Monday, May 23, 2011

Exercises for My Flabby Arms

Well, today is the day I start my arm renovation program. Yes, I get that there are many of you who have worked and tried and still have major arm issues. I get that there are no miracles for this kind of obesity-induced damage. But I believe. I believe in myself and the power I have to transform my own body. I believe that these arms can, and will, undergo an amazing transformation because of the care I am about to give them. It will take time, but I am determined. And I encourage anyone out there who wants to try and improve their arm flab to give it a shot. It can't hurt, it WILL help, and if you don't like the results, you can quit and eat junk to get back the arms you have now. Fair enough? Okay, let's go!

First, a starting point. I encourage you to take a measurement of your left (or right, whichever you prefer, but stick with that arm for measurements) upper arm before you begin. Take a tape measure and run it around your bicep, about halfway between your shoulder and elbow. Do this on naked skin (no sleeves) and don't pull the tape measure super tight. My hanging flab is squishy enough to pack it into a smaller space (like a sleeve) so I could get several different measurements if I wasn't consistent. So I try to put the tape measure against the skin with my arm out to the side as in the first picture below, without squishing it upward. Whatever way you measure, be consistent. You'll want to write down your arm measurement and check it again every month or so. My measurement this morning was 15.5 inches.

Pictures, which I hate posting but hey, this is reality...

And this is what I get when I put my hand on my hip...

Side view:

and no, the general lumpiness of my body under that tee shirt does not escape me. That's what an extra 18 pounds will do. When I put on a better shirt (i.e., looser and thicker fabric) I still look pretty good with a defined waist, but the arms ruin it for me. This is why I am still in sleeves in 80 degree weather.

So... with that negative bit out of the way, here is my routine for improving the arms. Feel free to join me, with or without progress pictures on your blog or in the privacy of your home. I would love to see your results!

Every day I will be doing the following exercises using hand weights/dumbbells. I will start with 5 pounds and increase as my strength builds. The goal is to be able to do 12 to 15 repetitions of each exercise, two times. Each "set" of 12-15 reps should have a short rest in between, maybe a minute or so. If it is super easy for you to do 12-15 reps, you need to add more weight (say, 8 or 10 pound dumbbells). This whole routine should take 15-20 minutes. You can get results doing this twice a week, but three times a week is better. I am aiming for Mon-Weds-Fri. I plan to update every Wednesday how I am doing (Workout Wednesday!)

Wall push-ups (you just do push-ups by leaning against a wall instead of on the floor. Then when this is easy, progress to using the edge of a kitchen counter, then eventually use the floor)
Biceps curls
Triceps kickbacks
Overhead presses
Shoulder flys
Dumbbell shrugs
Bent over rows
Overhead triceps extensions
Wrist curls and reverse curls

That's it! Simple. If you don't know what some of these exercises are, they are easy to find by Googling them. You can find videos on youtube for good form for each exercise. It only takes a few minutes to learn to do these... a small investment of your time! Give it a try!

I am also adding crunches because I want to build some core strength.

This has nothing to do with arms, but I am also going to restart my physical therapy exercises for my knees and hips. There are a LOT of them, in fact, so many that it was starting to get overwhelming to me in the end. I think I will begin with the ones they had me start with:

warm up 5 minutes on the bike or walking
wall squats with a large exercise ball behind my back
side lying leg lifts with the heel of the upper foot pressed against a wall behind me
balance on 1 foot for 60 seconds (on a mini trampoline is harder)
standing straight-leg lifts in all four directions (add resistance bands or weights as this gets easier)
calf raises (standing on one foot, push up to stand on tiptoes, then back down... hold a wall for balance)
bridges (lying on back)
one-legged squats on a 4" step (I need to find a video or image of this to show you what it is)

That's my plan, I know it is going to be a drag getting myself in the habit of doing this at first, but after just a week or so you DO feel a difference, and that big payoff from such a small time investment is enough to drive me to continue. I love feeling strong!

If you'd like to read up on strength training, try Weight Training For Dummies. It's the book I started with.

Let me know if you're in this arm thing with me. I will post results, whether they are great or not!


Debbie said...

