How To Get Lean Arms Without Bulking Up: A Detailed Guide

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Toning your arms to get that perfectly sculpted look can be challenging, especially when not wanting to bulk up, right? The truth of the matter is the best way to tone is by using weight training as a basis of your exercise routines, and that scares many people. If you are suffering from the underarm jiggle, you may want to do something about it, but an activity that doesn’t leave you looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. But how to get lean arms without bulking up?

In this article, we are going to take a good hard look at just what causes bulking up and give you some tips on how to tone without adding muscle mass. Hopefully, by the time you get to the end, you will better armed (see what we did there) to take on this challenge.

Things That Can Cause Bulking Up

You probably have heard about pumping iron, and then when someone mentions using weights to get your body just right, you have an image of a very muscled person checking themselves out in the gym mirror. Weights can be used to bulk up, but there are other factors that go into the process. 

So, before getting into talking about how to stay lean and sculpted, we thought we should break this urban myth. Here are the three things, besides what your momma and daddy gave you, that really affect the body, causing you to gain muscle or bulk up, as we are calling it.


For women, this plays a key role in the bulking-up process as they do not really have the hormones to do this. Usually, the women you see that are bodybuilders and such have used some external force or are just genetically wired to bulk up. For men, the hormones needed are present, and so if you are a guy looking to tone rather than build, you will have to monitor the reps and weights you are using.


The biggest thing that causes bulking up is training. Those muscle builders spend hours every day of the week in the gym to get that physique, so unless you are planning on doing that you shouldn’t worry about bulking up.


You need enough calories in your diet to warrant muscle growth. So, if you are eating a healthy, lean, low-calorie diet, you will never have to be concerned with whether you will be walking out of the gym ready to hit the professional wrestling ring.

These are the main contributors to unwanted muscle growth, and so if you pay attention to these, and then follow the tips below, you will be able to get lean arms without bulking up.

Tips to Tone Arms Without Bulking Up

There are so many articles and blog posts on how to get the toned and sculpted body of your dreams that it may seem overwhelming to try to figure out the right way to tone those arms. But there are a few things that you will find across every one of them, tips you might say, that will help you tone and sculpt for those Michelle Obama arms we all crave to have.

Here are the key tips and techniques you can use to do just that:

Start with Burning That Fat!

The first thing you must do is get rid of that excess fat. That means burning more than you take in calorie-wise. The best way to do that is to start with your diet. Trying one of the many diets like Keto and adding in some cardio training will help decrease your BPI. This is the part of the process when weights will not help you one bit. So, try to do this for a couple of weeks to knock down the fat count and then once you see some thinning out, start your weight training.

Focus on Your Arms

You want to focus on constructing a whole arm workout. Often, when new weight trainers start, all they want to do is focus on the biceps but that leaves the two other muscle groups in charge of toning that arm out of the picture. So, when you begin to work your arms out, make sure you incorporate exercises that work not only the biceps but the triceps and shoulders as well.

More Reps / Lighter Weights

It is not all about how much you can lift. That is unless you do want to bulk up. In fact, higher weights and fewer reps are specifically designed for just that purpose. Instead, if you are just looking to get lean arms, you will want to use lighter weights with higher repetitions. Try sticking to reps of 15-25 to start with and watch your arms begin to look fantastically sculpted after a few weeks or months depending on your dedication.

Practice Form

You will want to make sure of your form when doing the exercises that you add to your routine. By doing this, you will be able to get the full effect of the exercise as well as prevent any potential injuries. The biggest thing when completing these exercises is to focus on the follow-through, and not use the momentum to drive the motion. This means focusing on the muscle that you are targeting and letting it do the work. This may feel weird at first, but eventually, you will reap the benefits and get more used to the motion.

Some Exercises to Consider

There are tons of exercise routines out there that focus on your arms, and some will use weights, while others will use your body as the weight. Either way, here are a few of the exercises you may want to try to get those lean arms:

Bicep Curls

With this exercise, you will want to choose a weight that is slightly heavy and offers just enough resistance to make it a challenge. Then try doing 15 -20 curls per arm, rotating between the two. Here is the proper way to do these:

  • Grab the dumbbells lightly and let your arms hang at your side. Your elbows should be straight and palms of your hand facing in.
  • Then you want to start with one arm and slowly lift your forearm until it comes up to your body. The palm of whatever hand you started with should now be facing your shoulder.
  • Slowly lower that arm and then repeat with the other arm. 
  • This will continue until you have finished the reps for each arm. Then take a minute to rest and repeat this process. This should be done three separate times for a full three sets.

