Skinny Body: Fat Arms (Reason Why + How To Get Rid of Arm Fat)

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan Petitpas | Updated on 5 July 2024

On the left, a woman faces the challenge of having a lean body with fat arms, wearing a black sleeveless sports top and pink yoga pants; on the right, her after picture shows significant weight loss, with her arms appearing smaller, more toned, and better proportioned to her body.

For those who have a skinny body, fat arms can be a result of many things such as fast disposition (where the fat is held), genetics, extra skin for weight loss, hormones and more.1 The reasons why chubby arms come about differ from person-to-person but nonetheless, it can be frustrating and impact self-esteem.

Luckily, there are certain types of exercises that are designed to get rid of arm fat fast and we provide a step-by-step guide on how to do each below.

Hurray! No more flabby arms!

We aim to motivate readers by showing others’ fat arms before and after photos and explaining how they attained a smaller, more toned look and lastly, we’ll provide several methods for how to get rid of saggy arm fat and excess skin–with or without exercise–to boost confidence and make anyone feel more comfortable in their own skin.

Skinny Body, Fat Arms–Why Does This Happen?

It’s understandable to wonder why your arms aren’t getting thinner when the rest of your body is slim, as fat arms can appear more noticeable or feel disproportionate. First, be comforted in knowing that each person tends to be their own worst critic and it could very well be that you’re the only one who feels your arms look too large.

A man standing with his back facing the camera, arms raised high in triumph and victory.

Source: Japheth Mast from Unsplash2

However, as we understand the mental impact feeling embarrassed about your body can have, we’ll give plenty of methods for how to tighten and tone and offer those who are eager to lose arm fat a saggy arms solution.

First, it can be helpful to know what can cause fat arms instead of chalking it to bad bicep genetics; women are much more susceptible than men to becoming skinny with fat arms, in large part due to estrogen levels, as estrogen promotes fat storage.

Women tend to have 3-5% more fat reserves due to hormones and the potential for pregnancy and childbirth. Other common causes of flabby arms include:

  • Aging
  • Excess Fat
  • Genetics
  • Hormones
  • Loss of Muscle Mass
  • Low Testosterone Levels
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Sun Damage
  • Weight Loss

Skinny Body, Fat Arms—Why Don’t My Arms Get Thinner When I’m Skinny & Working Them Out?

Although many workout programs boast that their routines help spot train certain areas of the body, such as how to get rid of upper belly fat, spot reduction is not really legitimate as fat is burned fairly evenly throughout the body.3

The body doesn’t know if someone wants to lower the body fat percentage in just one area; a study on triceps backs this up, as the effect of an endurance and strength mixed circuit training on regional fat thickness or “spot reduction” was nearly nonexistent in lowering fat in the triceps any more than in the rest of the body.4

For those with a slim body but fat arms, reducing arm fat requires lowering overall body fat and increasing lean body mass rather than just targeting the arms.

Ways To Burn Arm Fat Fast (5 Effective Methods)

Whether someone has low testosterone levels, loose skin from weight loss, or flabby arms due to bad arm genetics, or just wondering how to tell the difference between fat and loose skin, we’ve established that the solution to burning arm fat is through a total body workout.

A study on both men and women’s subcutaneous fat alterations resulting from an upper body resistance training program targeted their nondominant arms to measure fat alterations in skinfolds. With minimal evidence of spot reduction working in men and none for women (despite decreased subcutaneous fat in both genders), the findings supported the idea that spot training is largely ineffective.5

Rather than attempting spot reduction, overall body fat reduction should be the goal and strength training to build lean muscle can aid in overall toning and burn more fat, even at rest. Resistance training and interval workouts combined with cardio are much more impactful in burning total body fat (including arm fat) and building muscle than cardio alone.

Exercise

When someone feels self-conscious about chubby arms, skinny body type can make their arms look fatter proportionately. Thankfully exercise is the most effective method to burn calories and in turn, make arms smaller.

  • Resistance Training is exercise with the purpose of increasing strength and endurance, with the use of some sort of resistance. This resistance can come in the form of weights, resistance bands, counterweighted lifting machines, or one’s own body weight.

Since muscles are working against this added resistance, they’re forced to work harder to achieve each exercise and can aid in faster lean muscle growth and fat burning.

  • Cardio is good for burning calories but doesn’t have as much of the muscle building effect that strength training does. It still has its role in helping burn fat though, and can help get rid of that pesky upper arm fat.

Since we covered that overall fat burning is best for shrinking arms, the more intense the workout and the more calories burned, the better. Some great cardio workouts are cycling, kickboxing, running, jumping rope, walking, and swimming.

