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I have spoken a lot about how to slim down thighs and bulky calves, but I haven’t talked too much about how to get a smaller upper body.

Most complaints I receive are still about muscular legs, as most women don’t seem to bulk up in their upper body as easy as they do in their lower body.

But it does happen – especially if you do a lot of heavy lifting for arms, back & shoulders.

This can cause your arms to become too buff for your liking, or you can pack some unwanted muscle mass on your upper back.

To be clear, of course, I’m not talking about bulking up in your upper body like a bodybuilder, but definitely getting your arms, back and shoulders to the size that is not to your own liking.

I have experienced my upper body bulking up waaay too much with heavy lifting and CrossFit, and I was definitely feeling more “buff” (especially for my small frame).

My back got really broad and my crop tops and shirts became really tight around this area, which left me feeling extremely self-conscious about my body.

If the same thing has happened to you, I have some good news!

You can get rid of muscular arms, big shoulders and a wider back and make your upper body smaller…but you need to follow a proper workout and diet regime for this specific goal.

In this article, I’ll share what exercises to avoid for slimming down the upper body and what exercises you can do to tone up without getting bulky.

So, let’s dive in!

 

HOW TO REDUCE MUSCLE MASS

4 ways to slim down a muscular upper body

1. Stop The Workouts That Made You Too Muscular

”Use it or lose it!” Remember that golden gym rule? Well, it’s true.

Reducing any muscle takes time and requires you to not use these muscles and to give them a chance to reduce in size (or “atrophy”).

The easiest way to get rid of muscles in your arms, back & shoulders is to stop working these muscles altogether and stop exercising for a while.

But you do not have to take such a drastic measure – you can achieve the same results if you change your workout routine to fit your fitness and body goals.

If you continue with heavy lifting (or whatever exercise that made you bulky), you will never reduce this muscle.

Stopping this type of exercise that got you there in the first place is the most important thing.

This means stop ALL direct resistance training that made your arms, back and/or shoulders bigger.

If you feel like your arms got bigger from 10 kg weights and bicep curls or overhead presses – these are out the window!

The same thing goes for the shoulder press – if this is what contributed to their growth.

Extra Tip:

Avoid any workouts that seem to “create a pump” in your target muscles and especially those that ”go to failure’‘.

I know giving up intense exercise and heavy lifting can be difficult at first (we can get pretty addicted to it), but there are lots of other exercises you can do (more on that, below).

2. Eat At A Slight Calorie Deficit

You can speed up the process by eating at a slight calorie deficit – and I really mean slight.

You do not want to mess up your metabolism by trying to go too extreme, as it will definitely hurt you in the long run.

I recommend eating 250-300 calories below your estimated daily intake for a few weeks and monitoring your progress.

This will help you lose weight and some of that weight will be muscle.

You do not want to go too extreme, because you will drop weight AND muscle overall.

Since muscle burns more calories than fat, having less of it slows down your metabolism, making it even harder to shed pounds in the future.

3. Eat a Ketogenic Diet

Low-carb diets (aka ketogenic) restrict you to 25-30 grams of carbohydrates per day (or 5% of your daily calorie intake) and focus on very high fat intake while keeping your protein levels moderate.

These diets make significant muscle growth challenging according to multiple studies.

I’m a big fan of the Keto diet, as it can help you drop body fat, moderate blood sugar levels and (if you consume adequate amounts of protein) prevent too much muscle breakdown.

But there is a reason why bodybuilders don’t go full Keto (super low on carbs) – because it stops you from gaining too much muscle mass.

For more info on how to go Keto and what to eat, you can read my blog post where I explain this diet in detail.

But it’s extremely important that you don’t starve yourself.

That will just slow down your metabolism, and it may have serious consequences on your health. 

What About Protein?

I’ve seen advice online on how low protein diets would be the most effective ones for muscle loss.

I would not necessarily agree.

If a low-protein diet is paired with excessive cardio and high carb intake (while staying in a slight deficit), it will definitely lead to muscle loss…but there is a good chance that you will end up looking skinny fat.

Not to mention that high carb-low protein diets will most likely lead to insulin spikes which make this diet harder to follow in the long run.

