions.
Free Weight Exercises
Any exercises in which you straighten your arms against resistance work your triceps. You can stand, sit or lie down to do skullcrushers with dumbbells. Decline narrow grip bench presses also focus the triceps as do dumbbell or barbell triceps extensions. Have a partner spot you when using heavy free weights. You don't want to actually crush your skull when doing skullcrushers.
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: Fracture of the Shoulder Blade (Scapula)
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: Common Shoulder Injuries
- ExRx.net: Fat Loss & Weight Training Myths
- Bodybuilding.com: Tricep Exercises
- ExRx.net: Upper Arm
- ExRx.net: Weight Training Guidelines
- MayoClinic.com: What's Better for Strength Training — One Set or Multiple Sets?
Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.