  • Interval Training is the combination of high and low intensity exercises that are dynamic and extremely effective at boosting metabolism and helping the body burn fat at a higher rate for hours after a workout. The intensity, duration, and rest periods between sets can be varied for the best results.

As mentioned, cardio is usually less effective than resistance training at burning fat and growing lean muscle, but can be a lot more impactful if interval training is used.

Eat Healthy

What one eats and the nutritional value of the food and drinks they consume play a major role in not only health, but overall body composition. Eating highly processed carbs and sugars is likely to lead to more body fat which can show up in unwanted places like hips, thighs and upper arms.

Thankfully, for those who are skinny, flabby arms can be made smaller through proper nutrition and cleaner eating.

Green tea, salmon, sardines, eggs, apple cider vinegar, chili peppers, and high-protein meats are great additions to one’s diet for calorie burning and protein content.

Cut or minimize alcohol and sugary drinks, junk food, sweet desserts, and candy and opt for meals high in soluble fibers and protein. Always go for minimally or unprocessed foods and enjoy smaller, frequent meals.

Don’t forget to properly hydrate for overall wellbeing and to maximize muscle function.

Instill Habits To Improve Your Lifestyle

Since smaller arms can give that added confidence boost, be sure to work in healthier habits throughout the day as these small changes will add up quickly to help achieve your dream body and arms. This can mean choosing mixed fruit over a cookie, or a walk after dinner before plopping down on the couch.

Be sure to get sufficient uninterrupted sleep as less than 7-8 hours per night can lead to increased cortisol levels which lower metabolism.

Check & Improve Hormone Levels

If your arms are still fat while being skinny and you’ve tried dieting, exercising, sleeping more, lower stress, removing drugs like nicotine and alcohol, then the next thing you should look into is checking your hormones.

There’s countless issues like hypothyroidism, crushing’s syndrome, and more that arise from hormones levels that fall outside of normal ranges.

Additionally, you can try to improve your natural hormones if everything checks out since some people respond differently within the safe ranges of testosterone and estrogen.

For example, estrogen promotes fat storage, but some methods of lowering this hormone naturally include lowering excess body fat and getting enough fiber, healthy fats and probiotic rich foods, as well as limiting alcohol, refined carbs, and processed foods.

On the other hand, more testosterone can aid in higher metabolism, faster muscle growth, and higher fat burning. To raise this fat burning hormone for smaller arms, exercise regularly, do strength training, sleep well, eat lean protein, maintain an ideal body weight, and avoid alcohol, opioids, and tobacco products.

Skinny Body, Fat Arms—Before and After Photos & Results of Fat to Skinny Arms (Fat Arms Before and After Exercise)

Since it can do wonders for motivation to see other’s results, we have a few examples of people who were skinny with fat arms with their success stories and before and after photos, as well as what each one did to get toned and slim arms.

Renee

In just a 2-week program, Renee was able to achieve amazing results with slimming her arms. She attributes her success to a regular routine of wall pushups, forward and back pulses, arm circles, tricep dips, overhead tricep extensions, and upright rows.

Though most of these she did with her body weight alone, she used light dumbbells for the hammer curl and press, tricep extensions, and upright rows.

A young woman with a genuine smile on her face, looking towards the camera while showcasing her lean arm.

Renee’s 2-week arm slimming journey through dedication and targeted exercises! Source: Renée Mowatt on YouTube6

She mentioned wanting to lose fat and tone her arms and committed to 15-20 minutes of these arm workouts 3-4 times per week for the two weeks; despite noting she had arthritis in one shoulder that was aggravated by some of these movements, she pushed through. She also tried to make some daily healthier choices such as going for a walk or trying to eat a little cleaner than usual.

A young woman with a black sleeveless top, smiling towards the camera while showing her skinny, lean arm, the woman's posture is confident and relaxed, and she appears comfortable in her own skin.

Dedication pays off! With regular exercise and healthier choices, she achieved her goal of toned arms in just two weeks. Source: Renée Mowatt on YouTube6

After a couple of weeks of dedicating just a little time out of her days to toning her arms, Renee made impressive progress. She noted her arms were very sore, but said she’s “definitely still happy with my results–I do feel like my arms are a lot more toned and I can definitely see some more muscle and definition happening.”

Dharmistha

Dr. Dharmistha is a physiotherapist and workout program coordinator who inspires others and follows the routines she teaches herself as well. The arm progress photos below are from a client of hers, as she worked with them on weight loss, nutrition, and fitness goals.

A nine same arm picture with visible weight loss, a reduction in fat, and increased muscle definition.