Fat keeps you full, which is why eating below your maintenance levels will be easier to do while going very low carb.

These are the main reasons why I recommend going very high in fat while keeping the protein levels moderate – so you get a smaller upper body and leaner overall physique.

4. Do More Cardio

When I say cardio, I mean low to moderate intensity cardio, like lots of walking, running for 45 minutes or more or spending the same time on the elliptical.

Cardio (if done properly) does not necessarily lead to muscle waste, but it does help you drop body fat pretty quickly (especially paired with a calorie deficit) and help you slim down overall.

I do not recommend doing only cardio (again, because it can lead to looking skinny fat), which is why I would still do resistance training – but focus on the workouts that will keep you toned, not bulky.

More on that below.

Let’s first cover the exercises you should not be doing if you are too muscular in your upper body.

EXERCISES TO AVOID IF YOU WANT TO REDUCE MUSCLE MASS FROM YOUR UPPER BODY

exercises to avoid if you want to lose upper body muscle bulk

As mentioned above, you need to stop doing the exercise/s that have contributed to your bulkiness. That is the number one priority.

Here are some workouts I’d recommend skipping for a while if you want to slim down your upper body, specifically to lose arm muscle as well as to slim shoulder and back.

1. No Isolation Workouts For Your Upper Body

I would totally stop doing any isolation workouts that target your upper body muscles.

Isolating individual muscle groups, such as your biceps, triceps, and lats can lead to an increase in muscle size. 

If you want to get rid of the muscular arms, stop doing biceps curls, triceps press, hammer curls, and triceps kickbacks.

The same goes for rowing, shoulder press, bench press, lat pulldowns, and pull-ups. They work your shoulders, back AND arms.

2. No Overhead Pushing/Pulling Workouts

Steer clear of overhead pressing exercises, such as barbell shoulder presses and overhead pulling exercises, especially chin-ups and lat pulldowns.

Any overhead pushing/pulling motion will make your back broader, which might be an issue for you, as it was for me.

These exercises are used heavily in CrossFit, so if you are doing CrossFit and are getting too muscular for your liking, I would stop for a while.

3. No Lifting Very Heavy Weights

I would also avoid all heavy lifting and workouts focusing on low reps, high weights.

By this, I mean lifting anywhere in the 3-8 rep range.

There is a way to lift weights without getting too bulky, but if you want to get results faster, do not lift heavy for your upper body.

LEARN YOUR BODY TYPE SO YOU CAN ADJUST YOUR DIET & WORKOUT

I would also highly recommend you to find out your body type.

This is super important since different body types lose weight and build muscle differently and 2 out of 3 body types can GAIN muscle very easily.

I’m a mesomorph body type which means I’m quite athletic and I can gain muscles pretty easily.

I didn’t know my body type when I started getting into fitness, but if I did, I could’ve saved myself much trouble.

If you are not sure about your body type, you can take my Body Type Quiz. It will help you learn your body type in just 2 minutes and it’s completely free. :)

 

EXERCISES TO TONE YOUR UPPER BODY WITHOUT BULKING UP

how to train without bulking up your arms, shoulder or back

As I mentioned, if you want results super fast, the best way would be to stop training your upper body altogether.

But, if your goal is to stay active, there are workouts that will help you get a toned upper body without increasing the muscle mass on your arms, back or shoulders.

These are some workouts you can try that will help tone up your upper body without getting too muscular. Also, a lot of them are great for your core too!

I would suggest trying it out for a few weeks and seeing how your body responds to them.

If you feel like your muscles blow up even from these workouts, then you might want to focus on the lower body and full-body workouts (that don’t focus on the upper body much) for a while.

1. BOXING

Boxing is one of my favourite workouts and I find it amazing for toning up your arms without adding bulk.

It tones them up really fast, and you only need to do 1-2 classes per week to notice a difference.

If you can’t get to a class, try making up your own little circuit at the gym (if it has boxing gloves and a bag), or doing a Les Mills Body Combat class at home.

2. SWIMMING

Swimming is also really great for toning up your arms without increasing their size.

I know professional swimmers have really broad shoulders, but they do train ridiculously hard, which is why they have this shape. If you just swim 30 minutes 1-2 times per week, this won’t happen to you.

