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Batwings may be stylish on the Batmobile, but nobody thinks they look good attached to the back of their upper arms.

A common request from my personal training clients is the loose skin underneath their arms. Up until now I have had a series of top secret highly effective protocols that I closely guarded under lock and key.

But since this is not about me holding onto the information, but finding a way to share it with the world, here goes nothing:

Sara - you have to tell me how you got those triceps!  The fate of the free world and my gym workouts depend upon it!

Sara - you have to tell me how you got those triceps! The fate of the free world and my gym workouts depend upon it!

Know that your triceps are not purely a result of your fat. The way our hormone profile stands, we develop fat in key areas depending on how our profile is. High estrogen, Low progesterone, Cortisol and other hormones can all play a major part in how our body stores our fat.

As you will see, key diet and workout variables can be instrumental in helping us trim that problem area many women (and men!) experience.

The 6 best things you can do to tighten the triceps:

I wouldn't want to meet this cow in a dark alley.

I wouldn't want to meet this cow in a dark alley - especially if I was wearing my leather jacket.

1. Eat several times a day and always ask ‘where’s the beef’.

Wait a sec.. this is for triceps, right?  Yep, you are in the right place.  If we can shave the fat off the tricep while we are trying to tone that muscle by the time the fat comes off we will have a nice looking tri ready to meet the world.  So, what’s with the picture of a cow?  Its saying you need to eat meat?  How does that make sense?

Well, you don’t need to ask ‘where’s the beef’ as much as you need to ask ‘where’s the protein?’ If you are eating regularly then your system is more able to stabilize (if you are running a race and you know a drink break is just around the corner then you can pace yourself more effectively. Since we are on top of the food chain, go for the quality high density proteins whenever possible (think hormone-free animal proteins).

Towelettes? We don't need no steenkin' towelettes!

If you are vegan, then…. juuuust rellllaaaaxxx… yooouuuu arrreee feeeliinnngg slleeeeppyyy.. Eaaaaaat soooome meeeaaaat….. (hey, it works for that guy that makes people act like chickens up on stage, right?)

Do not underestimate your bodies ability to anticipate what is coming next – your reward for eating small high protein meals more frequently will be leaner upper body fat (specifically the upper arms) and an improved metabolism and energy level. No, I don’t mean follow an ‘atkins diet’. I just mean make sure if you eat an apple that you have something protein to balance it out. Ok? Don’t go grab a roll of salami and start chowing on it like a hungry dog – that is not what I am suggesting here.

2. Get stuck into the ‘smart fats’ on a daily basis:

To regulate your hormone system and tell the body where to put the right fats, We need to supplement our diet with ‘smart fat’. Get some eggs, high quality fish/salmon oil supplements and good quality meats into your diet (think hormone-free filet mignon over mystery meat). A nice side benefit of the right fats is healthier joints and improved organ health.

3. Hold back on the booze

Of course this would never happen... My kid only drinks cosmos.

Of course this would never happen... My kid only drinks cosmos.

Alcohol and nicotine can play havoc with the bodys fat levels. There has been much written about the benefits of cutting back on these two substances so I won’t bore you here with more info. Just know that the back of your arms and the consumption of alcohol and ciggies is connected. End of lecture.

4. Measure yourself.

We can improve that which is measured. If you dont know how much you have on that arm, then you dont know if it is getting better. Sometimes all we need is a little encouragement to want to get more committed. None of us are going to wake up tomorrow with major change in the back of the arm.

5. Work Hard and Sleep hard.

Your hormone profile will stabilize and your body fat levels will normalize the better quality sleep you get. Getting to sleep before 12 and sleeping in past 6 can be highly beneficial on a number of health and lifestyle related factors. As much as you love those late night informercials, watching television right before you go to bed can also prevent quality sleep even though you might feel you are getting to bed at a decent hour. Try a nice warm cup of herbal tea in the evening to help your body prepare for sleep. Play some soothing music. Take a few deep breaths and let your body know that deep relaxing sleep is just around the corner.

6. Lift hard

It has been 6 years since someone has done this exercise in one of my workouts.

Tricep Kickbacks. Honestly one of the worst ways you can spend your time trying to get nice triceps.

The hormones stabilizing factor of lifting hard has been proving scientifically time and time again. Don’t be afraid of bulking up – think of those lean triceps you are after, bottle that energy up and get to shifting some iron!

What's that Sally?  You want a shot at the push-up title?  Downtown gym, 3pm.  Bring your A-game, flabster!

What's that Sally? You want a shot at the push-up title? Downtown gym, 3pm! You best bring your A-game, flabster!

Remember: Tricep kickbacks are not the solution!

Tri Kickbacks are inefficient, non-functional and use one muscle and one arm at a time – and only truly works the muscle through about 1/3 of its natural range of motion.   You could do more for your triceps simply by pumping out a set of standing bicep curls because you would be burning more calories and therefore shedding the body of more fat that covers up that tricep.

All you are doing is firming up a muscle group that is shrouded by a layer of fat. There is no spot reduction from working a specific muscle for a specific area.

Lift for 3 sets of large compound exercises (squat, lunges, dumbbell chest press, chin ups or lat pulldowns) and do reps in such a way that if you did more than 12 you would feel the urge to grunt loudly like those guys with the big weight-belts and hairy backs. This will make your body move fat like never before and give you the tighter upper body you have been looking for.

So take notice of the small changes – if you can put lots of small diet and workout changes together, you can build an arm you will be proud to wave goodbye with.

Jamie Atlas

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  • Kelley Aug 9, 2008 Reply

    There are bodybuilders who are vegan, so I’m not quite sure where you get that meat is the only protein that builds muscles..