Dr. Dharmistha’s holistic fitness program! See how her client achieved amazing arm progress in just 3 months with simple yet effective exercises. Source: @physiodharmi on Instagram7

These results were achieved over 3 months using only exercises that require 3 kg weights or rely on body weight. Her program helped create impressive results in just a few months.

Tyler

As opposed to a short term, more intensive arm routine, Tyler spread his journey over 15 months and worked out his arms twice per week. His routine consisted of 3 sets of 10 reps of each of the following: dumbbell shoulder side raises, dumbbell bicep curls, dumbbell overhead tricep extensions, and TRX low rows.

A man wearing a blue shirt and a blue face mask, flexing his arm with visible fat on it, the man's arm is visible in the foreground of the image, with some fat and little muscle definition.

Tyler’s before picture before his 15-month journey to toned arms through consistent workouts twice per week. Source: u/bigbearbutch on Reddit8

Though he was working towards a skinny body, fat arms still plagued him and he put in the work to burn off some of his extra arm fat through these biweekly workout routines.

A man wearing glasses, flexing his arm muscle to show his progress to a skinny arm, the man's arm is visible in the foreground of the image, appearing slender with little muscle.

Slow and steady wins the race! Tyler’s 15-month journey to toned arms is proof that consistency and dedication to a regular workout routine pays off. Source: u/bigbearbutch on Reddit8

He mentioned being scared that his “wings” would never go away, especially with loose skin from losing weight but that he is happy with the results so far and is still a work in progress.

What Are the Best Machines To Use for Flabby Arms? (Saggy Upper Arms Solution)

Muscle toning and fat burning happen most effectively through compound exercise, but for those who are unable to complete such exercises, we have some great options for the best exercise machine for flabby arms. Although upper arm fat cannot be spot trained, all arm muscles can still be worked effectively for better lean muscle growth on these machines:

  • Bicep Curl Machine
  • Cable Curl Machine
  • Cable Tricep Extension Machine
  • Hammer Curl Machine
  • Tricep Dip Machine
  • Tricep Extension Machine
  • Wrist Curl Machine

Most Effective Exercises for Making Arms Smaller That Can Be Done at Home

Since many don’t have gym memberships, there are plenty of exercises that can blast fat and arm flabs away at home too. Don’t get so caught up on which arms muscles are worked such as deciding between pull up vs push up, as we are still going for total body fat burning (which in turn makes for smaller arms).

Some great options for maximized fat burning and toning include:

  • Arm Circles
  • Burpees
  • Cycling
  • High Knees
  • Jogging
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Planks
  • Pullups
  • Pushups
  • Squat Jumps
  • Tricep Extensions
  • Walking

How Body Recomposition & Certain Exercises Can Bring Your Confidence Back

Many people are frustrated when they’re getting stronger but not bigger, but for women who want more toned arms and are worried about their arms getting too large or muscular, their goal can be to get stronger without added size.

Rest assured that body recomposition can alter the body’s percentages of fat and muscle without creating massive arms or drawing even more unwanted attention. It’s actually very difficult to get big arms and even for the muscle tone to show through arm fat, so don’t shy away from building muscle for fear of looking too big.

What will happen instead is that this muscle will aid in fat burning throughout the body–including in the arms–and provide a much smaller, more toned look which is likely exactly what you’re hoping to achieve.

How Long Does It Take To Lose Arm Fat?

As we saw in Renee, Tyler, and Dharmistha’s arm progress, how long does it take to lose arm fat can vary from weeks to years depending on one’s starting point, goal size, what exercises they do, with what intensity, and with what frequency.

Duration from one’s starting point to their goal arms depend on many factors, but eating right, balancing hormone levels, doing compound exercises and using machines for arms at the gym can all help you get there sooner.

Skin Tightening Methods for Smaller Arms Without Exercise

Since mobility levels don’t allow everyone to do high levels of cardio or resistance training, we also have several options for skin tightening and getting smaller arms without exercise to bring your confidence back.

Vitamins may not target arms but can help with overall slimming; what vitamins helps with weight loss and boost metabolism include vitamins A, B, C, D, and iron and magnesium.

Skin Care can really work wonders for skin hydration, elasticity, and youthfulness. Use organic skin care products that are made for skin tightening and moisturizing.

In the study of skin hydration, anti-wrinkles function improvement of anti-aging cream with alpha-ketoglutarate (Alpha-KG)–a chemical found in the body that’s often used in medicines and to treat kidney disease–showed that using Alpha-KG as an ingredient in skin care products can give an impressive tightening and anti-aging effect.9

Foods including nuts, cruciferous vegetables, citrus fruits, and high-protein snacks or meals are all great for skin health.

