Strengthen Your Arms for Summer (Don’t Try to Tone Them)

Summer Arm Exercises

Getting ready for swim suit season? Good! Instead of trying to “tone” your arms, try to strengthen them this summer instead with these four drills.

I have some bad news for you. You’ve probably heard that “abs are made in the kitchen,” but the truth is, all muscle definition is made in the kitchen.

While you can spot-train some large muscle groups (we’ve all seen the guys at the gym with big upper bodies and no leg muscles), muscle definition is all about your body fat. The best thing you can do to get toned is to focus on your diet AND your training to enhance the effect of losing fat.

With that said, you should forget about toning anything, and instead focus on strengthening your body instead (after you get your diet in check, of course). Strength is arguably the most functional type of fitness capability you can gain. It increases not just muscle mass, but also bone density, circulation, ligament strength and durability, and delivers everything faster than hours of cardio work.

This is assuming that you have the right program, you use the right weights, you rest properly, you warm up properly, and you have the correct form. Sounds like a lot of work, but if you want real results (i.e. “toned” body parts), this process isn’t about a 30-day run up to summer vacation, it’s about developing decade-spanning habits.

Even so, there are some arm exercises that will help you get there! These are functional drills that work multiple muscle groups at the same time, thereby encouraging functional ranges of motion and body control.

Push Ups

Functional Arm Exercises

Yes, the humble Push Up is a killer upper body exercise! But it’s much more than that. The push up works your core, upper back, shoulders, and arms all at the same time. Start with 3 sets of ten every day for a week, then add an extra set each week for a month. You’ll be amazed at what this process does for your arms and your confidence.

Kettlebell Halo Exercise

Functional Arm Exercises

The Kettlebell Halo is another multi-muscle exercise that will improve more than just muscle mass. Thanks to the circular rotation of the motion, the Halo can also improve shoulder and upper body mobility. If you have trouble getting the kettlebell behind your head, lighten up the weight and try again. Try it for 5-10 reps in each direction for three sets. Again, add a set each week for four weeks and see how quickly your mobility and strength improves.

Sandbag Shouldering

Functional Arm Exercises

Sandbag Shouldering is one of the most functional exercises you can perform. In addition to working your arms (including your grip, forearms, biceps, and triceps), this exercise requires core and lower body strength. There are few exercises that can translate into real world situation, and Sandbag Shouldering is one of them. How often do you need to pick a weight up off the ground? Very often! Do 5-10 reps on each side for 3-5 sets. Try to perform this set 2-4 times per week.

Kettlebell 2-Hand Press

Functional Arm Exercises

The 2-Arm Kettlebell Press is a great way to increase your range of motion and work your arms at the same time. If you really want to maximize the effects of this exercise, really try to squeeze the ball of the kettlebell in between your hands. This will stress your forearms, grip, and chest, further increasing the benefits of the drill.

About the Author

Mark de Grasse is the owner of MegaMad Industries. Mark has written and edited thousands of fitness articles, videos, tutorials, and workout dvds. He has authored or co-authored three fitness certifications and and helped build over 50 fitness brands. He is also the former owner of My Mad Methods Magazine and Chief Fitness Officer of Onnit. Learn more at

1 thought on “Strengthen Your Arms for Summer (Don’t Try to Tone Them)”

  1. Robert Alexander

    I’ll argue with the statement that “Strength is arguably the most functional type of fitness capability you can gain.” Flexibility, endurance (cardio), and balance all are also essential to fitness, and all four are necessary for a rounded program. Flexibility and balance become more important with age, as well as strength. You can’t make a cherry pie with just crust. Fitness is multifaceted. (22 years as a fitness professional)

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