Banish bingo wings: Easy and effective exercises to tone and strengthen arms

Woman pinching skin under her arm

by Becky Fuller |
Updated on

Our resident fitness expert Becky Fuller talks you through the best exercises to tone your upper arms

Exercise is a great way to improve both mental and physical health, and another benefit we see is changes to our physique. Regular exercise might help us lose weight, but we may also change shape as we lose body fat and gain lean muscle.

As a personal trainer specialising in fitness for over 50’s, I am often asked if it’s possible to target any one specific area, and one thing women often want to know is how to get rid of bingo wings.

What causes bingo wings?

As we age, our skin loses elasticity and unfortunately this can cause things to sag. If we don’t do some form of strengthening exercise, such as weight training at home, then sarcopenia – the loss of muscle mass – is accelerated. The two combined causes the appearance of saggy bingo wings under the upper arms.

As Dean Zweck, product development manager for Total Fitness explains, there’s a scientific reason why women are affected more than men: "Every individual stores fat differently based on their own hormone profile. People who have higher oestrogen and progesterone compared to testosterone, are more likely to store fat in this area. That is why unfortunately, it’s something that affects women more than men."

Can you really tone bingo wings?

Yes! And what’s more, you're never too old and it’s not too late! It’s true that you can’t spot reduce fat in one area, but you can strengthen and build muscles anywhere on the body, and at any age. The NHS recommend a minimum of two strengthening sessions per week – this can be using resistance bands, learning how to use dumbbells, or following simple at-home exercises. It’s also a good idea to improve flexibility at the same time by following a mobility routine.

When we refer to ‘bingo wings’ we’re talking about the skin on the back of the arm, which is where your triceps are, therefore exercises to work this muscle group will help. However, it’s important to work the whole of your upper body to ensure you build lean muscle all over.

And don’t worry, ladies! You won’t end up looking bulky – we don’t have enough testosterone for that.

"The best strategy for how to get rid of bingo wings is to combine full body strength training, a little cardio and daily walking alongside a sustainable diet,” says Dean.

"This formula has the best success in creating the calorie deficit needed to burn the fat from your upper arms. Exercising large muscles like the legs, chest, and back rather than focusing on the muscles in your arms may seem counterintuitive but these workouts burn more calories during and after the training – giving better results overall."

Exercise can help us feel younger, increase our energy levels, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, reduce blood pressure and even help us live longer, so it really is a good idea to incorporate some form of movement into your everyday life.

What’s the fastest way to lose bingo wings?

It would be nice if there was a magic pill to tone our upper arms, but sadly that’s not the case. The fastest way to get rid of bingo wings is to combine strengthening exercises with a healthy diet and wait for the results to happen.

It can be tempting to crash diet – dramatically reducing calories, and to hit the gym hard, but I’d advise against it. Although you might see an initial quick change, suddenly eating a lot less can make us much more likely to quit, and exercising hard will make us sore and less inclined to keep going.

Slow and steady always wins the race. Not only will you make lasting changes to the appearance of your arms when you learn how to get rid of bingo wings, you'll be improving your overall health and wellbeing at the same time. Trust me, you’ll be so thankful you stuck with it.

Woman flexing her biceps
©Getty Images / Katrina Wittkamp

Best exercises for bingo wings with weights

Below, we've complied the best upper body exercises with weights that you can try at home. You'll need to invest in some dumbbells - either a set of 3 different weights, which can be purchased on Amazon, or you can spend a little more and get a set of adjustable dumbbells.

Warming up is essential before doing any exercise so that you don't injure yourself. Dean has a simple warm-up routine to get you going.

"A really effective move to use before you start working out is to swing both arms overhead, letting your arms bend at the top – repeating rhythmically. Think of doing a double thumbs up and then your thumbs touch the back of your shoulder. After you finish, include a cool down by pulling your arm straight across your chest with your opposite hand, holding just above the elbow. Hold this position for 30-60 seconds and then repeat on the other side."

