May 24, 2024

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The Sports Fanatics

10 best exercises + tips

Every month, 3.6k of you ask good old Google for ‘exercises for bingo wings’, or just general info on ‘bingo wings’. Do that and you’ll find a whopping 8 million results, and who has the time to filter through all that? To help you then, we’ve consulted the experts to decipher the misinformation from the hard facts, including why the fatty deposits located around your tricep muscle occur, and how to get rid of them (if that’s what you want to do). Read on, friends.

What does the phrase ‘bingo wings’ refer to?

Rearing its head in the 1990s, the term ‘bingo wings’ came, unsurprisingly, from the game Bingo!, during which the upper arm becomes visible when the winner announces their winning score-card, raising it up for all to see and most likely jiggling the card to show off their bingo-prowess.

Now, bingo wing and upper arm dissatisfaction are not niche anxieties – in fact, according to the 2018 WH annual Naked Survey, many women responded that they’d prefer to get their legs out than their arms.

But, instead of berating your body, let us guide you through what causes of bingo wings, the best exercises for bingo wings – that burn fat and tone muscle – as well as answering your bingo wing FAQs. Ready?

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What causes bingo wings?

Bingo wings tend to come with age. ‘As you get older, your body tends to slow down; in the way it reacts to exercise, your metabolism speed, and maintaining weight becomes more challenging,’ Equinox PT Vera Stefanie says.

‘The production and or use of certain hormones, such as growth hormones and testosterone, also changes. There are specific areas in the female body that are more affected by hormones and stress, such as thighs and belly fat. Arms are one of those areas, too,’ she adds.

Another cause of bingo wings can be down to the fact that after the age of 40, natural levels of the growth hormone start to decline. Lower levels of growth hormones are related to declining levels of muscle mass and changes to how your body breaks down and stores fat – basically, how easy it is for you to gain muscle and how hard it is for your body to metabolise fat.

Can you get rid of bingo wings?

Sadly, there are no natural quick fixes for this and trying to lose arm fat specifically is fruitless. Your body cannot and will not spot reduce (that means lose weight from one particular area only) – but more on that later. Instead, your task comes down to the classic combination of learning how to build muscle and learning how to lose body fat.

First up, let’s get you going with a simple explanation of what muscles make up the arm (no, there’s not a “wing muscle”) and the best exercises to get rid of bingo wings.


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What muscles make up the arm?

For a sculpted upper body, you need to work a number of muscles. Firstly, there’s the group of muscles that make up the front part of your upper arm:

  • Biceps Brachii: Often referred to as just ‘biceps’, this muscle begins at the front and back of your shoulder and joins together again around the elbow.
    • Brachialis: This muscle acts as a bridge between your forearm and upper arm and lies beneath the bicep muscle.
    • Coracobrachialis: This muscle is located near the shoulder and helps bring your arm closer to your body while also stabilising the shoulder joint mid-movement.

    Then, there are the muscles that make up the back part of your upper arm:

    • Triceps Brachii: often referred to as just ‘triceps’, this muscle lays along the back of the upper arm and helps with forearm extension.
    • Anconeus: a smaller muscle that helps with forearm rotation and elbow extension.

    5 exercises for bingo wings without weights

    If you don’t have weights, e.g. dumbbells or kettlebells to use for dumbbell exercises, then there are a number of bodyweight exercises, from back exercises to tricep exercises, that PT Gina Obeng suggests that’ll help you build upper body muscle and tone your arms.

    1. Push-ups

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    a) Get into a plank position, with your hands under but slightly outside of your shoulders.

    b) Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.

    c) As you lower yourself, tuck your elbows, pulling them close to your body so that your upper arms form a 45-degree angle when your torso is in the bottom position of the move.

    d) Pause, then push back to the starting position as quickly as possible. Keep your core braced the entire time

    Trainer tip: If your hips sag at any point during the exercise, your form has been broken. When this happens, consider that your last repetition and end the set.

    To make this move easier, perform it on your knees:

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    2. Arm circles

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    a) Standing with your feet hip-width apart, raise your arms laterally out on either side.

    b) With control, rotate your arms forward in small, slow circles.

    ‘Try and tense the muscle throughout the whole circular motion,’ says Obeng. ‘Don’t just leave your arms to swing – tense the muscle and make the movement nice and slow and controlled.’