When I was into triathlon training, all I did was swim, cycle and run.

My arms were super toned and I wasn’t doing any resistance training for them. I was just swimming 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes.

3. RESISTANCE TRAINING

You don’t need to avoid resistance training altogether. I would just avoid anything heavy, as I mentioned, and anything low rep (3-8 rep range).

I have posted a free lean arms workout on my blog, so have a look at this to give you an idea of some circuits you can do.

Also, I have posted a few free workouts from my Lean Legs Program 1.

These are all full-body so they will work your arms and core, as well as your legs. And it will give you a good idea of some exercises you can do that will tone you without causing bulkiness.

 

4. HIIT WORKOUTS (THAT WON’T ADD BULK)

HIIT workouts are great for toning up and a lot of women don’t have issues with HIIT bulking up their upper body.

I normally advise endomorphs to stay away from HIIT workouts, as they are usually very leg focused and they can cause your lower body to bulk up.

If you think this is you, I would avoid too many lower body exercises and avoid too many shoulder pressing exercises.

Here are a few examples of HIIT workouts that won’t bulk you up.

A lot of core workouts also involve being in the plank position, and this is great for your shoulders and upper body too (without adding too much size on it).

5. PILATES

Pilates is a great form of lighter resistance training that will tone up without adding bulk.

You can do regular pilates or reformer pilates – both are great. They use light weights, pilates rings or just bodyweight only.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me :) I hope you found this helpful! xx

FULL BODY WORKOUT PROGRAM THAT WON’T ADD ANY EXTRA BULK

If you are looking for a full-body workout program that focuses on building a lean & toned body overall and slimming down legs, then you might want to check out my Lean Legs Program 1.

I created it specifically with the goal of slimming down bulky muscles on your lower & upper body, losing body fat and achieving a lean body.

I personally struggled a lot with finding a program I could do for a long period of time that wouldn’t make me end up looking too buff and muscular for my liking.

If this is something you have been dealing it, then I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

Here are results of one of my lean legs girls struggling with being too muscular.

slim down muscular upper body before and after
slim down bulky muscles before and after

My program comes with full-length workout videos tailored specifically to your body type. And you get it for life.

BE PATIENT

My last piece of advice is to be patient! Gaining those muscles took time and so will losing/reducing their size.

Sometimes, it can be even more challenging due to muscle memory.

But I can promise you this – if you make the changes to your diet and fitness regime, you will slim down your muscular upper body!

It worked for my clients and myself and it will work for you.

Love, Rachael xx

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

101 Responses

    1. Hi lovely! Just like burning body fat, you still need to follow the right type and workouts and adjust your diet for weight loss. It will require a lot of hard work but with the right process, achieving your fitness goals is completely possible. If you need more help or tips, feel free to reach out to us at info@rachaelattard.com

  1. I do aerial silks but I’ve notice by arms have got bigger and my sports bras are tighter. Would this be because of the silks and should I stop it? I’m worried that if I stop doing what I enjoy, I will fall out of love with exercise altogether

    1. Hi lovely,

      You don’t have to completely stop doing something that you love. The key is a perfect balance and following the right workout and nutrition plan that will help you achieve your goals. If your goal is to slim down any bulky muscle, the best way to do it is by combining the right cardio and resistance workouts for your body type and adjusting your diet for weight loss. :)

  2. Hi!! I’m 20 yrs old and I am struggling sliming my legs. I am mesomorphs and I swam competitively for 14 years. I stopped swimming 2 years ago but still am not seeing much change in my thighs whilst doing a lot of walking and no heavy resistance training. What would u recommend?

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out!

