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How Can I Improve the Shape of My Arms?
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How Can I Improve the Shape of My Arms?

Episode 17: How Can I Improve the Shape of My Arms?

How can I improve the shape of my arms? There are several different ways that we can improve arm shape, and it really comes down to what your goals are and what your anatomical issues are. We can break these possible improvements down as follows. We can improve the definition of the arm. We can make the arm a bit smaller if the circumference is a bit larger than you'd like it to be. We can slim that down. Then there are folks that have excess hanging tissue on their arms, and that's something that we can address very effectively as well.


What causes problems with arm shape?

As I've mentioned a few times before in this podcast, I really like to take a problem based approach to plastic surgery. Here, we'll do that by looking at the different tissues of the arm and the problems that they could be causing. So, for the arm, there are three basic kinds of tissue that we need to focus on. There is muscle, there's fat, and there's skin, and it's the amount and properties of each of these tissues that in combination define the shape of the arm. Let's go through each of our possible goals one by one and see how changes to muscle, fat, and skin could help us achieve those goals. So, for the person that's looking for better arm definition, the name of the game is to make sure that there is good muscle mass so that we can see those curves and contours in the arm so that we have a good underlying foundation for that.

How can I build my arm muscles?

The classic way to improve arm muscle definition is to go to the gym and hit your biceps and triceps. For folks that have kind of maxed out at the gym or just don't have the time or energy to get to the gym as much as they'd like to, a great option is Emsculpt. Emsculpt uses high fem or highly focused electromagnetic energy to cause super maximal contractions of the biceps or triceps. In fact, we can use it almost anywhere on the body, with some exceptions. What this does is stimulate muscle contractions that are much stronger than you could ever achieve on your own in the gym to the tune of about 20,000 reps in approximately 30 minutes. So, we find that with four sessions of Emsculpt over the course of two weeks, you can really get some very nice muscle definition. If we want to build a nice muscular foundation for the arm, Emsculpt is a great way to go.

How can I get rid of arm fat?

So, now that we've built up our muscular foundation for the arm, we need to make sure that we can see it. The things that might prevent us from being able to see that nice muscular definition are excess fat or loose or extra skin. This takes us into the next couple of categories for the kinds of tissue that we might need to address to get the arms into the shape that we'd like them to be in. So, if we have extra fat in the arm, that's going to make the arm circumference a bit larger than we might like it to be. It's also going to hide any muscular definition that we've worked to build up. So, the best way to get rid of extra fat in the arms is with some targeted liposuction. Liposuction of the arms is a really powerful procedure that is very easy for the patient to go through.

We often do this under local anesthesia so that you don't even need to go to sleep. Of course, you can, if you want to, but you really don't have to for this kind of procedure. The way that it works is we make a couple extremely well hidden incisions that are about two to three millimeters in length, usually in the folds behind the arm where the arm meets the shoulder, so this is something that nobody's really going to see. We put in some numbing medicine called tumescent fluid. We let that sit for about 10 to 15 minutes to let it take effect, and then we come back with a long thin instrument called a cannula, and carefully suction out the extra fat that we don't want there anymore. The whole procedure usually doesn't take more than 45 minutes. You go home right afterwards. We like you to wear a compression garment for 48 hours, and that's kind of the story. If you have this done on a Friday, you can be back at work on Monday in almost all cases. You can even be back at the gym by Wednesday, in this example of having the surgery on Friday for most people. So, again, a very easy procedure to go through with very powerful results.

How can I tighten loose arm skin?

So, now we've discussed how to improve muscle definition to get that great foundation for a really attractive arm shape, and we've talked about how to uncover that muscle so we can see it a little bit better by doing some arm liposuction, but the other thing that stands in the way of seeing great arm definition and a really pleasing arm contour is extra skin. There are a couple different ways to approach extra skin on the arms. So, for people that have mild to moderate skin excess of the arms, the way that I really like to deal with this is with radio frequency skin tightening, specifically with the BodyTite device.

The way that this works is we use the same, very small incisions that we use for liposuction, and we put one prong of this device under the skin. One goes over the skin, and radiofrequency energy is passed between the two prongs across the skin, so that's why it's called bipolar radio frequency energy. One pole is under the skin, one pole is over the skin, and the tissue is heated in a very controlled manner to get the temperatures that we know will cause skin contraction. At the same time, this builds collagen and elastin, and essentially shrink wraps your skin to really outline the contours of the arm that we have achieved either with Emsculpting, with liposuction, or both.

For this procedure, it's really very similar to having liposuction performed. We often do it at the same time as liposuction. The one difference is that we do like you to wear a compression garment for about a month after this procedure to really help that skin shrink down and contract so that we can see that shape that we've been working towards.

For people with a bit more severe skin laxity of the arms, we talk about more invasive procedures where we're actually removing the skin. With this, we talk about something called a brachioplasty or arm lift. The far and away most common kind of arm lift is a procedure where an incision is made on the inside surface of the arm, going essentially from the armpit to the elbow. We use this to remove extra skin. Now, this is a pretty major procedure, and it does leave a real scar behind, which usually does fade over time, but you will always have some scar present, and it's a fairly long scar.

This procedure is for people that really have severe skin excess and are willing to trade having that scar for an improvement in their skin excess. Now, in some instances, we can do what's called a mini brachioplasty. This operation is really for people that have the majority of their skin excess in the upper third of their arm. For this procedure, instead of making one of these long incisions from essentially the inside of the shoulder to the elbow, we can actually make a much smaller incision, and that's just hidden in the armpit. So, this is a great option for people that have just a little bit of extra skin kind of near their armpit or in the upper third of their arm.


Together, we have now addressed building that shape of the arm from essentially the ground up. The foundation is getting a really nice muscle tone with some Emsculpt, and then uncovering that muscle tone by doing some targeted liposuction, and then essentially making sure there isn't too much skin in the way to hide our result. We do this usually with radiofrequency energy, the BodyTite procedure, and in severe cases, we might talk about a brachioplasty. The real art of achieving excellence in arm contouring is deciding which of these procedures a patient will benefit from the most, the right combination of procedures, if more than one procedure is necessary, and putting all that together in a way that is best aligned with the patient's goals. So, I hope that this improved your understanding and gave you a way to approach the question of how can I improve the shape of my arms. You can always DM me on Instagr


  • Darren M. Smith MD
  • Darren M. Smith MD
  • Darren M. Smith MD

All photos are of models except before and after images.

© Darren M Smith MD. All Rights Reserved. How much is Liposuction?, Emsculpt Neo

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