    3. Diamond push-ups

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    a) Get into a high plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders.

    b) Bring each hand directly under your chest with thumbs and forefingers touching to create a diamond shape.

    c) From here, lower your body until your chest almost touches the floor, keeping your elbows tucked into the sides of your body.

    d) Pause, then push directly up to starting position.

    This is an advanced move and can be scaled down to your fitness ability by placing your knees on the floor. Try to keep a straight line from your shoulders to your hips throughout the whole movement.

    4. Lay down push-ups

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    a) Set up for a normal push up, with wrists under elbows and core engaged.

    b) Keeping elbows tucked into your torso, bend them and lower down until your entire body is touching the floor.

    c) Release your hands and extend your arms in front of you to tap the floor.

    d) Place your hands back underneath your shoulders and push back up to starting position. That’s one rep.

    5. Hand release push-ups

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    a) Set up for a normal push up, with wrists under elbows and core engaged.

    b) Keeping elbows tucked into your torso, bend them and lower down until your entire body is touching the floor.

    c) Release your hands by raising them quickly off the floor.

    d) Replace your hands and push back up to starting position. That’s one rep.

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    5 bingo wing exercises using weights

    As the upper arm is a collection of muscles and includes the shoulder and shoulder joint, it needs to be trained as such – this means taxing each different muscle group in order to see a difference.

    Equinox PT Vera Stefanie suggests bolting these exercises onto any lower body or core workout to get that sweet upper-body burn.

    Trainer tip: Pick a weight that you can perform between 10 and 15 reps and complete 3 sets.

    1. Bent-over dumbbell row

    dumbbell-bent-over-row-1 alice

    a) Hold two dumbbells – one in each hand – and let them hang at arm’s length next to your sides, with your palms facing your body.

    b) Bending forwards to face the floor, row the dumbbells into both sides of your chest. Pause then slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

    2. Dumbbell curls

    bicep-curls-1 alice

    a) Hold the dumbbells with an underhand grip (supinated).

    b) Keep your elbows tucked and bend your arms from your elbows to bring the dumbbells to the chest. Then slowly lower the bar back to starting position.

    3. Tricep dumbbell dips

    tricep-extension-1 alice

    a) Hold a single dumbbell with both hands slightly behind your head.

    b) Bend your elbows forwards and, without moving the upper arms, lower the dumbbell down until your elbows are locked. Slowly return to the starting position.

    4. Tricep dips

    tricep-dips-ps-1 alice

    a) Position your hands shoulder-width apart on a secure bench. Slide your butt off the front of the bench with your legs straight or slightly bent, in front of you. Straighten your arms, keeping your elbows slightly bent to not allow them to lock-in.

    b) Slowly bend your elbows to lower your body towards the floor until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Be sure to keep your back close to the bench. Once you reach the bottom of the movement, press down into the bench, to straighten your elbows, returning to starting position.

    5. Barbell squat press

    Overhead press, Exercise equipment, Shoulder, Barbell, Strength training, Free weight bar, Weight training, Standing, Arm, Physical fitness,

    a) Grab a barbell with an overhand grip and hold the barbell at shoulder level in front of your body.

    b) Slightly bend the knees and bend down until your knees are at a 90-degree angle, keeping your core embraced and your back straight. Return to standing.

    Bingo wings FAQs

    How often should you train your upper body?

    Realistically, twice a week. While you technically work your arms any time you do an exercise that makes your arms move, a training program that includes an upper-body session is most likely to help you tone up, up top.

    ‘Work out your arms twice a week,’ Stefanie advises. ‘If you do this, you can guarantee improvements in tone and strength, without overloading your muscles too much.’

    As for the rest of the week Obeng recommends supplementing your twice-weekly upper body resistance workouts with:

    For cardio, she suggests cycling, hopping on a treadmill, or heading out for a run or walk – just being steadily moving for a period of time LISS-style.

    Alongside all of this, try to also make sure you’re getting proper recovery. On active recovery days, a walk is ideal to stay moving without stressing your body. On full rest days, chill out. Put your feet up. WH orders.

    Can you still tone your arms without using weights?

    If you’re working out at home without much (or any) home gym equipment – and we know many of you are – PT Gina Obeng suggests using household equipment to keep your muscles under tension.