Water replenishing is important for countless aspects of the body, but keeping the cells and muscles hydrated especially helps with skin elasticity to get rid of both wrinkles and sagging skin for a tightening effect.

Surgery is an option, but should be a last resort for those who are skinny but fat arms have lasted despite exercise, diet, and other methods.

A woman in a white kayak viewed from behind, with her hands resting at the back of her head, the kayak is floating on calm water, with the woman sitting in a relaxed position, the focus is on the woman's peacefulness and enjoyment of nature.

Source: Kalen Emsley from Unsplash10

Liposuction is available but is costly and can lead to scarring, so always do research before choosing which procedure to do and where to get it done. Use of Renuvion/J-Plasma device for certain aesthetic procedures have been approved by the FDA after previous denial and further testing, so this could be a safer option for those who choose surgery, but should not be combined with liposuction.11

There are many methods for shrinking arm flabs from exercise and diet to skin care and hormone management. For someone with a skinny body, fat arms are not a huge deal but it can be a major confidence booster to tone and shrink the flab and feel better overall.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do My Arms Gain Weight First? What's the Reason for Having Skinny Body and Fat Arms?

To those wondering why do my arms gain weight first, people simply hold fat in different parts of their body. Women are especially prone to excess arm fat, but there are many options for reducing arm size with or without exercise.

What Can I Do To Tighten Saggy Arms at Home?

If having fat arms despite having a skinny body is bothersome to you, you can tighten saggy arms at home through cutting back on refined sugars, using moisturizing and hydrating skin care, getting in cardio and resistance training and adding protein to your diet.

What Type of Exercise Is Best for Fat Arms–Cardio vs Strength Training?

Between cardio vs strength training, strength training is certainly best for burning calories and building lean muscle for an effective body reshaping that can lead to overall fat loss and smaller arms.


References

1“HOW I SLIMMED DOWN MY ARMS IN 10 DAYS WITH CHLOE TING LEAN ARM CHALLENGE +GABRIELLA WHITED.” YouTube, 17 November 2020. Accessed 22 April 2023. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYHJP_bRy9E>

2Japheth Mast. “man reaching hands up high taken at daytime photo – Free Yay Image on Unsplash.” Unsplash, 3 August 2017, Accessed 6 April 2023. <https://unsplash.com/photos/Ls3yexjyRpk>

3Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. (2023, January 11). Spot reduction. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spot_reduction>

4Paoli, A., Casolo, A., Saoncella, M., Bertaggia, C., Fantin, M., Bianco, A., Marcolin, G., & Moro, T. (2021, April). Effect of an Endurance and Strength Mixed Circuit Training on Regional Fat Thickness: The Quest for the “Spot Reduction”. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8038840/>

5Kostek, M., Pescatello, L., Seip, R., Angelopoulos, T., Carkson, P., Gordon, P., Moyna, N., Visich, P., Zoeller, R., Thompson, P., Hoffman, E., & Price, T. (2007, July). Subcutaneous fat alterations resulting from an upper-body resistance training program. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved February 24, 2023, from <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17596787/>

6Yang, F., Zhou, Z., Guo, M., & Zhou, Z. (2022, April). The study of skin hydration, anti‐wrinkles function improvement of anti‐aging cream with alpha‐ketoglutarate. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9299201/>

7Renée Mowatt. “CHLOE TING LEAN ARM WORKOUT CHALLENGE | Before & After Results.” YouTube, 27 August 2020, Accessed 1 April 2023. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX2bxwBhV4U>

8@physiodharmi. Instagram, Accessed 1 April 2023. <https://www.instagram.com/p/Bm3O5U4jOKz/?igshid+YmMyMTA2M2Y>

9bigbearbutch. “Arm weight loss and toning progress report! 22/5’5”/T 15 months. 9 …” Reddit, 13 February 2023, Accessed 1 April 2023. <https://www.reddit.com/r/FTMFitness/comments/111g23m/arm_weight_loss_and_toning_progress_report_2255t/>

10Kalen Emsley. “woman riding kayak at the middle of the sea photo – Free Woman Image on Unsplash.” Unsplash, 7 June 2016, Accessed 6 April 2023. <https://unsplash.com/photos/kGSapVfg8Kw>

11U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2022, July 21). Use of Renuvion/J-Plasma Device for Certain Aesthetic Procedures: FDA Safety Communication. FDA.gov. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from <https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/safety-communications/update-use-renuvionj-plasma-device-certain-aesthetic-procedures-fda-safety-communication>

About the Author

Nathan Petitpas

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.