Fitness Friday: Battling Bingo Arms

“Bingo Arms” is my sister-in-law’s term for that undesirable flab on the back of the upper arm.  (Any woman over the age of 35 knows exactly what I’m talking about.)  Of course, in order to really rid yourself of the excess fat there, you need to lose fat in general – so shoring up your diet and doing cardiovascular exercises that burn a lot of calories are required.  But you can make quicker progress if you also do a few exercises that build muscle tone in that area.

The muscle group in question is the triceps, and there are a number of exercises you could do to target them, but it turns out, not all of those exercises are equally effective.  A 2012 study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise and performed by scientists at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse found that three triceps exercises significantly out-performed all the others.

Triangle Pushups – Triangle pushups are just like regular pushups, except that you place your hands close together, forming a triangle, rather than having them out at shoulder-width.  Since this exercise isolates the triceps more, and since the triceps is a Trianglerelatively small muscle group, you probably won’t be as strong performing triangle pushups as you are when you do regular pushups.  This means you’ll have to modify – likely dropping your knees down onto the mat.  If that’s still too difficult, try doing triangle pushups agains a wall or other fixed object (like a park bench).

Dumbbell Kickbacks – Perform dumbbell kickbacks one arm at a time.  Start by standing in a split stance (one foot a few feet in front of the other) with the front knee bent.  Bend at the hips, too, so that your body is at a 45 degree angle.  Hold the dumbbell in your right hand and tuck your right elbow in close to your body, near the bottom of your rib cage.  Keep you elbow there throughout the entire exercise.  Start with your elbow bent about 90 degrees, so that the dumbbell is hanging straight down toward the ground.  Slowly straight your elbow as you swing the dumbbell back until it is in line with your torso.  Remember to keep your elbow tucked next to your body, and don’t use your shoulder to swing the weight (if you have to do this, you’re using a weight that is too heavy for this exercise).  Here’s a link to show you how.

Triceps Dips – Triceps dips are an intermediate to advanced exercise, and you shouldn’t do them if you have a history of shoulder injury.  If done properly, however, they are a safe and very effective way to work the triceps.  Use a weight bench or other sturdy bench or chair that will not move.  Sit on the very edge of the bench and grasp the edge of it securely with both hands.  Then walk your feet slightly forward so that you are supporting your Triceps_mainbody weight with only your hands (on the bench) and your feet (on the floor).  Keeping an upright torso, slowly bend both elbows, lowering your rear end toward the floor until your elbows are bent approximately 90 degrees, then push back up to start position.  Keeping knees slightly bent will allow you to “cheat” and use your legs a bit if you get stuck, while stretching them out straight in front of you will make it a bit more difficult.

To fight upper arm flab, do two or three sets of these three triceps exercises two or three times per week, on non-consecutive days.

Photos courtesy of the American Council on Exercise.



  1. Laura Toth says:

    In lieu of the triangle push-ups, would you get the same results doing a close-grip bench press since they look very similar other than one is face down and the other is face up? Also, would using a tricep press down machine be similar to the dips?

    • Rashelle says:

      Great questions, Laura! Surprisingly, the study found the close-grip bench press to be the least effective of the exercises they tested! As for the dips, you could use a fixed-lever press-down machine, but the cable machines with ropes or bar attached are not quite as effective. Also, for those who are strong enough, full body dips from a set of dip bars is the best option of the various dip exercises.

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