My arms look just like yours, I could have been looking at my own photos. I've recently started a boxing workout to help with my upper body. It's fun and a great stress reliever when I hit the heavy bag. But I may have to borrow some weights from my husband and try some of the exercises that you listed. Then maybe I will give in and wear a sleeveless top. Thanks for the inspiration!

Ellie said...

Good luck Lyn. I am excited to see your results, you sound very determined, and determination usually means results!

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for awhile and I am so impressed on you commitment to your children and to your body. I have struggled with my weight and have arm issues as well. I will be following your exercises. Thank you for being a honest and sincere blogger.

Tammy said...

I'm pretty sure you've seen my batwing pics before....I posted them quite a while ago. I did the weights for a while, both at home and in the gym, got disgusted, quit, and sold my free weights in a garage sale, lol..brilliant!! Seriously though...I'd like to pick up a couple of weights at a second-hand sports store and do this with you...gonna' take a long ass time to see a difference in these babies, but something has got to be better than nothing. :)

Princess Dieter said...

I wish you a great TRANSFORMATION! Hey, I talk to my body some nights in bed and tell it ohange, get healthier, firm up, etc :) Can't hurt. Plus it trains the brain a bit.

In honor of the arm thing, I posted over at Happy Weight After with pics of my fatwings in May 2010 and today! And wearing sleeveless, then and now.

My fatwing flag is flying!

Wanting arm transformations for all of us!!!!!

I always had a hard time measuring my upper arms, so have no recent numbers. I mostly just did waist/hip and some bust and rarely thighs.

Lauren said...

I still have 100 to lose and face the same issue. My arms are already like this from being overweight for too long. I'm down 20 and working on the other 100. Remembering that the cosmetic is not the whole reason why you keep a healthy weight is discouraging...but oh well. better thin, alive and not in pain..than the alternative. ;)

I'm getting on the gym bandwagon again and hope I can stay on longer than my usual 3mos. :)

Thanks for sharing. You inspire me time and again to work toward my healthy lifestyle goals!

Joy said...

Lyn, I really think the exercises will help. Sure, there might be some leftover skin but I really think you will greatly improve the area, and I do think it will tighten up some. As an aside, your forearms look freakin' fab. I would kill for those forearms! Good luck with the new routine; I need to join you!

timothy said...

i believe you can/will do it, it'll take time and patience but just stick to itamd it will happen! i think i mentioned it before but sheryl aka bitch cakes swears by the compression arm bands. looking forward to the after pics! xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Autumnforest said...

The honest truth is, even if you have some flesh atop of muscle, the overall effect will be vastly different than if you had no muscle under that flesh. You will be truly surprised!

beerab said...

Good luck girl! I have a similar issue and I know how frustrating it is to have flabby arms :(

losingitallandlovingit said...

I just recently found your blog and love it so much that I ended up putting a link for it on my own weight loss blog :) I really wish you the best of luck!

My arms are the thing that scares me the most, since I do a lot with my legs they are already pretty toned even though I've got a lot of weight to lose. My belly is also a concern but I know that will come off in time with the exercises I've been doing. I hope we both reach our goals!

Sarah said...

My arms are like yours too. Totally out of proportion with the rest of my body. I am an size 14 but my arms are bigger than most extremely obese women I see out and about. Its frustrating. Good luck!

cc said...

first of all, it really does NOT look as bad as you think. you may think you have the upper arms of someone much larger (if anything i think you just have the upper arms of someone who has successfully peeled off a lot of weight), but you also have the forearms of someone who is TINY! while they look great, maybe this also accentuates the negative for you? anyway, good luck with the exercises, but in the meantime, flaunt what you've got, and do it proudly!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Lyn, for posting those photos. You are a consistent example of honest, authentic blogging. :D

For a point of reference, I wegh 184 # and am 5' 41/2 " tall--my embarrassing saggy, flabby, wave bck and forth with every movement arms are 13.5" measured per your instructions.

Said that just to ditto the comments that agreed with you in the assertion that your arms are disproportionate to your body size rather than a body dysmorphic issue.

The exercise have to provide some improvement even if they don't totally cure the problem.

You go, girl!


Eschelle said...