1. Overhead tricep extension

As the name of this exercise gives away, these are brilliant for working your triceps and can be done either standing or sitting down. They're an excellent way to get rid of bingo wings. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold a light dumbbell with both hands above your head. Slowly lower your arms behind your head then extend your arms back above your head to starting position. Aim for three sets of 10 to 12 reps.

2. Bent over dumbbell rows

Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms on either side of your body and the palms of your hands facing inwards. Keeping your back straight, bend forwards to face the floor and row the dumbbells to your chest, so your elbows lock to a 90-degree angle. Hold in this position for a second before lowering to your starting position. Aim for 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

3. Tricep dumbbell kickbacks

Grab two light to medium weighted dumbbells and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in your knees. Bend forwards, making sure you keep your back straight and engage your core. Bend your elbows either side of you to 90 degrees. Extend your arms straight behind your body, hold for a second, then return to starting position. Aim for 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

4. Bicep curls

This exercise can be performed either by standing or sitting down. Taking a dumbbell in each hand with your arms either side of your body, turn your hands so your palms are facing forwards. Keeping your elbows tucked closed to your body, bend your arms to bring the dumbbells to your chest, then extend them back down to starting position. Aim to do 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Tip: If you don't own a pair of dumbbells use two tins instead! If the weight feels really light, just do more reps.

Best exercises to get rid of bingo wings without weights

If you don't have any weights you can still work your upper body at home, or you can combine these moves with the ones above for a full workout.

1. Close grip pushups

These are exactly the same as normal pushups but with your hands closer together to target your triceps more. Make sure to keep your back as straight as possible and tuck in your behind. You will then need to lower your body down to your elbows and then raise yourself up again slowly. Aim for three sets of 12 to 15 reps. you can do these on your toes, with your knees down, or against a wall depending on your mobility.

2. Tricep dips

This can be done using a chair, sofa or even stairs. Place your arms behind your back and put your hands onto the seat of the chair directly under your shoulders (make sure your hands are facing forwards). Put your legs out in front of you, then squeeze your shoulder blades together, bend your arms and lower your body down until your elbows are bent at 45 degrees then push yourself back up into the starting position. Really think about using the backs of your arms to push yourself up during this exercise and not to use your legs. Aim to do as many reps until failure.

Woman doing tricep dips

3. Lay down pushups

Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs out in front of you. Place your hands on either side of your chest, extend your arms and push up into a normal push-up position. Lower yourself slowly back down to the floor. Aim for 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

4. Arm circles

If your wrists struggle to support you when it comes to push-ups and dips, you can try arm circles. Simply stand up tall with your feet parallel and begin to do small circles with both your arms stretched out either side of you. They might look simple, but by the end, your arms will feel like they're about to fall off!

Don't forget to stretch! Stretching pre and post workout is vital to help prevent strain on your joints and muscles.

The best upper arm workouts on YouTube

If you'd rather follow along to a workout video these upper arm workouts can all be done in 10 minutes or less.

Where does the phrase 'bingo wings' come from?

It sounds rather funny, but the name bingo wings actually comes from bingo, and it was used to compare what the bingo players' arms look like when they raise their bingo card up in the air. When it comes to how to get rid of bingo wings, giving up bingo is not necessary!

How often should you exercise your upper arms?

If you're new to strength training, start with two sessions per week and build to three or even four. You don't want to overload your muscles too much, but you do want to see results.

"If you can incorporate strength training into your fitness routine 2-4 times a week, you should see great results. Combining that with daily walking and 1-2 cardio sessions, you have yourself a winning formula," says Dean.

To help you lose any excess fat from your whole body, add more daily movement, or cardio exercise. Things like going for a walk, swim or cycle will help and it gets you outdoors. It's also a great chance to socialize with friends or meet new people. There are also plenty of different workout apps you can download to your phone or device to help you stay fit at home.

Becky Fuller is a senior digital writer for She is also a fully qualified personal trainer and strength coach, specialising in fitness and wellbeing for over 50s. Prior to joining Yours, Becky was a fitness writer for Saga, and a freelance entertainment and theatre journalist. Becky is passionate about helping people to move well and discover the many benefits of strength training.

Dean Zeweck is product development manager for Total Fitness

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