Triceps Kickback

You will also want to select the weights that are light enough to complete the reps you want to complete but give you just the right amount of challenge where you feel the burn. Here is how you properly execute this exercise:

  • You will want to start standing straight with one dumbbell in whatever hand you want to begin with. You then will bring the opposite leg forward roughly 2’ and distribute your weight between the two legs.
  • Then bend forward, keeping your back straight the entire time. Take the hand that is not currently holding the dumbbell and place it on its corresponding thigh for support. This should also pull your shoulder blades together.
  • Take the arm holding the dumbbell and bend it at 90 degrees starting from the elbow. The arm should be close to the body, and the forearm should be hanging loose from the elbow.
  • From this position, you will want to straighten the arm holding the dumbbell while breathing out and keeping your upper arm and body still.
  • This should be repeated 10-15 times on each side.
  • Then take a breather and do it all again for another two sets.

Lateral Raises

The same weight selection applies to this exercise as well. Challenging but not too heavy. For this exercise, you want to be looking to do 20 reps for maximum effect. Here is how you do this exercise properly:

  • Each hand should be holding a dumbbell. Bend from the hips; you will want to hold the weights in front of your thighs. Bend at the knees to help support your body better.
  • Then you will raise both arms from the upper part and to the side of your body. You should stop raising when your hand and arms are in alignment with your shoulders. Hold this position for a second. 
  • Lower your arms and repeat for the rep count you are going for.
  • Once you have completed one set, take a breather, and then begin the process for the next two sets.

Overhead Extension

This works the entire muscle group in charge of making toned arms. Here is how you do this exercise properly:

  • Stand with your feet separated, aligned with your hips, and your knees bent slightly.
  • Grip the dumbbell that will give you enough challenge with both hands.
  • Bring your arms overhead and hold the dumbbell in a vertical position. Keep your wrists straight. 
  • Your arms should then bend at the elbow and let the dumbbell lay near the back of your head. Make sure the upper part of your arms is near your head, and elbow tips are facing the ceiling.
  • Then straighten your arms upward. This should be repeated for 12 reps.

Bench Press

You will need a large barbell to complete this exercise. It should be fitted with weights that challenge you but are still able to be lifted. Here is how you do this exercise properly:

  • Lay on the weight bench with your face facing upwards toward the ceiling and firmly place both feet on the floor.
  • Then reach up grabbing the barbell with both hands.
  • After you have a firm grip bring the barbell down towards your chest and then push up.
  • This should be repeated for up to 12 reps.

The next two exercises use no weights; instead, they use the resistance and weight of your body to do similar work. Not having to use any extra equipment can be very liberating and much easier to fit into your daily routine.

Triceps Down Dog

Here is how you will do this exercise properly:

  • You will start in a plank position:
  • Then slowly lower yourself toward the ground bending your elbows as needed. 
  • This should be done by lowering your body as close as you can get to the floor without touching it.
  • Then slowly bring your body back up into the plank position. When in the plank position, begin to lift your hips up and continue to push yourself into the downward dog position. 
  • You will want to push your heels back into the floor and return to the plank position. This need to be repeated up to 10 times.

Twisting Knee Plank

Here is how you do this exercise properly:

  • Start in the plank position.
  • Then bring one knee forward to touch the corresponding elbow and hold the position for a moment.
  • If you want to challenge yourself a bit more, try doing the same move but bringing the knee to the opposite elbow. Once you have completed that rep return to plank and do the same with the opposite leg. 
  • Repeat this process until you have completed 20 reps.

Final Thoughts

Having toned arms can make you feel more confident and willing to try new looks with your wardrobe, and by working on this, you will also be building a healthier lifestyle. Without the worry of how your arms look, you will be able to stroll through life with your head up, and that is a great thing. 

Hopefully, with the information above, we have helped you on your journey to understanding how to get lean arms without bulking up. Through using the tips, techniques, and exercises we have laid out for you, we are sure you will be well on your way to a fabulously sculpted pair of arms that have all your friends asking you how you did it.