    Also, vegans probably don’t need to get rid of tricep fat like you omnivores

  • chicksnsticks Aug 10, 2008 Reply

    can you suggest some other exercises besides the lunges and the chin ups? I have bad knees, so I can’t do lunges, and I can’t even BEGIN to do even *1* pull-up!
    You’re awesome

  • jamieatlas Aug 10, 2008 Reply

    Ahh Kelley. Are you saying that Vegans don’t have issues like omnivores do? My apologies to Vegans everywhere. I actually got to sit next next to Carl Lewis (the olympic sprinter from the 90’s) who is was vegetarian for a few years while he was competitively racing.

    When I asked him about his ‘vege’ stint, Carl said he did his best to eat a range of foods to make sure he got complete proteins – but he said it was harder to do and something he had trouble keeping up. I made the suggestion for eating meat simply because that is the easiest option.

    I am sure there are bodybuilders who do not eat meat. I am also sure that there are more people with saggy triceps that are Vegan than bodybuilders who are also Vegan 🙂

    Although I thoroughly support Veganism from an environmental and an ethical perspective, I have trouble supporting it from a nutritional perspective.

    Thanks for your post Kelley! I would love it if you did everything else I have outlaid in this post and proved me wrong with a picture of your supertight triceps!


  • Kelley Aug 10, 2008 Reply

    Well, it’s possible that for him it’s not something that his body or his mind wanted to do. I’m not saying it’s right for everybody, but I cringe at the thought that you tell all your clients that in order for them to gain muscle they must eat animal protein. I am working on my bachelor’s in nutrition & dietetics and I am well aware of the nutritional benefits of a vegetarian diet. To each his own, but I just ask that you go about it with a more open mind.

  • Kelley Aug 10, 2008 Reply

    Oh, I also don’t want you to think I’m trying to stir up any controversy, I enjoy your blog and have learned tremendously!

  • jamieatlas Aug 10, 2008 Reply

    Good points Kelley. I truly respect everyones individual decision to choose what they put in their body, but when it comes to telling my clients to eat animal protein, I have to admit that I do recommend the animal flesh as a part of a complete diet.

    I of course also tell them to eat from as clean a source as possible (citing of course the benefits of grass fed beef, CLA that naturally occurs and all the other benefits of ‘real’ meat (not the pretend meat they serve in the cheapo fast-food places).

    My research has found that the differences between the quality of meat varies greatly from commercial to grass-fed/organic hormone free. The pressure on farmers to produce more and more each year means that whenever I look at research on meat I always try to discern the quality of meat the research is referring to.

    Kelley thank you so much for being proactive and voicing your opinion!

    It is important that the readers of this blog know that Veganism isn’t necessarily bad – it is just something that means you have to be more conscious of with regards to complete proteins, balance of proteins to the rest of the diet, iron levels and other nutritional balances that require more attention with Veganism.

  • Tabitha Jul 6, 2009 Reply

    I really enjoyed this little bit of information! I’m currently fighting the “chicken arms” as I like to call it that oyou are discussing here. Any tips on baby fat bellies???Thanks! Be blessed!

  • Suzie Sep 1, 2009 Reply

    I have saggy skin on my upper arms, upper legs and lower rear end. I am a vegetrian. Will pork, chicken help to solve the problem and to make the flabby skin go away?

    • jamieatlas Sep 6, 2009 Reply

      Hey Suzie – thanks for your question! Pork or chicken alone will not help to solve the problem – I certainly dont want to send that message. However it might be a part of a complete strategy (like we talked about in the article) that would contribute to minimizing the ‘shake’ through the process i explained AS LONG AS YOU ARE EATING HORMONE FREE MEATS – sorry for the caps, but people often miss that bit 🙂

  • muhammed medhat Sep 12, 2009 Reply

    jamieatlas i have to admit your article has been much lucrative even though i have not tried it yet but it sounds rational..anyway i’d like to ask for your help about this case of mine..well i’ve been bodybuilding for the past six years and used to comstantly stop when it comes to exams..lets say a month or a month and a half but this year i’ve noticed certain parts of my body have got a little saggy like my triceps and my chest (which were the best parts in my body) despite the fact that i’m naturally thin and my body is more prone to losing i’ve been trying to work this out in my old ways of training in the gym during the past 3 months but all in vain, so i would really appreciate your help in this very peculiar case of mine
    btw. i’m egyptian and in egypt pure healthy meat is such a rare thing and if it is found it’s then extra expensive so my question is how effective can corned beef and preserved tuna packs be?? because this is the sort of budget i have right now.
    thx in advance

    • jamieatlas Sep 15, 2009 Reply

      Hey Muhammed. Corned beef and tuna packs will do the trick, but the key would be when and how you place that protein. If you can put the meal just after your workout. Try to put some protein in every meal, no matter how good or poor the quality. Be careful of your sleep and recovery as well – workout enough that you are giving maximal effort every time and for bodybuilding, make sure you isolate each muscle group and divide them up into groups of body parts.

      Hope that helps!

  • Leslie Jan 10, 2010 Reply

    Great article, very helpful.

  • Sally Jul 11, 2012 Reply

    Awesome article. Love the instructions and LOVE the explanations; no other fitness read I’ve ever come across made so much sense to me. Thank you!!!

    Been doing the basic lunges for butt exercising; they killed me first two days but after seeing results in two days after that, it has become sacred practice to me — I am now in the process of changing my wardrobe because of these exercises!

    Now I want to do dumbbell exercises for my flabby arms. Trying to follow these instructions but I have one question:
    What kind of dumbbell weight should I start off with? Does it matter? I do not know how to choose my first ever dumbbells for the chest presses.

    Thanks much much much; your instructions are gold!

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