      I completely understand how you feel and I’ll do my best to help! :)

      If your goal is to slim down your legs, there are 3 steps you should follow – do the right type of cardio, do bodyweight resistance training and adjust your diet for weight loss.
      I have a very detailed blog post that will help you learn how to slim down your legs so please go give it a read

      It will definitely help! :)

      Also, you can check out our 3 Steps to Lean Legs Program. It was designed specifically for girls who are struggling to slim down their legs. :)

      If you have other questions, you can email us at info@rachaelattard.com

  3. Hey I’m 17 yours old I’ve been lifting for about a 1 year now and I’m obsessed with working out everyday after school. But I have noticed my upper body ,mostly my back has gotten really big compared to my lower body. But I workout my lower body 3 times a week as well as my up body. My workout routine is Monday-Quads/Glutes Tuesday-Chest/arms Wednesday-Glutes Thursday- Shoulders/abs Friday-Hamstrings/Glutes Saturday-Back/ Arms. What do you recommend I’m just really trying to grow like others a small waist and Glutes

    1. Hi lovely,

      ​Since you are 17 years old, your body is still going through a lot of transformations so ​if you want to lose weight, it’s best you talk to your parents so they can get you an appointment with a specialist. A nutritionist can advise you on your nutrition and workouts so that you can achieve the results you wish in a healthy way that suits your age.
      Wishing you all the best! xx

  4. Hi, I really like that you downsized for asthetics. More is not always better. Just being able to do more doesnt have anything to do with beauty. Further I like your fitness aspects aswell. I think in most cases its like a touchup. We dont need to completely modify our bodies to become a mutant.

  5. hi!! i really need help. i’m 15, and recovering from depression. i really want to start working on myself. i feel as though i have really nice legs, but then my stomach, and up is just all fat. i play netball twice a week, which keeps my legs moving, but i’m just bigger above me legs than i want to be. i don’t really want to gain any muscle, but i want to lose weight- but only my upper body and not my legs, i just don’t know what to do :(

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thank you for reaching out! :)

      ​Since you are 15 years old, your body is still going through a lot of transformations so ​if you want to lose weight, it’s best you talk to your parents so they can get you an appointment with a specialist. A nutritionist can advise you on your nutrition and workouts so that you can achieve the results you wish in a healthy way that suits your age.

      Wishing you the best! xx

      Love,
      Len

  6. Hi Rachael! Thank you for this great article. I’m 19 years old and I’m planning on going to the military soon and have been working on my upper body A LOT. However, I feel as if I’m a little bulky than I’d like to be. My question is can I still do just pull ups/push ups and none of the other exercises that I’m sure contributed to my big upper body?

    1. Hi lovely,

      Just as long as you do it in moderation then it should be fine. You can monitor your progress every week by taking photos. That way, you’ll see if you’re bulking up or slimming down. :)

      I hope that helps. xx

      Love,
      Len

  7. Hi, so I was a competitive gymnast for 8 years, training 5x a week for a total of 20 hours. I am 16 now and have quit, but am left with bulky muscles. My body type is metamorphic and most of my weight goes to my upper body (my arms), my deltoids are huge making my shoulders huge, and am extremely self conscious. Is it possible to reduce the size of the muscles in my shoulders and arms – now that I am done doing gymnastics – and how long approximately does it take, if following the right diet and workout plan? If you could reply back that would be amazing, thank you!

    1. Hi lovely,
      Thank you for reaching out! :)

      ​Since you are 16 years old, your body is still going through a lot of transformations so ​if you want to lose weight, it’s best you talk to your parents so they can get you an appointment with a specialist. A nutritionist can advise you on your nutrition and workouts so that you can achieve the results you wish in a healthy way that suits your age.
      Wishing you the best of luck! xx

  8. Hi Rachael! Thank you so much! :)
    My concern is different, I’m genetically top heavy. So I would like to lose size/mass on my shoulders/back/arms, & gain muscle/bulk in my lower body. What should I do? Especially in regards to cardio

    1. Hi lovely,

      Spot-reducing isn’t really possible so in order to slim down your upper body, you’ll need to lose weight overall. In order to achieve that in a healthy way, you should do a combination of light-intensity cardio, resistance workouts and apply a calorie deficit to your ideal daily calorie intake. Feel free to read this blog post. I’m sure that you’ll find it very useful. :)

      If you have more questions, you can reach out to us at info@rachaelattard.com

      Love,
      Len

  9. Hi Rachael, I really want to slim down my upper body and get a more toned back and arms so that I can look lean. I started Emi Wong’s 20 Days Slim Back & Arms Program. Do you think that this program will be effective enough if I combine power walking as well as a nutritious diet in order to slim down my upper body? Thank you!

