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Toning your upper arms and the area around your armpits through specific exercises will strengthen your muscles. But losing underarm fat doesn’t have to be just about lifting a weight overhead.

There’s a misconception that you can reduce fat in just one area of your body at a time. This concept is often referred to as “spot reduction.”

Most studies have found this technique to be ineffective. For example, a study in 104 people found that a 12-week resistance training program focused on the arms increased overall fat loss, with little effect on the specific area.

A more effective approach is to focus on overall weight loss. You can do this by incorporating both cardiovascular and strength training exercises in your routine.

Here are 10 exercises that target the upper arms, back, chest, and shoulders. You can combine them with other exercises, including cardio activities, for a full exercise program. Some of these exercises require no equipment, while others use minimal equipment.

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This exercise works many muscles at once, including those in your upper arms, shoulders, and chest.

  1. Start on the floor. Position your hands so they are slightly wider than your shoulders.
  2. Position your head so that you’re looking straight down.
  3. Extend your feet out behind you so that you’re on your toes.
  4. Use your arms to lower your body to the floor and come back up.
  5. Repeat several times.

Modifications

You can do a modified pushup by having your knees on the ground instead of your toes or by doing a standing pushup against a wall.

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This is a yoga position that lengthens your body and targets your back and chest.

Props: yoga mat

  1. Get on all fours on a yoga mat. Your hands should be stacked underneath your shoulders and yours knees should be under your hips.
  2. Exhale a breath and extend your spine into an arch (cat position). Your head should dip down to align with your spine.
  3. Then inhale and let your midsection drop as you “lift” your chest upward, with your spine and stomach curving in the direction of the floor (cow position).
  4. Move between both positions as you take deep breaths in, then out.
  5. Repeat several times.

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The downward-facing dog is a yoga position that targets your arms, back, buttocks, hips, and legs.

Props: yoga mat, towel

  1. Start in the center of the mat, kneeling.
  2. Then place your hands in front of you on the mat, shoulder-width apart, and move on to your hands and knees (also a starting position for cat-cow).
  3. Bracing yourself on your hands, straighten your legs to slowly swing your hips up toward the ceiling.
  4. Align your feet and extend your toes to help you stay stable. Allow your weight to shift back on your hips and legs, as well as into your hands.
  5. Your head should be aligned with your straight back. You’ll be in a triangle shape.
  6. Hold this position for a few minutes if you can and slowly move out of the position by reversing the movements that created the downward-facing dog.

You might feel your hands slowly sliding as you push into your yoga mat. If sweat on the palms of your hands contributes, having a small towel nearby can help.

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The triceps are a muscle in the upper arm. You can tone this muscle in a few ways. One is through the triceps press.

You need a hand weight or something as simple as a can of beans to do this exercise.

Props: weights that fit in your hand

  1. Holding a weight in each hand, sit down in a chair and lift your arms above your head.
  2. Bend at your elbows to bring the weight as far down behind your head as your range of motion lets you.
  3. Raise the weights back above your head.

Start by doing two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. Rest for about 10 seconds between sets.

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This exercise is similar to the triceps press, but you do it on the floor or on a bench.

Props: exercise mat or weight bench, free weights

  1. Lie on your back and grab a free weight. Hold it above your shoulder, to the side of your head. Bend at the elbow so your arm is 90 degrees with your elbow pointed at the ceiling.
  2. Extend the weight in your hand up toward the ceiling until your arm is out straight.
  3. Then bring it back into the bent position slowly. Do this exercise several times and repeat on your other arm.

You can work one arm at a time or do this move with both arms at once.

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This exercise works the arms, chest, and shoulders. You need a workout bench and some weights that fit in your hand to perform this exercise.

Props: workout bench, free weights

  1. Lie on your back on the bench.
  2. Holding free weights, bring your elbows to where your body is on the bench (no lower). Your upper arms will be at the same position as the rest of your body while the lower arms will be facing up toward the ceiling.
  3. Slowly raise your arms and bring the weights up until your arm is almost straight. Do not lock your elbows.
  4. Bring the weights back to the original position with your bent arms and repeat.

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This exercise can be done seated or standing with free weights. There are also bicep curl machines at many gyms, but the position may not allow you the most natural movement.

Props: free weights

  1. Stand up and hold a free weight in each hand with your arms extended toward the ground.
  2. Slowly bend your elbows and bring the weights toward your shoulders.
  3. Release the position and bring the weights toward the ground again.
  4. Keep your elbows and wrists aligned throughout the exercise. Repeat.

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This exercise can be done almost anywhere, from the edge of your sofa to a workout bench at the gym.

Props: workout bench, chair, or raised surface

  1. Sit on the bench and put your hands on the bench next to your hips.
  2. Grip the edge of the bench with your palms on the bench and your fingers on the edge of it.
  3. Move your body off the bench with your knees bent and feet together.
  4. Lower your body toward the floor by bending your arms until the upper arms are parallel with the floor.
  5. Use your arms to bring yourself back up from this position slowly and repeat.

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Props: cable-pulley weight machine or a resistance band

  1. Facing the cable machine or where you have the resistance band secured, stand up straight with your knees bent slightly.
  2. Grab the cable or resistance band at its highest position.
  3. Pull the cable or band down toward the floor with your elbows at your sides. You should pull the cable until your arms are completely extended.
  4. Return to the starting position. Then repeat.

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Cable pulldown machine

This exercise involves a cable pulley machine and works your back and arms.

  1. Sit at a cable machine and grab the pulley with extended arms.
  2. Pull the cable back toward your body with your elbows moving at the sides of your body until your hands get to your chest.
  3. Pause briefly and then move the arms back into their original position.
  4. Repeat.

Row machine

To combine cardio and the rowing movement, try using a stationary row machine. These are common in gyms and can be good at home since they take up relatively little space for a workout machine.

You can shop for compact row machines online.

Strength training involves your entire body. You should focus on large muscles first because these will help you burn more fat over time.

While exercising smaller muscles is also beneficial in toning your body and building strength, do these later in your workout in case you run out of energy and can’t get to them.

Strength training exercises can include those that only require your body, such as pushups, situps, squats, and planks. You may also want to use equipment like weights and resistance bands for strength training.

Another option is to try yoga. It focuses on building strength throughout your body, and all you need is a mat.

You should not engage in strength training more than a few days a week. This will give your muscles time to recover.

The most effective way to target underarm fat is to reduce the overall amount of fat on your body. You can do this by improving your fitness level.

If you have a high level of fitness, your body will burn more fat throughout the day. Conversely, if you don’t work out very much, your body will burn less fat over time.

Cardiovascular exercises get your body moving for a prolonged length of time. These exercises focus on your endurance and increase your heart rate. They can range from moderate to more intense forms of exercise.

Examples of cardiovascular exercises include:

  • walking (increase the intensity by walking uphill)
  • running
  • cycling
  • swimming
  • dancing
  • playing sports like basketball, tennis, and soccer

Frequent exercise with both cardiovascular and strength training exercises can reduce body fat.

You should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

You’ll need to increase this time per week to increase fat loss. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also recommends engaging in muscle-strengthening exercise two or more days a week.

A healthy diet and regular exercise that includes both cardiovascular and strength training activities will help you reduce underarm fat by reducing overall body fat. Exercises that tone and strengthen the upper arms, back, chest, and shoulders will help sculpt the area.