Smaller Arms


I am a 36 year old female and I weigh about 125 lbs. I am 5'3" inches tall.

I used to have a personal trainer that I went to three times a week and I also did cardio two times per week.

I built a lot of muscle and when I couldn't afford to go to him anymore, I put on some serious weight.

I am now down below what I weighed before I started (that was the reason I was seeing him, was for weight loss) by diet and my own exercise, but now my arms seem very large compared to the rest of my body.

I don't know my current body fat because I stopped training about a year ago.

My arms just below my armpit measure 13 1/2". I have hit my target weight, however my arms are very out of proportion.

I know this is because the muscle I built up has turned to fat (I only lost about 5 pounds but built a lot of muscle in the year I trained with him).

So, why hasn't my arm fat left with the rest?  What can I do without just building the muscle back up again and making them even bigger?

Answered By:

Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question

Qualifications of Mike Behnken

PART I:  Fat vs. Muscle

First of all, muscle cannot be "turned to fat."  This is one of the most common fitness myths. Muscle and fat are a completely different tissues with completely different metabolisms.

Muscle is active tissue which the body does not like to use for fuel while fat is readily burned for energy and is predominantly stored subcutaneously (under the skin) throughout your body.

Obviously some body parts have more fat stored around it, but the gynoid pattern of fat distribution which is due to hormones and common to females is characterized by excess fat stored in thighs, hips and arms.Muscle takes up less volume than fat

It is highly likely that at your current body weight, your body fat percentage is higher than it was before. Simply put, you have more body fat and less lean mass (muscle) than when you were working with your trainer.

An easy analogy for you to see this is to compare 5 pounds of muscle which takes up the same amount of space as the 3 tangerines while 5 pounds of fat takes up the same amount of space as 3 grapefruits. For more info on weight/fat loss click here.

Your arms are most likely bigger because you have more fat in relation to muscle than you did before at your current weight.

body fat measurement accumeasure BUY NOW from amazonInstead of speculating whether you have too much muscle mass or fat in your arms, you should invest the $20 and get a cheap body fat caliper such as an Accu-Measure skinfold caliper.

You can estimate your body fat by yourself in 10 seconds or use a body fat scale.


PART II:  Working Out

If you are not taking male hormones and eating 4,000 calories a day, weight training will not give you or any other women disproportionate muscular arms. Women are just not genetically geared for it. In fact, weight training should be an integral part of any women's exercise program.

Most women take the complete wrong approach when they try to tone the arms. Isolation exercises such as biceps curls and triceps extensions are what male bodybuilders use to build massive arms.

Women looking to tone should perform full body, large muscle group exercises such as Combination Exercises. Basically all exercises which involve muscular actions over 2 or more joints.

Here you can see some example videos of combination exercises.

Another important exercise tip is to always perform your exercises through the full range of motion. Full range of motion means moving your joint through as large an angle as you can safely move it through while it is under resistance.

Watch bodybuilders in the gym, they will perform exercises through a very small range of motion and do very many isolation exercises which is what you should use sparingly.

Perform a full body resistance/weight training exercise program, complete with cardio and a healthy diet and you should reach your goals.

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