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We’re (allegedly) in the middle of summer, but who knows? We might see some sun soon!

There may even be those who are heading away to foreign climes in the coming months, in which case, bikinis, vest tops and short-sleeved dresses will be the order of the day.

Of course, after the hibernation and comfort eating over winter, the thought of baring your arms might fill you with horror.

However, fitness coach and co-owner of Real Life Belfast gym Zoe Burton says there is still time for women to tone up their arms in time for summer.

Crucially, the busy mum and personal trainer who has been teaching women to love themselves since 2014, says it’s possible to get your arms summer-ready without adding bulk to your frame.

What will these exercises do for my arms?

If the above exercises are performed twice per week consistently over a period of time you will build muscle but don’t be alarmed by the word, ‘build. It’s simply building small amounts of muscle to shape your arms, alongside a balanced high protein diet.

How often should I do these exercises?

Twice a week. 

How much time should I leave between each set?

Try not to leave too long of a rest, we need it keep the heart rate and intensity high. At most, leave 60 seconds. 

How much time should I leave between each individual group of exercise?

Again, we need to keep the intensity of the workout high, so anything between 60 and 90 seconds. 

How long will it take before I see a difference in my arms?

If you perform these consistently twice per week over a period of 12-weeks alongside good nutrition, you will notice a difference. 

What weight should I use?

Usually start with the lightest weight and try the exercise. If the reps are too easy, we increase the weight or the reps. As long as our form and technique is good, then we should be okay to do so. 

What about warming up and cooling down? How important is this?

You can usually warm up with some dynamic upper body stretches and cool down with static stretches or use a very light weight to perform a warm-up set before you start your working sets.

Cooling down can also be a 10-minute walk on the treadmill. These are important to prevent injury as much as possible. 

Are there any conditions where these exercises would not be suitable?

These exercises are perfect for anyone, including pregnant (if you have training experience) and post-partum. Even if you have fibromyalgia, I highly recommend that you resistance train. If you recently had surgery or an injury around your upper body, then try to avoid until you recover. 

Will these exercises help with my overall fitness?

These exercises and workout are part of a training programme which together will improve not only your overall fitness and body shape, but improve your confidence. 

Why are weights important as you get older?

As we get older and the less we resistance train, the more likely we are to develop conditions such as osteoporosis. It protects your joints and muscle mass therefore improving your quality of life 

I don’t want my arms to get muscly. Will these exercises do that?

Absolutely not, it takes years to build a lot of muscle even at that A LOT of eating in a calorie surplus. 



Stand tall with dumbbell in either hand

Embrace core and raise dumbbells to the side of your body, no higher than shoulder height

Don’t let the elbows dip below the dumbbells

Pause at the top

15 reps x 4 sets

60 seconds rest in between each set


Sit or stand tall

Engage core

Dumbbells in both hands with wrists facing your head

Drive upwards over the head

While you press upwards, rotate the dumbbells 180 degrees

12 reps x 4 sets

60 seconds rest in between


One knee and hand on a bench or chair

Other leg on the floor and the other hand holding the dumbbell

Pull the dumbbell inwards towards your body squeezing your lats

15 reps each arm x 4 sets


Stand tall and engage core

Dumbbell in each hand

Keep elbows tucked in and armpits locked

Pull the dumbbell up towards the bicep and squeeze, slowly lowering it down

Try not to swing into this movement

15 reps x 4 sets


Stand or sit tall

Use one dumbbell for this, holding it with both hands behind the head

Start with your elbows bent and extend the arm pressing it upwards

15 reps x 4 sets

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