    Here’s the link to the program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30zuVLLvy5I (that’s the first video of the program- the other video links and workout calendar is in the description box)

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out! <3

      I think it's a great program and it can help you. Power walking is also great cardio when it comes to burning calories. If your goal is to slim down your legs there are 3 steps you should follow - do the right type of cardio, do bodyweight resistance training, and adjust your diet for weight loss.
      I have a very detailed blog post that will help you learn how to slim down your legs so please go give it a read. :)

      It will definitely help! xx

      Love,
      Len

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out! <3 If you want to lose any bulky muscle that you have gained, you should do a good combination of light-intensity cardio, light-resistance workouts, and adjust your diet for weight loss (eating at a calorie deficit). The first step is finding out your body type to know the right type of workouts and diet for you. :) Feel free to take Rachael’s body type quiz and email your results to info@rachaelattard.com so we could give you the proper guidelines.

      Love,
      Len

  10. Please I need your help.
    I used to pull my stomach in while going out so as not looked potbelly, now I am very very larger bulky (wider body frame ) too muscular not fat, I have do cardio tirelessly all to no avail. Then what next?

    1. Hi Kelvin,

      Rachael’s products and workouts aren’t meant for a male body – you might be able to do the cardio and follow the nutritional guidelines but as for the workouts – I would suggest you find a PT that will help you with modifying the exercises or even make a new plan based on ours to match your goals. As you already know, males have much more testosterone (and general hormone balance is completely different) which will help with muscle building, and males usually don’t tend to retain fat as females do, so you would find it easier to lose weight if that’s your goal. :)

      Hope this helps a bit!

  11. Hi my body type is Mesomorph.. I’m really worried I’ve been working out from past 3 months and my upper body is looking huge compared to my old photos it has made me very self conscious.. my breast back and shoulders have become huge compared to the rest of my body.. please please help me

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out! <3

      The first step to stop gaining unwanted bulkiness is to stop the exercises that you're currently doing. Light-intensity cardio like power walking mixed with light resistance workouts will help lean down those muscles. You will also need to adjust your diet for weight loss by eating at a calorie deficit. If your goal is to slim down not just your legs but also other areas in your body, it is very important to follow the right type of workouts and diet for your body type. Here are some general guidelines for gorgeous mesomorphs like you. Feel free to give it a read. :)

      I hope it helps. If you have more questions, you can email us at info@rachaelattard.com

      Love,
      Len

  12. Starvation, long cardio sessions will reduce bulkiness, muscle and bone mass too!! My problem is the opposite, I am trying to build up my skinny arms and legs,

    1. Hi lovely,

      thanks for reaching out! <3

      Rachael doesn't recommend starvation and long cardio sessions because it will damage your metabolism and have long term negative effects. It's best to follow a healthy workout routine and healthy diet. xx

      Love,
      Sanja

  13. I have buljy arms as in biceps and triceps visual when i wear tanttops or same. I want to lose them and get slim arms , is it possible with above tips?

    1. Hi lovely <3,

      Thanks for reaching out!:)

      Yes, you can use the tips from the blog post as they will definitely help however since we cannot spot reduce fat, it would be important to work out your calorie intake and eat in a slight caloric deficit (300-500 cal). Apart from that, do 3-5 days of resistance workout and power walk 5 days a week and 10,000 steps per session (if possible). All that combined will definitely help you lose fat and tone your entire body and not just your upper part. :)

      Hope this helped!

      Love,
      Sara

    1. Hi lovely,

      thanks for reaching out! <3

      To slim down a muscular upper body it's important to avoid doing any exercises that you know are causing bulkiness. That can include pushups :) It's also important to do cardio, eating on a slight calorie deficit and eating a low carb diet :)

      I hope this helps, please let me know if you have any questions! xx

      Love,
      Sanja

  14. Hi two of my pilates workouts has an exercise called overheads. Does this count as a pushing/ pulling exercise that can give you broad shoulders?

