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7 Least Effective Exercises For Underarm Fat & What To Do Instead

Avoid these common moves, and wave goodbye to jiggly arms.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

If underarm flab has you feeling self-conscious when wearing sleeveless tops or raising your arms, we understand your frustration. But don't feel bad—underarm fat is common among people of all genders, ages, shapes, and sizes. Now, when it comes to ditching those turkey wings, you may think that hitting the gym and doing countless arm exercises would do the trick. However, these exercises won't magically make underarm fat disappear if they're ineffective. All it will do is waste your time, leaving you more frustrated than when you started. The good news is there's something you can do to eliminate pesky underarm fat for good. By determining the least effective exercises for underarm fat and avoiding them at all costs (and doing effective exercises instead), you can target underarm fat and sculpt and tone your arms like never before.

To learn more, we spoke with TJ Mentus, CPT, a certified personal trainer at Garage Gym Reviews, who dishes out the seven of the least effective exercises for underarm fat. He also shares expert wisdom on what you should do instead. Read on to find out which exercises you should ditch and what to do instead to banish flabby arms from your life. Then, have a peek at these 9 Firming Exercises To Get Rid of Underarm Fat.

Banded Tricep Extensions

banded tricep extensions

While banded tricep extensions engage your triceps to some extent, the resistance provided by the band may not be enough for significant muscle growth. Instead, focus on compound exercises like close-grip pushups or bench dips that engage multiple muscle groups and promote overall arm definition.

"Banded exercises can be great for injury rehab and joint health but aren't the best option for building muscle with resistance training," Mentus notes. "You can still use a banded tricep extension to bring blood flow into the muscles as a warm-up before doing compound movements like a bench or shoulder press. Using modalities other than banded exercises greatly emphasizes the eccentric portion of a movement, which is shown to create higher levels of hypertrophy."

Dumbbell Tricep Kickbacks

woman performing dumbbell tricep kickback

Dumbbell tricep kickbacks isolate the triceps, but their limited range of motion and light weights may not be the best for torching underarm fat. Instead, opt for tricep dips or diamond pushups, which engage multiple muscles and have higher fat-burning potential.

"A tricep kickback with a dumbbell is not ideal because more strain is being placed on the shoulder than the tricep as you extend the arm to lift the dumbbell," explains Mentus. "The strain on the shoulder will limit how much you can target the tricep. A better option would be to use a cable machine to keep constant tension on the tricep at a better angle."

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Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extensions

overhead dumbbell triceps extension exercise, arm-strengthening exercises for seniors

According to a 2022 study, overhead dumbbell tricep extensions primarily target the long head of the tricep and may not be the most efficient exercise for underarm fat. Instead, include exercises like close-grip bench presses or tricep pushdowns to engage all three tricep heads and stimulate better muscle growth.

"This exercise can be hard on the shoulder joints and requires a good amount of mobility that some people may not have," says Mentus. "Although it targets the triceps and underarm, other exercises put the body in a better position to stimulate them."

Half-Rep Pushups

middle-aged woman doing pushups

Doing pushups with improper form or a limited range of motion (also called half-rep pushups) isn't your best bet for targeting underarm fat. Instead, prioritize full-range pushups with excellent form to engage multiple muscles, leading to greater fat loss and arm toning.

"Pushups are a great bodyweight exercise for building arm strength and muscle," states Mentus. "If your elbows barely bend during pushups, it's not hitting the upper arm as effectively as you want. Make sure to bend the elbows as you lower down to at least 90 degrees before you push back up. Ideally, lower yourself until your chest touches the ground."

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Half-Rep Shoulder Presses

woman doing dumbbell strength exercises for saggy skin

Like half-rep pushups, performing shoulder presses with half-reps limits muscle engagement and won't effectively melt underarm fat.

"Just like pushups, shoulder presses are a common exercise done poorly. The elbows should reach full extension. If they don't, the triceps aren't performing their job and won't be targeted effectively. Make sure to press the weight overhead until the arms are locked fully," says Mentus.

Sets of More Than 15 Reps

older woman doing chicken wings workout with dumbbells to tone arm flab

While high-rep sets in the 15 to 25-rep range can boost muscular endurance, they often lack the intensity necessary for significant fat loss and muscle growth.

"If you can do more than 15 reps, the resistance won't be effective enough to create the muscle growth you want to tighten up the upper arms," states Mentus. "If you can comfortably do more than 15 reps, [increase] the weight or resistance [in] time."

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Excessive Steady-State Cardio

happy mature woman in woods demonstrating the plogging habits that slow aging

Steady-state cardio exercises like jogging or cycling can contribute to overall calorie burning, but they won't target underarm flab specifically.

"Doing hours of steady-state cardio a week can be ineffective at getting rid of underarm fat because it will eat away at your muscle and make them harder to maintain," says Mentus. "Muscle helps prevent that flabby look, so although you may be burning calories during cardio, the arm will also lose the muscle that gives them shape."

Adam Meyer
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Read more about Adam
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