Firm Up the Slack

Have you been wondering if surgeons do liposuction on arms as well as thighs? And where did this arm flab come from, anyway? It certainly wasn’t there when you starred on the school tennis team.

“As we age, our skin loses elastin and collagen–the connective tissues that hold everything together,” says Dr Anita Cola, a dermatologist. Elastin and collagen also keep skin flexible enough to stretch and contract through multiple pregnancies, weight gains, diets and smiles. But when your body starts to produce less collagen and elastin, your skin starts to sag. The overall result is loose, flabby skin that, under your arms, just hangs.

Sagging underarm skin also contains fat, accentuating the problem, says Dr Debra Price, another dermatologist. Losing extra pounds is always a good idea in terms of general all-around health. But weight loss is generally not the most effective way to beat underarm flab, since no one can predict whether the fat will be taken from your hips, thighs, abdomen or under your arms. Even normal weight or underweight women can have flabby arms. What’s more, says Dr Cola, since the skin is no longer able to snap back into shape once it has been stretched by even a few extra pounds, weight loss can actually make underarm sag even worse.

TONE AT HOME

Until someone invents support tights for arms, women bothered by jiggly skin between their armpits and elbows will have to investigate other options, like toning. “If you can build up your biceps and triceps muscles—the biceps run along the front of your upper arm, while the triceps run along the back of it-you’ll fill the empty, sagging skin with muscle, creating the illusion of firm skin,

” says Dr Price. Experts advise women who want to get rid of arm flab to try these simple exercises, some of which use light hand-held weights available at sports shops.

Push forward.

Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat or heels resting on the floor and palms flat on the floor beside your hips with your fingers pointing forwards, says Peggy Norwood-Keating, director of fitness at Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. Bend your elbows and lean back, supporting your upper-body weight with your arms and keeping your hands in place by your hips. Then, using your hands, press yourself forward, straightening your arms until you’re sitting upright once again. This works the triceps muscle running along the back of your upper arm, says Norwood-Keating. Do three sets of 15 repetitions twice a week.

Bend your elbows.

To further build your triceps muscles, pick up a one-to three-pound dumbbell in your right hand, then sit up straight on a bench or chair, holding the weight at your right shoulder, says Norwood-Kenning. Put your left hand under your right elbow to help you steady the weight-bearing arm. Then gently lift the bent arm upwards from the front until your right elbow is above your right shoulder. Your arm remains bent, and your weight is behind your head. This is the starting position. Hold that position for about one second, then-leaving your left hand in place-slowly extend your right elbow and raise the weight above your right shoulder.

Hold that position for another second, then slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Repeat the exercise 12 to 15 times. That’s a set. Switch the dumbbell to your left hand and repeat the exercise 12 When you’ve finished, switch back to the right, then repeat the center to 15 repetitions a second time on the right side. Switch to the left and repeat the entire 12 to 15 repetitions a second time,Try two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions twice a week, suggests Dr Norwood-Keating. You may choose to progress to three sets or, as you become stronger and the exercise becomes easier (when you can do 15 repetitions without straining), switch to a heavier weight and decrease the number of repetitions to 8 to 10.