Phoenix Ignition Fitness Company

Fitness by the Fire: Underarm fat and how to condition the arms to fight it

by Ron Kennedy • March 13, 2019
I have consider myself a veteran fitness professional. I do my best to stay on the cutting edge of fitness technologies and exercise modalities that our clients expect to be implemented into their own personalized fitness programs. Often times the industry discovers that what was once the gold standard in exercise actually turns out to be very destructive in regards to health and wellness. Take the traditional sit-up from long ago. I recall doing the Presidential Fitness Assessment back in grade and failing miserably at completing the required 30 sit-ups in under a minute or whatever it was. I wish I could go back in time and tell me gym teacher at the time, “You know Miss Ryan, future research is going to show that sit-ups actually put a great deal of strain on the lower back and sciatic nerve, and we really shouldn’t be doing these.” Needless to say the response from such a statement would not have gone well, but the point is that some things in fitness change quite regularly, others do not.

One constant concern that is regularly mentioned from my clients is hanging fat under the arms also referred to as “Batwing Fat”. Rightfully so, as this trouble area is one of the most difficult to hide, and a major indicator that you are not taking your health and wellness as seriously as you should. Waist line, hip, and leg fat can all be concealed most any time of the year, but today’s fashion standards typically force us into exposing arms and this causes many of us, especially women, to have to face this uncomfortable circumstance. In this article we are going to teach how to eliminate the embarrassing “Batwing” syndrome.

The Cause:

I personally view men and women as equals within the realm of fitness. Yes, men are designed to have larger muscle mass due their frames and hormones, and typically speaking should outperform most woman in athletics. Yes, athletes like Serena Williams are muscular super freaks and can outshine most men at their sports, but… human males are designed to be bigger, stronger, and faster than human females. Were Miss Williams to go and try out for the Arizona Cardinals in a full contact practice, she would be at such a physical disadvantage she would not be able to compete. That said, woman suffer from this affliction much more commonly then men.

As we age, our skin loses elasticity. The body sees this lose skin as a potential storage unit that just became available and proceeds to send fat to feel the void in a matter of speaking. Keep in mind that the body cares far less about how it looks as opposed to survival. Fat is stored where it is stored for a purpose; accessibility. Much like the fat around the mid-section, if the need arises and you can’t get to a food source, the body can quickly break down the fat accumulating behind the arms for source of energy.

Men and woman both have the potential to store a large amount of fat behind the arms, but unfortunately it shows more profoundly on women since they are naturally inclined to carry more body fat than men. Genetics are a factor as well. If you are of an ethnicity that is prone to a thicker bone structure you are much more likely to be effected by excess fat behind the arms as well.

 What you can do to fix those wings:

I have said it before and I am sure I’ll say it countless times again… Abs are made in the kitchen! The same can apply for Bat Wings. If your diet is in sync with your activity levels, you are less likely to have everywhere on your body not just your under arms. I am not going to go into a nutrition diagnoses, but let’s just leave it with proper dieting will significantly impact the fat on your arms.

In regards to exercises, the biceps are triceps are the muscle you want to focus on, with the triceps leading the way in importance. Triceps make up 2/3 of the muscles of the upper arm. The purpose of the triceps is to extend the forearm outwards, pulling objects downwards, and pushing the torso away from the hands and wrists area. More importantly, the triceps are the main stabilizer muscle for almost every upper body strength training movement. It is very easy to engage the triceps during exercise therefor applying extra attention in developing them is a sure fire way to ride yourself of Batwing. Keep in mind that even if your goal is to have LEAN muscle mass keeping the triceps as dilated and firm as possible it what you are striving for. Firm muscle doesn’t sway in the wind I assure you. The more you focus on contracting the triceps and keeping them contracted the less swing.

Triceps Pulldown:

V-bar, straight bar, rope, or even single handed, you can’t go wrong with a triceps pulldown. This movement is designed to contract the three heads of triceps perfectly. If you are using a standard cable machine, set the cable machine up with the bar at chin height. Grab the bar and stand upright with your back straight and your elbows tucked in to your sides. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, or place one in front of the other if it helps you balance. Pull the cable down until the bar touches your thighs and pause to squeeze your triceps at the bottom of the move. Then slowly raise the bar back to the starting position. Make sure you don’t lean forwards to aid the press and don’t let your elbows leave your sides, otherwise you’ll lose some of the focus on the triceps.

This can also be accomplished with a resistance band and a sturdy door frame if machines are not available. I suggest using a rope to get the maximum contraction in the long head of the triceps, but a straight or “V” bar are also very effective for this exercise.

Over Head Triceps Extension:

This movement is the side of fries to he juicy burger that is the triceps pulldown. Start off standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your back straight and abs tightly drawn in. Grab and hold onto a rope extension with both hands with your palms facing up and raise the rope over your head as this will be your starting position. Slowly lower the rope attachment in an arc motion behind your head, feeling a stretch and isolating your triceps muscles. Hold this position for a count, then slowly raise the rope back up to the start.

Dumbbell Triceps Kickback:

This is a more difficult movement to perform due to the required stability of the shoulder and the strength in the forearm muscles. I would suggest mastering this movement one arm at a time at first, and when you develop good stability and control through the arms advance to both arms moving in sync. Set up for the triceps kickback by grabbing a flat bench and sitting a dumbbell on the left-hand side at one end. Position yourself on the left side of the bench with your right knee and right hand resting on the bench. Using a neutral grip, pick up the dumbbell with your left hand. Keep your back straight and look forward. Tuck your left upper arm close to your torso and bend at the elbow, forming a 90-degree angle with your upper arm and forearm. This is the starting position. Moving only at the elbow, raise the dumbbell behind you until your arm is fully extended. Pause, and then lower the dumbbell back to the starting position. Repeat this movement for desired reps and then repeat using your right arm.

Triceps Dips:

If you are reading this, I’m certain you are aware for my fondness for dips. If you don’t know, then please take the time to come by on a back and triceps day so I can happily demonstrate bench dips with a weighted bar bell laying across my waist line!

Begin seated on the edge of a sturdy bench, chair or gym box with your hands placed next to your hips. Your fingers should face forward and latch over the edge of the surface so that your palm is planted firmly. Inch forward with your feet so that your hips come off the bench. Your knees should form 90-degree angles and your thighs should be parallel to the floor. Be sure to keep your shoulders back and down. Avoid shrugging them up towards your ears. Keep your core engaged as you slowly lower yourself towards the floor by bending your elbows. Keep in mind that the movement should not come from your hips, only your arms. Concentrate on keeping your hips still and avoid dropping them towards the floor. (You should feel most of the tension in your triceps.) Also focus on keeping your elbows in so they shoot straight back. Avoid letting them flare out. Slowly push yourself back up to the starting position, squeezing your triceps muscles at the top of the movement.

The Result:

With proper conditioning and equally as important nutrition, those bat wings should begin to disappear after a few weeks. Keep in mind, your goal is to build muscle mass, and muscle mass takes time to develop. At first, it may appear as if your arms are growing larger. DON’T PANIC. Muscle mass grows before definition begins to show. Your goal is to tighten and firm the triceps area which will prevent the swinging arm, but that is not going to happen if you don’t let those muscle grow!