Exercises that Target Underarm Fat

Though it seems superficial, our perpetual focus on problem areas becomes a body image destroyer and can be an on-going, nagging source of pain for a lot of my female clients.

One such example is the delightful area under the upper arm. You know what I’m talking about?

It seems women everywhere despise their  underarms and are constantly searching for a way to tighten, tone, and slim that area.

I get it. You want to wear a sleeveless top and look good. I can help!

First, you must stop hating on your body! Changing the way you see yourself and speak to yourself is just as critical a component as diet and exercise.

Second, try some of these killer moves in your next workout that target your triceps, shoulders, chest and core giving you a beautiful upper body and torso.

1. 90% Triceps Pushups: This exercise is a great way to learn to control movements. By stopping just before full arm extension at the top of the pushup you learn to resist gravity and maintain muscle tension repeatedly with proper form.

  1. Begin in a High Plank pose with hands set below shoulders, core braced, tailbone drawn down toward heels, and quads engaged to keep you buoyant.
  2. Keeping chest between hands lower into a pushup.
  3. Press up stopping at 90% arm extension—there will be a slight bend in elbows at top of pushup.
  4. Repeat with good form.

2. Military Pushups: full extension at the top of this version will feel like a relief compared to the 90% pushup.

  1. Begin in a High Plank pose with hands set below shoulders, core braced, tailbone drawn down toward heels, and quads engaged to keep you buoyant.
  2. Keeping chest between hands lower into a pushup.
  3. Press up fully straightening and contracting triceps, chest, and core.
  4. Repeat with good form.

3. Sphinx Pushups: one of the more challenging exercises, the sphinx requires total focus and engagement throughout the movement for proper form and execution.

  1. Begin in a Forearm Plank pose on knees with elbows set below shoulders, forearms and hands parallel and pressing into mat.
  2. With core braced, tailbone drawn down toward heels, and chest drawn forward press elbows off the mat, extending arms fully.
  3. Keeping chest, torso and hips in alignment lower elbows back to the mat.
  4. Repeat with good form.

4. Triceps Pullovers: double whammy with abs and triceps; this is one of my favorite exercises.

  1. Begin lying on your back with legs up over hips—slight bend in knees—and arms over chest holding an weight.
  2. Engage the core pressing belly button and spine into each other.
  3. At the same rate, begin to lower legs and take arms overhead. Pause at the greatest point of tension without arching low back.
  4. Contract to drive legs and arms back together over chest.
  5. Repeat with good form.

5. Pike Pull through: a new addition to my routine and a great exercise targeting a multitude of upper body and core muscles.

  1. Begin in a reverse bridge position with hands pointing forward and hips lifted off mat.
  2. Try not to touch the mat with hips or legs as you push into feet bringing hips back behind arms into a pike position.
  3. Squeeze belly up and in. Pause in the pike then return to start.
  4. Repeat with good form.

6. Alternating Arm Triceps Sliders: This one can be done on carpet or with Gliders on hardwood. Super exercise for arms and core.

  1. Begin in High Plank on knees with hands set under shoulders, elbows drawn in toward ribs.
  2. Slide one arm out straight as the other arm bends into a Military position pushup. Maintain pressure through the sliding arm as you go out, down, and back up.
  3. Keep hips level by maintaining a braced core throughout the movement.
  4. Alternate arms and repeat with good form. 

7. Single Arm Triceps Pushups:  this fun and challenging exercise provides evident gains as you practice and perfect the technique.

  1. Begin lying on your right side with knees bent. Wrap your hand up and hold onto your left shoulder. Place your left hand on the mat next to your right rib cage.
  2. Roll slightly forward to place weight into the left and then brace your core.
  3. Press your torso off the mat by extending the left arm until straight. Lower down to the mat just to touch the right shoulder then drive back up to the top of the pushup.
  4. Repeat with good form then try the other side.

8. Plank Walk-Ups:  this is a great exercise that teaches the connection between core stabilization during movement.

  1. Begin in a forearm plank on toes (or knees if you’re a beginner) with elbows set below shoulders; forearms and hands parallel on the mat.
  2. With core braced, tailbone drawn down toward heels, and quads engaged to keep you buoyant place the right hand back under your shoulder and press both arms straight.
  3. Bring the left hand back under the shoulder and set the right hand forward. Lower down to mat—right forearm to mat, left elbow bent.
  4. Return left forearm to the mat and repeat the exercise with good form—try not to allow hips to wobble side to side as you walk up and down—alternate lead arms each repetition.

9. Lying Overhead Triceps Extension:  this is a deceptively simple exercise that gets right into the triceps for a good burn! Choose the appropriate weight making the triceps the primary mover (typically lighter weight and higher reps for this one)

  1. Begin lying on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor and core engaged.
  2. Holding a weight, extend arms overhead and squeeze elbows toward each other making them parallel.
  3. Bend elbows to about 90 degrees then extend arms straight keeping weight slightly behind head to maintain tension.
  4. Repeat with good form.

Implement one or two of these into your routine each week. Aim for 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions—allowing proper form to ultimately be your guide.

These exercises are guaranteed to tighten your underarms. The arms are a good and manageable targeted area to begin if you want to see changes quickly.

In Love & Gratitude,


Further Reading:

Perfect Pushup

Pushup Challenge

Missi Holt

Missi Holt is the fitness and nutrition editor for Early to Rise. She is a master nutrition therapist, certified yoga trainer, Certified Turbulence Trainer and an NSCA certified personal trainer (CPT). She also provides fitness and nutrition therapy through her own organization, Whole Life Health.