    ‘Resistance training is the fastest way to build muscle in a particular area, and, the more muscle you have in a particular area, the easier it is for your body to burn fat,’ she says. But, that doesn’t have to be done just using the classic dumbbell/barbell combo.

    ‘Towels, tinned goods, water bottles, even watermelons. Filling a rucksack or gym bag with sand or heavy objects like books and then using it as resistance is still effective,’ she advises. For tricep extensions you could use a chunky remote control, just make sure to slow the movement down and really concentrate on the mind-muscle connection to keep your muscles under tension for longer.

    Can you lose fat just off your arms?

    Absolutely not. As with all fat-loss spot-reduction questions, the answer is always no. Overall body fat must be reduced to see fat loss occur in specific areas but muscle strengthening and toning is also necessary to achieve your goals.

    It’s also good to remember that your body will have specific areas it likes to hold onto fat. That might be your lower stomach or your upper arms but it can be down to genetics, hormones, stress and sleep too.

    Will arm workouts make you bulk up?

    No. Many women refer to ‘bulk’ when they mean size. ‘The more you workout, the more fat you burn, and the more you stick to your weights routine, the more you build up muscle, which gets rid of fat and creates more definition,’ Stefanie says.

    Upper body workouts will only add size if you increase muscle mass but don’t burn fat. And, if you’re in a calorie surplus. If you’re trying to lose weight well, you need to be in a calorie deficit – this means eating fewer daily calories than you burn through exercise and living.

    Learning how to count and calculate your macros can be one way of keeping your diet geared towards losing body fat and building muscle. (If you’re new to macros, short for macronutrients, it refers to protein, carbohydrates and fat – the three main food groups our body uses for fuel. Learning how to eat the best macros for fat loss, for you, can be a game-changer when it comes to altering your body composition.

    Here’s a reminder of what foods fall into which categories. For example, chicken breasts would fall under protein and bread would fall under carbohydrates but some foods cross over categories. Cheese and eggs could be classified as both protein and fat, for example.

    macro calculator, women's health uk

    To figure out how to calculate your macros, use our handy infographic below:

    how to calculate macros, women's health uk

    How long does it take to build lean muscle?

    How your body builds muscle will be different from how the next person builds muscle. Our bodies are as individual as it gets and, whilst you could be doing the same programme as your bezzie mate, you might experience different rates of results.

    ‘I always say to my clients “give yourself three months to start seeing visual changes.” Everybody is different and exercise is also about trial and error and finding what works for you. So, especially for beginners, the first three months give you enough time to see changes – and they might not be drastic changes – but it’s enough time to notice a difference.’

    I can’t do a press-up yet – what exercises should I start with?

    ‘Press-ups are not essential for toning your arms,’ says Stefanie. ‘There are plenty of foundation exercises that help strengthen and tone the arms and will enable you to perform press-ups further down the line.’

    If a press-up is out of your range right now, start with some regression exercises that’ll help build strength and learn form like a press-up done against a wall.

    female athlete doing push ups outdoors

    doble-d//Getty Images

    How to do the perfect elevated push-up:

    1. Stand arms distance from the wall with your feet under your hips
    2. Place your hands flat on a flat surface, shoulder-distance apart
    3. Bend your elbows and bring your chest towards the wall
    4. Push back to the start position, focusing on not flaring your elbows
    5. Repeat Steps 1 – 4

    When you’ve mastered the wall press-up:

    To move on from this, take your press-up to the floor but with your knees on the floor. ‘You’ll have less body weight to lift and it will help you to gradually build up strength,’ says Stefanie.

    ‘Another method I highly recommend if you want to learn how to do a push-up is starting with negative or eccentric work’ she adds.

    ‘Start in the final position of a push-up, on your arms and toes, and slowly counting 5-10 seconds, lower yourself to the floor maintaining your form. Once you’ve reached the floor, reset in starting position and start the lowering phase again.’

    I’d also like to lose back fat, will these exercises help?

    Learning how to get rid of back fat is much the same as trying to get rid of bingo wings and that’s because you can’t spot-reduce fat from any one part of your body. To lose back fat focus on eating in a calorie deficit, getting adequate NEAT exercise, resistance training regularly and looking after your sleep and stress.

    For a more detailed action plan, here’s our full guide to get rid of back fat (safely and sustainably), for good.