I hate my extra waving arm too...

Anonymous said...

My problem area isn't really the arms (although I definitely have flab and it doesn't look like the sexy, well defined arms in the magazines). But I can empathize as my area is my stomach. I have lots of skin hanging there. I think sometimes it even keeps me from losing the rest of the weight I need to lose (about 50 lbs) because I worry about how freakish it is going to look if I do lose that much weight. Granted, I can cover it up somewhat -- but even if I get skinny, I still won't be able to wear anything I want because it will look like I'm shoplifting something in my pants. Ugh.

And since I have other medical issues which have forced me to stop working -- I no longer have the income to even think about plastic surgery (which I would do in heartbeat because a scar would be preferable to all this hanging skin).

Good luck! I'm rooting for you.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the looking like I'm shoplifting comment was based on an actual event. At Disney (the happiest place on earth for everyone but me apparently), a security guard thought I was trying to sneak something in. I finally had to lift up my shirt to show the waistband of my shorts to prove I wasn't hiding anything. It was one of the most humiliating experiences I've ever had and I started the day out bawling for a good 15 minutes. Luckily, I had sunglasses to hide most of it -- but putting on a brave face so as not to ruin the day for my kids was very, very hard.

Alzie said...

arms are the worst! good luck!

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I'm so depressed reading all these self-hating comments about our arms. "Fatwings," "batwings," waving, flabby, saggy -- ENOUGH! Those arms have carried babies, toted groceries, pushed lawnmowers, and hugged and helped and waved hello. They are a part of you and you need to love them, not detest them! Please, let's use motivating language to help ourselves. Weight-loss efforts based on disgust and self-loathing last as long as it takes for the next temptation to roll around.

If you've lost a lot of weight without the benefit of challenging (or ANY) exercise, then, YES, you get the body you get. And sometimes, genetics and a lifetime of extra weight will keep us from getting the bodies we think we deserve, but, ladies, and I mean this most lovingly, GET OVER IT. Give yourselves the credit you deserve for doing all that you CAN do to transform!

Also, while strength-training is definitely going to stimulate and help grow those muscles and re-shape things, the fat isn't going anywhere without cardio -- please don't neglect that aspect of working out.

Ximenax said...

Hi I'm in and going to try my best. Thanks for the encouragement.

Lyn said...


if you read the post I linked to in this post, you can see I said all those things last year. This effort is not based on loathing. It is based on love for myself, that I need better health AND to feel good about my body. I am glad you always feel loving towards every part of your body, but I am not in that place at this moment. I have anxiety about my changing body, so I am doing something productive and positive about it. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the arms, or that I hate myself, or any of that. It just means I SEE the reality of the flab, the hanging, etc. It is reality, even if you choose to call it "love handles" or "happy arms" or whatever.

Shannon said...

I'm in! I did a post (w/ picture)on my blog about this a couple weeks ago. My arm is getting really flabby as I lose weight and it bothers me, too. So, I'm going to give this workout a try! Thanks!

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Anonymous said...

Whoa -- seriously, no offense meant toward Lyn or any commenter here. But it is a default of dieters, myself included (early on), of attacking our fat like it's the enemy, along with all the relevant over-sized body parts. For myself, things finally clicked when I stopped all manner of negative self-talk, which is different than loving all my body parts all the time (which I don't, but it's something to shoot for!^). It's just flat-out counter-productive in a very fundamental and insidious way to use words like "batwings," "flabby" and "saggy," and that was the whole point of my comment. You say you're just being realistic and calling it like you see it, but if anyone thinks I'm wrong, try using one of those terms about a friend's arms and see what kind of reaction you get!

I get that this is your blog and you can say what you want and everyone else is going to chime in with all kinds of agreeable comments, but I made a lot of fundamental shifts in my last major trip down the scale, and shutting down the unkind noise was at the top of my list, so I'm just encouraging that same effort of anyone else on the same path. It's a lot of work to stop doing something that's so automatic (and been that way for so long), so I'm just being everyone's annoying reminder.

Also, my arms are different by about 1-1/2 inches, so I'd just measure both of them. Same goes for my legs, and I don't think it's that uncommon.

