Tighten those triceps.
Actually, so do tons of other women who are genetically predisposed to store more fat in their arms. Thanks, great aunt Faye!
Another fun fact: Arm fat is a much bigger problem in women than in men, since our genes make us more likely to store fat in our hips, thighs, and arms, says Philadelphia-based fitness instructor Henry Halse, C.S.C.S. (Cue sad trombone.)
But all is not lost. If you're looking for trimmer triceps once and for all, here's everything you need to know.
"Unfortunately, we can't spot reduce fat or tell our bodies where we'd like to lose fat from—it's all genetics," says Fitfusion trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S. Your bod is born with pre-conceived places it wants to store fat, and in that same way, it's going to pull fat from wherever it sees fit (usually, the last place that you put it on), he adds. So to burn fat in your arms, you have to focus on burning fat everywhere.
Interval-training workouts, which feature a series of high-intensity moves followed by short periods of rest, are the best for burning fat, says Halse. Not only will you burn calories during the workout, you'll keep burning calories for up to 24 hours afterward, since interval training elevates your metabolism thanks to the "after-burn" effect.
It's also important to make sure each move engages as many muscles as possible to burn even more calories, says Tyler Spraul, C.S.C.S., head trainer at Exercise.com. Total-body exercises, like burpees, squat to overhead press, and pushups, engage several muscle groups at a time, making them perfect for fat loss.
Try incorporating total-body interval training into your workouts at least three days a week.
Many women are afraid to lift heavy weights for fear of bulking up, but women don't have enough testosterone in their system for that to happen, explains Donavanik. By lifting heavy, you'll burn more calories during your workout while increasing your basal metabolic rate, leading to less body fat storage over time.
So how do you know if you're lifting heavy enough? Find a weight that you can perform eight to 15 reps with, keeping perfect form. By the time you finish the last rep, you should barely be able to finish. If you finish the 15th rep without a struggle, you need a heavier weight.
"One of the most effective ways to keep arm fat away for good is to find ways to decrease your daily calorie intake by a small amount, like 100 to 200 cals," says Spraul.
Start by tracking your calorie intake for three to five days with an app like My Fitness Pal, which will help you assess basic patterns and come up with an action plan to make cuts, says Edwina Clark, R.D., director of nutrition and wellness at Yummly. Then, start reducing your calorie count.
"Cutting 100 to 200 calories won't be enough to trigger hunger, but the calorie savings really add up over months and years," he adds.
Eating adequate protein throughout the day can help preserve muscle mass, improve satiety, and boost thermogenesis (the process where your body burns calories just to produce heat) as you lose body fat, says Clark. However, we can only utilize roughly 25 to 35 grams of protein to build muscle in one sitting, she says. After that, protein gets used for energy or gets stored as fat.
And since the muscle-building power of protein gets a boost when you consume the nutrient over the course of the day, it's important to make sure your meals are packed with at least 25 grams of the stuff, says Susan Bowerman, R.D., director of nutrition training at Herbalife.
"Even though you can't choose where your body burns fat, you can choose where it builds muscle," says Halse. Doing exercises that build up the muscle in your arms, especially your triceps, will fill them out and make them look firmer.
In fact, one study from the American Council on Exercise singled out the best workout moves for improving arm appearance and found that the triangle pushup was the clear winner, followed by triceps kickbacks and dips.