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Arm and Back Toners

To get the most out of an upper-body toning workout, perform exercises that work multiple muscle groups, says Pete McCall, MS, CSCS, exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise.

"Pull-ups [a.k.a. chin-ups], for example, work the back, forearms and biceps," McCall says. If you're not strong enough to lift your own body weight, substitute seated pulldowns or seated rows, which work the same muscles. Here's how:

  • Seated Pulldown: Attach tubing to upper part of a door hinge. Sit tall on a stability ball or bench and grasp tubing handles. Keep feet flat on the floor and chest high as you pull elbows down and back, squeezing shoulder blades together. Pause and slowly return to starting position.
  • Seated Row (works the back and biceps): Attach exercise tubing to a door hinge and sit tall on a bench or exercise ball, grasping handles in each hand, palms facing up. Keep chest high and shoulders down (avoid shrugging) as you pull the handles towards you (tubing should be at chest height). Pause when hands reach the sides of your chest, pause and slowly return to starting position. Keep palms facing up to work the biceps; palms down strengthens forearms.

  • Plank-Ups (works the core, shoulders, chest, and triceps): If you're familiar with planks, a popular core exercise, McCall suggests adding this challenging version to your workout routine three times a week. Lie face-down on the floor and support yourself on forearms and the balls of your feet, legs straight. Keep abdominals braced and back flat. "Walk" up onto one hand and then the other, so you end up in a push-up position. Walk back down onto your forearms. Keep your body stable and avoid rocking side to side. Start with three to four reps and work your way up to 10 or so.

To firm up the backs of your arms, McCall recommends this exercise:

  • Chair Dips (works the triceps): Sit on the edge of a chair or stable bench with hands on either side of your hips, palms facing away from you grasping the edge of the bench. Shimmy off the edge of the bench, feet flat and knees at a right angle, and lower your hips towards the floor until upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push back up -- using your hands, not legs -- and repeat.

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