  15. Hi I’m the same body type as Rachael but I don’t understand what it means in the resistance training bit. It says avoid heavy AND light weights so what are you meant to do with regard to resistance training? Thanks

    1. Hey lovely,

      Resistance trainings that Rachael practices and suggests are bodyweight.
      You can use ankle wight from 2 to 5 lbs, but nothing heavier if you’d wish to avoid any chance of bulking up.

      Here is the link to some of her resistance trainings, so you can have an idea of how it looks. :)

      Enjoy the workout! xx

      Love,
      Ana

  16. Jima say:
    August 15,2020 at9:34pm
    I am 23 and 5’4. I have really big upper back and muscular arm right now. I really want to wear off shoulder t-shirt but I feel insecure.rachael can you help me please. Which diet should I prefer and what type of workout.

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out! <3

      We would first need to know your body type :) If you don't know your body type, you can take Rachael's free body type quiz here. Once we know your body type, we can give you some advice and tips :)

      Love,
      Sanja

  17. Jima says:
    August 15,2020 at8:48pm
    I have really big upper back and muscular arm right now. I am 23 and 5’4. I really want to wear off shoulder t-shirt but I feel insecure. Rachael can you help me please. I am also meso body type. What type of work out or which diet should I prefer dear.

    1. Hi lovely,

      Thanks for reaching out! <3

      We would first need to know your body type :) If you don't know your body type, you can take Rachael's free body type quiz here. Once we know your body type, we can give you some advice and tips :)

      Love,
      Sanja

  18. Hi Rachel! My chest and breast are bulkier for my liking I really would like a feminine look. what exercises and resistance training should I do to target and slim down my chest (could you please maybe make a post on all the exercise that I should do and avoid?). Thank you

    1. Hey lovely <3

      Rachael described what exercises you should avoid and activities to practice to reduce a muscular upper body in this post. :)

      Let me know if you have more concerns! xx

      Love,
      Ana

  19. Hi there I ended up gaining a broad upper back and bigger arms through swimming, any anther suggestions besides not exercising my upper part?

  20. Please, if you’re reading this remember that if you’re doing something you enjoy and you get more muscular, it’s okay.
    Muscular bodies are okay.
    Life should be about enjoying things. Do what you wish but remember you done have to do anything because of what others think. You are beautiful as you are.

  21. Hi Rachel, I have problem with my arms. It’s too bulky and muscular. Please help me and guide me on how to decrease or lose the muscle in my arms. I have been struggling for 2 years.

    1. Hi lovely,
      The best way to decrease muscle in your arms is by reducing your overall muscle mass. I’ve found that swimming and boxing are particularly good for slimming down the arms (both fat and muscle)! :) xx

      Love,
      Diana

  22. Hi, I had been doing pilates on a megareformer machine for 5 months now, and the backs of my arms have gotten significantly larger. I used to have very small arms, and this new mega reformer workout is the only workout besides walking that I have done in those past 5 months. We do a lot of pushups in the class. People have made comments about how my arms look muscular now, when they used to look lean.

    Is there any way to slim the backs of my arms in 2 months? I get married in 2 months and am scared that if I do any kind of weight lifting in my arms they will stay as big as they are, but if I don’t do anything, will my arms get bigger because the muscle is not being worked at all?

    1. Hi lovely,
      I think the best way to slim down your arms is to reduce overall muscle mass. You could take a break from doing push ups and exercises that build your arms and focus on light intensity cardio instead.
      Boxing is a great exercise to tone up your arms without getting bulky, and also helps tone up your core too. :)

      Wishing you all the best! xx

      Love,
      Diana

  23. I have really big and muscular arms right now. And would doing the above exercises help? Because i’m worried if I keep doing hiit and boxing and etc it will only become bigger :-(

    1. Hi lovely,
      Feel free to do these workouts, they’ve been designed to help you slim down without bulking. I would actually recommend boxing to slim down your arms, but I would avoid HIIT if you gain muscle easily.

