I can’t speak for all women over 50, but the running joke among my friends and I is that our arms turned into wet noodles after we reached the half-century mark. Honestly, it felt like I went from comfortable in a tank top to “nothing without sleeves” from one day to the next. On the eve of my 50th birthday, under cover of night, a pair of saggy “batwings” snuck into my room and replaced the “good arms” I’d had all my life (but that I now know I failed to sufficiently appreciate) with their droopy, crepey, old lady-like limbs. I’m joking, of course. No one escapes aging, and it happens incrementally. Muscle mass naturally deteriorates over time and menopausal hormone fluctuations pack on the pounds. Still, I had no idea it would look and feel like this, which is why, as anyone over 50 would do, I asked my daughter to help me search for solutions on the internet.
It turns out, there are easy arm exercises that can improve batwing resistance and reduce their wrinkly, wriggly appearance. Whether you’re new to the 50 crew, closing in on 60, or celebrating 70-plus fabulous years, a few reps of the below best arm exercises will help tighten and tone the muscle groups in your arms and give you a good upper-body workout. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little waddle when you wave goodbye, but if you’re looking to fortify your arm muscles and boost your upper body strength, these arm workouts for women over 50 are the ticket. They’ll build strength, increase your range of motion, and make you more confident.
1. Bicep Curls
Bicep curls are one of the most popular free-weight bicep exercises around — and since curls work the biceps at both the front of the upper arm and the lower arm, it’s easy to see why. Start standing with your feet hip-width apart and holding a five-pound dumbbell in each hand. (A resistance band is a good swap if you don’t have or don’t want to use dumbbells.) Let your arms hang at your sides with palms facing forward. Engage your core, stand tall, and keep your knees slightly bent. Take a deep breath, and curl both arms upward until they’re in front of your shoulders. Hold for a moment then slowly lower the weights back down. If this home workout move feels too easy, adjust to heavier weights. A set of dumbbells doesn’t cost too much, so it’s easy to up your weight without breaking the bank.
2. Tricep Dips
The tricep dips exercise is a fantastic bodyweight exercise that builds arm and shoulder strength. Begin by gripping the front edges of a chair with your hands. Hover your bum just off and in front of the seat with feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Straighten your arms, and look straight ahead with your chin up. Lower your body toward the floor until both of your arms form 90-degree angles. Engage your triceps to press back to the starting position.
3. Wall Push-Ups
Not a fan of push-ups? Try wall push-ups. By pushing against the wall in a vertical plank position, they help to reduce some of the load caused by gravity, allowing easier execution of the exercise. Start by placing your hands on the wall at about shoulder height with feet shoulder-width apart. (With both of your arms straight out, you should be leaning in toward the wall with your feet slightly behind your shoulders.) Bend your elbows slowly as you let your face and chest come closer to the wall. Hold for a second before returning to the starting position.
4. Lateral Raises
Lateral raises are a simple isolation exercise that works the deltoid muscles to help you strengthen your shoulders. This movement is great for a “low weight, high rep” routine, so they’re the perfect strength training move if you’re new to body sculpting. Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart. Hold a five-pound dumbbell in each hand by your sides with both palms facing in. Engage your core, and keep your head facing forward and your spine neutral. Raise both dumbbells up and out to your sides (like you’re forming the letter “T” with your body). Once your arms reach shoulder level, raise them up just a touch more, squeeze, and hold for a moment. Slowly lower weights to starting position.
5. Tricep Kickbacks
This effective movement is another great workout for the small muscle group in the back of the arms. Add this to your routine when you aren’t feeling tricep dips. To prepare, hold one five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Hinge forward at the waist, and slightly bend your knees, making sure to engage your abs and maintain a flat back. Create a 90-degree angle in each arm by by bending and tucking the elbows in at your side, just above waist-level. (You have now set your starting position.) To execute tricep kickbacks, hold your elbow position constant, and slowly extend your forearms behind you until your arm is straight from shoulder to fist and just shy of parallel to the floor. Gently return your forearms to the starting position and repeat.
6. Hammer Curls
What distinguishes this movement from the traditional bicep curl is the way that you hold the dumbbells. A slight tweak in position targets the muscles closer to your elbow. Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart, arms by your sides, palms facing in, and a five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Slowly bend your elbows and raise the dumbbells to your shoulders, keeping your palms facing each other. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement and contract the bicep muscles before slowly lowering to the starting position.
7. Reverse Fly
The reverse fly is a fantastic resistance exercise that works the rear shoulders and major muscles of the upper back. Start by lying chest down on an incline bench slightly declined. Hold a five-pound dumbbell in each hand and let them hang toward the floor. Take a deep breath and raise your arms out to the side in the shape of a “T.” Keep your shoulders down and abs tight, squeezing through the back of your shoulders and upper back. Hold for a moment then return slowly back to the starting position.
8. Cactus Arms
Cactus arms — or cactus pose — is a super simple way to strengthen your shoulders, arms, back, and spine, all while reducing the likelihood of backache. Begin by standing tall with your legs at hip distance apart. Open your arms out to the side, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, and chin parallel to the floor. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and feel your chest widen. Take a few deep breaths before lowering your arms back down to your sides.
9. Dumbbell Punch
This popular boxing move targets the shoulders, triceps, and lats. To prepare, stand tall with feet hip distance apart and knees slightly bent. Hold a three-pound dumbbell in each hand. Take one step forward with your right foot, keeping your left foot at a 45-degree angle. Position your body partially sideways. Bring your arms up so that your palms are facing the sides of your face. (This is your starting position.) To execute, take a deep breath and exhale as you push your left arm out in a punching motion before returning to the starting position. Switch sides and repeat.
Note: If dumbbells are too heavy, put them down and perform this exercise with your body weight and natural resistance. As you build up strength, you can incorporate weights.
The Final Word
Getting the toned arms of your dreams after 50 isn’t a pipe dream. It just takes a bit of work, patience, and dedication. Select a few of the above arm workouts and do them a few times each week. Rotate exercises periodically. Try to complete three sets per workout and aim for 6 to 15 repetitions per set. Exercise has so many benefits. Strengthening your arms is just the beginning.
It’s important to note that you should drink water as you exercise to keep yourself adequately hydrated. In addition, regardless of whether you’re new to working out or currently living an active lifestyle, it’s wise to consult a doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Pre-existing conditions, injuries, and medications will all play a role in determining your optimal activity level.