How to Make Your Arms Cut

Young woman flexing muscles in studio, portrait

Both men and women can effectively tone the muscles in their arms with consistent weight-training workouts designed to develop definition and achieve a "cut" look. Each workout should target the major muscle groups in your arms, which include your deltoids, biceps and triceps. A comprehensive workout can be completed with dumbbells. Using free weights will recruit more muscle fibers and surrounding stabilizing muscles, because the movements require greater coordination. To build definition and tone your arms, your workouts will need to be of significant volume, meaning they should include a relatively high number of exercises, sets and repetitions.

Lift two to three days per week on nonconsecutive days. Your muscles require at least 48 hours to rest between workout sessions.

Choose two to three exercises each for your deltoids, biceps and triceps. To build definition, you should complete each exercise at a volume of three to five sets of eight to 20 repetitions each, advises Dr. Lee E. Brown of the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Use an amount of weight for each exercise that causes your muscles to become fatigued within the assigned eight to 20 repetitions.

Complete shoulder presses, lateral raises and upright rows, exercises effective at developing your deltoids, according to Complete each exercise while standing. For the shoulder press, extend your arms fully as you push the dumbbells up from shoulder level toward the ceiling. During the lateral raise, keep your elbows slightly bent and lift your arms from in front of you out to the side until they’re parallel with the floor. For an upright row, allow your elbows to flare out to the side as you keep the dumbbells close to your torso, pulling them up from waist level toward your chin.

Complete dumbbell biceps curls, in-and-out curls and hammer curls to develop your biceps. Stand while completing each exercise. Keep your elbows in close to your torso as you bend them to bring the weights up to your shoulders. Regular biceps curls and in-and-out curls are done with palms facing forward, while hammer curls are done with palms facing each other. In-and-out curls are done by completing one repetition of regular curls, curling the weight from in front of you toward your torso, then keeping your elbows in but flaring out your hands for a repetition so you're curling the weights in from your sides toward your shoulders, then switching back and forth until you have completed the assigned number of repetitions.

Perform lying triceps extensions, overhead triceps extensions and dips, which are effective at developing your triceps. To complete a lying triceps extension, lie on your back on a bench and hold a single dumbbell with both hands over your chest. Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell toward your forehead. Overhead triceps extension is done while standing. Hold a single dumbbell with both hands up over your head, then bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell down behind your head. Dips can be completed with a bench or chair. Sit on the edge with extended legs and place your hands on either side of your hips. Shift your hips forward so they clear the bench, then bend your elbows to lower your hips down toward the floor.


A Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule is appropriate for those interested in lifting three days per week. If you prefer to work out two days per week, follow a Monday-Thursday or Tuesday-Friday schedule so that your muscles don’t atrophy from too much time between workouts.


Use a spotter when completing exercises while holding weights over your head. Visit your doctor for a physical examination prior to starting any exercise program.