Many people have excess fat and low muscle tone in the upper arms. A person may notice the skin in this area starting to wobble or droop. Some people refer to this as having “bat wings.”
The main muscles in the upper arm are the triceps and biceps. The biceps are at the front of the arm, and the triceps are at the back.
The triceps are often the weaker of the two because the body does not use them as directly in lifting or carrying.
Strengthening the triceps can reduce the appearance of bat wings. However, to make a lasting difference, a person may need to make broader changes to their exercise routine and diet.
What causes bat wings?
Bat wings are more common in older adults and people who are overweight.
As the body ages, muscle tone diminishes, but many exercises can restore this tone.
Different people carry weight in different areas. Bat wings can result from excess weight in the upper arms.
Targeted exercises can help to reduce weight in this area, though a person is likely to experience more satisfying results from a full-body workout.
Exercises to get rid of bat wings
The exercises below focus on building muscle tone in the upper arms. A person can do them at home or in the gym.
Warming up for 10–20 minutes before exercising can prevent muscle strain. A simple warm-up could include:
- marching in place
- rolling the shoulders in circles
- lifting alternating knees
- stretching the arms above the head
- bending gently from one side to the other
Some exercises below require small hand-held dumbbells. As an alternative, a person could fill two plastic water bottles and use these as weights.
It is important to select weights carefully. The American Council on Exercise recommend starting with a weight that only becomes challenging during the final few repetitions of an exercise.
Training with weights, or strength training, has wider benefits for health. In addition to strengthening muscles, it can improve bone density, which grows more important with age.
Also, raising and lowering weights slowly may be more effective for building muscle.
Choose four or five of the following exercises to create a workout for the triceps. A person may wish to perform the workout a few times each week.
Repeat each exercise 10 to 15 times.
- Sit on a stable chair or surface of the same height.
- Grip the edges of the chair by the sides of its front legs.
- Lifting the body slightly, take a few steps forward, while keeping ahold of the chair.
- The knees should be hip-width apart and at a 90-degree angle to the floor.
- The buttocks should be off the chair, with the body still in a seated position.
- The arms should be slightly behind the body’s core.
- Bend the arms to lower the body.
- Use the arms to push the body back up.
For this exercise, the only points of contact between the body and the floor should be the toes or balls of the feet and the palms of the hands.
- With the body suspended over the floor, the palms should be beneath the shoulders, the arms should be fully extended, and the toes should be touching the floor
- Ensure that the body is in a straight line, with the knees hovering above the floor.
- Bend the elbows and slowly lower the body almost to the floor.
- Using the arms, push the body away from the floor to begin again.
- Stand an arm’s length from a wall.
- Place the palms flat against the wall, shoulder-width apart.
- Bend the arms to bring the shoulders to the wall.
- Keeping the body straight, push away from the wall.
- Lie in a classic pushup position, with the hands directly under the shoulders.
- Straighten the arms and push up onto the toes.
- The body should be in a straight line.
- Look down at the floor so that the neck is also straight.
- Gently tighten the stomach muscles.
- Hold the pose for a few seconds, building up to a few minutes.
Another name for this exercise is the squat thrust. It engages several muscles in the body and increases the heart rate.
- Begin in a standing position.
- Squat down, with the hands on the ground in front of the feet.
- Keeping the palms on the floor, jump the feet back into a plank position.
- Reverse the motion, jumping back into a squat.
- Jump up, into a standing position.
This three-part exercise strengthens the muscles in the arms and shoulders. It requires two dumbbells.
- Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with the palms facing inward toward the body.
- Raise the arms in front of the body, with the dumbbells at shoulder-height.
- Extend the arms to the side, so that the body forms a T-shape.
- Lower the arms to the sides.
This exercise directly engages the tricep muscles and requires one dumbbell.
- Hold the dumbbell above and slightly behind the head in both hands.
- The upper arms should be aligned with the ears.
- Begin with the elbows bent, then extend the arms until they are straight.
- Bend the elbows again to lower the dumbbell.
This yoga pose can help strengthen the arm and stomach muscles. Downward-Facing Dog may also enhance flexibility in the hips and shoulders.
- Begin on all fours, with the palms and knees flat on the floor.
- Make sure that the back is straight and parallel to the floor.
- Pressing the palms into the floor, raise the hips to form an upside-down V.
- The palms should remain flat, but the heels should come away from the floor.
- Keep the stomach muscles taut, breathe evenly, and hold the pose for a few minutes.
Losing weight and toning muscle effectively
If a person is overweight, tricep exercises alone may not reduce the appearance of bat wings. In general, good ways to lose weight include eating a healthful diet and doing regular exercise that raises the heart rate.
Losing weight in just one area of the body, or spot reduction, is unlikely to work.
The most effective way to tone muscle may be to take up exercises that use the whole body, such as swimming or jogging. Over time, these activities tone muscles in every area of the body.
When a person is looking to get fit, it can be tempting to focus on isolated areas of the body. However, a person is most likely to see results when they develop an exercise program that engages all the body’s muscle groups.
It can be hard to find the time or motivation to exercise. Starting with realistic goals, a regular time slot, and building to more challenging exercises gradually can help.