This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

If You Want Toned Abs And Arms, Don't (Just) Train Abs And Arms

Focus on big muscle groups for the fastest results.

Ask any personal trainer and they will tell you, the most common areas that both men and women want to tone up are abs and arms. Men often want to build up their trapezoids and backs, and for women another target area is their butt and thighs, but abs and arms ring true for both sexes.

So, you do crunches and bicep curls, right? Well, it's not quite that simple.

"Firstly it's not possible to 'spot reduce', meaning if you want abs, doing 1000 sit-ups every day won't get you there!," Tess Earl, personal trainer and Head Trainer at F45 Double Bay told The Huffington Post Australia.

"This is often hard for people to comprehend, as theoretically it would make sense that in order to affect change in a muscle you should target it, but the body is far more complex than that. By utilising our larger muscle groups, this allows the body to use maximum power, speed and influence stronger muscle contractions to stimulate calorie burn and muscle development. So in simple terms, you get more bang for your buck."

Michelle ObARMa...major arm goals.
Michelle ObARMa...major arm goals.

What are the large muscle groups?





Biceps and triceps


What are some exercises you can do to train those groups?

Quadriceps -- squats, leg curls, reverse lunges, hip thrusters, Bulgarian split squats.

Hamstrings -- lat pull downs, man-eaters, closed grip row, bent over row.

Back and Shoulders -- shoulder press, pull ups.

Biceps and Triceps -- tricep curls, tricep dips, skull crushers, Rip60 row, hammer curl

Abdominals -- leg raises, bicycle crunches, hip drops, extended heel touches

As for how often you should be training each week, Earl emphasises the importance of consistency.

"For lasting results exercise needs to become a part of an individual's lifestyle and in order to achieve sustainability, 4-5 sessions a week is recommended. This provides consistency and allows the muscles and energy systems enough stimulus and regularity to affect change in the body and maintain these changes over time, as opposed to fad diets, and yo-yo results in body appearance and health," Earl said.

Even with training consistently, there are still some common mistakes people make. Fix these and you'll get to your results even faster.

Skipping meals and not eating regularly enough

"This is THE most common mistake I see every day! Mainly due to a lack of understanding in terms of how the body functions effectively, but in general most people trying to lose weight and burn fat are under-eating," Earl said.

"Fundamentally the body is trying to keep us alive, therefore going for long periods of time without eating forces the body to believe it is starving, in turn this then slows the metabolism right down, and encourages the body to store fat as energy pushing it into a catabolic zone. That's exactly what we want to avoid because in this state the body is unable to burn fat.

"Eating breakfast within half an hour of waking, having well-portioned meals every 3 to 4 hours, consuming 2 to 3 litres of water daily, and not eating late at night are simple and effective tips for making your body work for you. Your metabolism has the ability to largely help or hinder you, so the choice is yours," Earl said.

Treats are okay, but don't undo all of your hard work late at night.
Treats are okay, but don't undo all of your hard work late at night.

Distinguishing between muscle soreness and muscle pain!

"A lot of people starting out, getting back into or trying new forms of exercise cannot distinguish between muscle soreness and muscle pain," Earl said.

"There is a certain amount of soreness one has to endure in order to get the body moving and your systems firing after any period of rest. The ability to stay mentally strong and listen to your body to determine whether you are actually injured or just lacking condition is paramount in kick-starting a new healthy lifestyle that will last. Absolutely one must be in tune with their body and flag any issues that could cause potential harm, but you know what they say -- no pain no gain!"

Find exercise that you enjoy

"Don't make a six pack, or big arms and a great butt your goal. That will not provide sustainable motivation -- find something you love, something you look forward to, in a health-conscious community that you like being a part of will provide motivation and the results will follow," Earl said.

"Too many people don't prioritise their health, what they put into their body and how regularly they move it. Other life issues always come into play, whether it's work, children, lifestyle, social events, other financial commitments -- but what we must grasp is that none of these other aspects of our lives can be successful or enjoyable without good health."


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