Lyn said...


no offense taken. We all have to figure out our own journeys.

Susan said...

In my wildest dreams, I could see any of you very successful blog dieters get an agent and be a poster child for diet. Then petition some plastic surgeon to do pro bono work. It sounds a wild dream. Because you and others like you are local heroes.

I will be interested as well. Timothy had mentioned the arm band that Bitch Cakes uses, too. And look at Bitch Cakes!

I have high hopes for you because you are strong to have come this far, now you just have some this and thats to deal with and pretty much tackle them as you have!

MizFit said...

I love that book too.

YOU CAN DO THIS---I can help :)

youve gots my email.

The Captain's Daughter said...

I'm with you!

Anonymous said...

Wow Lyn. I don't know what I was picturing, but may I just say (and this may or may not be helpful, it is just my thing) that your arms are nowhere near as bad as you seem to think they are! Yes, they are a bit out of proportion, especially when you raise them as in photo 1. But in photos 2 and 3, if you hadn't written about it, and just taken pictures, I don't think I would have really noticed them. You have beautiful skin, you have a nice figure...and I mean that in a "you go girl" way, not in an objectifying way. I am trying to put this in a way where I acknowledge that "it's what's inside that counts" but Lyn...your outside isn't that bad. :)

Lyn said...

Thanks for that feedback, Marie. Hopefully someday my eyes will stop deceiving me!

Desert Singer said...

I'm in... I bought resistance bands a few months ago, and will be using those... just need to figure out how to use them for my target areas!

As has been mentioned before, you continue to inspire. Thanks for putting it all out there. ♥

moonduster said...

I have to tell you that, after losing 145 lbs, I can say that it does get better! I still have issues with loose skin (I recently posted about this in my blog too), but once you get to your target weight and stay there for a while, it does begin to firm up and after you've been at your target weight for 6 months or more, it looks MUCH better than it does while you are still on your journey. And the arm exercises will help. I have done them throughout my workouts and weight loss too. (I use the stepping program on the Wii Fit and do about 30 minutes, using different arm lifts during each set. It gives me a time frame for my lifts, rather than a number of sets.)

Anonymous said...

Hello Lyn, firstly, I would like to wish you success in your endeavour to improve your body, what you've done in the past few years is quite impressive, to say the least. I recently found your blog after searching for cauliflower pizza recipes (which I must say, is delicious), and want to offer my advice as for excercises you could do, as a thank you for the recipes on here.

As for my opinion arm exercises, I would put emphasis on doing rows, close grip push ups(or bench press), chin ups and overhead press. I recommend doing progressively heavier weights, and doing 3 sets of 5-8 reps. All four of those exercises will work your core quite intensely (isometric contractions, you have to keep tense abdominal and lower back muscles in order to properly perform the movements). As a benefit, your entire upper body will strenghten with those 4 exercises. It will keep everything nice and firm. You can also do tricep isolation (pushdown, kickback) and bicep isolation (curls) at the end of the workout, to really fatigue your muscles, but focus on the first four that I mentioned. Try to increase the weight by 5 lbs each week: you can't get stronger without lifting more weight!

As for my recommendation for strength training, I would google Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe, or visit the website

Keep up the fantastic work, and good luck!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I forgot to mention one Anonymous poster wrote
"the fat isn't going anywhere without cardio".

I would just like to refute this comment, because fat loss is a direct result of diet, not cardio. Don't get me wrong, cardiovascular activities are an important part of being healthy and having a healthy body, but fat loss is directly related to your diet - keeping your carbs to a minimum = putting fat loss to a maximum.

I would google either Gary Taubes' 'Good Calories, Bad Calories' or 'Why We Get Fat, And What To Do About It'(the latter is baically a shortened version of the former) if you want an interesting read :)

Lisa said...

If you haven't considered it, you might want to try hula hooping. It is an excellent workout and will tone you from your neck to your ankles... not to mention your arms and shoulders!! A weighted hoop is only around $30 and you can do it most anywhere. Most of all its a super fun workout and you can do it with your kids. It has done great things for toning up my arms,, and I've lost around 100 lbs also.

nebali said...

so..what were the results? I'd love to get rid of my flabby arms!