Q: How can I tone my flabby arms without developing bulky muscles?
A: First off, don't worry about getting big arms. "Women just don't have enough testosterone to build large amounts of muscle," says Keli Roberts, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise and group fitness manager at Equinox Fitness Clubs in Pasadena, Calif. "It's actually very difficult for women to get big."
Getting rid of arm flab is a two-part process: You need to reduce the fat that sits on top of your muscles by burning more calories than you eat. "Examine your diet and make sure you're creating a caloric deficit," Roberts says. (For help figuring out how many calories you should consume a day, visit caloriecontrol.org.) At the same time, you need to tone the muscle underneath the fat. "The best strategy is to work your arm muscles from a variety of different angles," Roberts says. For instance, for your triceps (the rear upper-arm muscles), do some basic exercises such as triceps press-downs, kickbacks and overhead presses. These will ensure that each of the three heads of the triceps muscle gets its proper due. You can learn a variety of triceps and biceps exercises in videos, books or Web sites or from a trainer at a gym. At Shape.com you'll find basic moves for your upper arms, and our book Do It Right: The 75 Best Body-Sculpting Exercises for Women includes seven arm workouts ($20; to order, visit Shapeboutique.com or call 877-742-7337).
Whatever strength exercises you choose, be sure to use heavy-enough weights that your muscles fatigue after eight to 12 repetitions. "Lifting weights that are too light is a waste of time," Roberts says. "Lift enough weight so that by the end of each set, you can't do one more rep." Do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions, total.