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

  24. This happened to me with Crossfit as well. Clothes don’t look good. Shoulders and back become extraordinarily out of proportion I never did over head pressing Bc it’s a building exercise. And in cf it’s alk building. I need to go back to shaping and with light weights. I’m only 5’1 I feel like a linebacker. Thanks I know I’m not alone

    1. You’re not alone! I’m 5’3″ and I hate wearing tight tops or short sleeves because my arms and shoulders are so bulky!! Thanks to crossfit and bikini competition training.. I’m left with these huge arms/shoulders and a thinner body. It’s very discouraging and I feel out of proportion. I just gain muscle quickly, but got to get rid of these arms! Good to know there are other out there.

  25. Interesting. But what do you mean with avoiding all heavy weight exercises? I wanna grow my lower body. So I have to lift heavy in many exercises. Did you mean that even squats or dead lifts, that barely touch my upper body, affect it anyway? Or just you were referring to exercises for upper body?

  26. Thank you so much for this article. I’m tired of reading, “Lift heavy, you don’t have enough Testosterone to bulk up”. Though I know that’s true, my BMI indicated my lean mass as excess for my arms. My arms also look “bulky”. This article restores some faith after all the hard work and disappointing results.

  27. Hi Rachael. Thank you for the post. I don’t workout and people are shocked when I tell them I don’t because of how fit I look. So, my arms are naturally bulky.. very bulky. I have narrow hips, a small waist, but big arms. My forearms are bulky as well. I know I probably won’t be able to get skinny arms.. but will this work in my case? If not, do you have a many suggestions?

    1. Hi lovely,
      Are your arms bulky from muscle? If this is natural (genetic), I don’t think you can slim them down much. I would suggest boxing, swimming and avoiding weight lifting as that can make the muscles in your arms grow. xx

      Love,
      Diana

  28. I am a very fit person, however I am not happy with my upper body. My arms are getting bigger and my shoulders to wide. I don’t have any weight to loose, I could afford 3 to 4 pounds but no more then that. Any tips to reduce my upper body size?

    1. Hi lovely,
      The best way to lose muscle from your upper body is by reducing your overall muscle mass.
      I suggest avoiding heavy lifting and trying out cardio boxing, that should help with toning up your core too without getting bulky.

      We would love to help you as much as we can :) So that’s why we have created the Lean Legs Program!

      The Program is an 8 week workout and nutrition plan designed to help you get lean and toned without bulking.
      It will help you slim down your legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body).

      It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe eBook and demonstration videos.
      You can find out more about the Lean Legs Program here:

      Lean Legs Program

      We have written some good tips in this blog post on how to slim down arms so please have a read of this :)

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

  29. Hello pls I had a slim torso but my arms were slightly fat so I engaged in some arm except and ended up building shoulder muscles please I want to know how to lose it really fast because I hate my arms right now and I don’t have confidence in wearing sleeveless or tube tops anymore

    1. Hi lovely,
      The best way to lose fat from your arms is by reducing your overall body fat.
      Also, having any issues with your thyroid can cause fat storage on the back of your arms. So if the fat storage here is unusual for you, then we suggest you see a professional to get your thyroid checked.

      We have written some good tips in this blog post on how to slim down arms so please have a read of this :)

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

  30. Hey, Thank You for such an amazingly blog, but after reading I’m still in a sticky situation. I haven’t been using my arms in any way for almost 5 years now and they’re still bulky and muscular. So I’m kind of confused on what I can do to slim them down a bit.

    1. Hi lovely,
      I know that reaching your fitness goals can be hard, and that you probably have lots of questions about how to get that lean and toned body.
      I would love to help you as much as I can :) That’s why we have created the Lean Legs Program!

      The program in the eBook is an 8 week workout and nutrition plan designed to help you get lean and toned without bulking.
      It will help you slim down your legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body and will target your arms too).
      It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe eBook and demonstration videos.

      You can find out more about the Lean Legs Program here:

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/lean-legs-program/

      We have written some good tips in this blog post on how to slim down arms so please have a read of this: :)

      Love,
      Diana
      xx

  31. Hi thank you for this blog!
    I’m beginning to think that my broad shoulders and strong muscular back and huge biceps are genetic. I can’t seem to shrink them and I have never lifted any weights in my life! People always assume I’m lifting. I hate this muscular look!! I have been doing 4-8 miles of cardio around 5 days a week for the passed 8 years. Running is not helping me lose upper body bulk- is there something else I can do? Eat less? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi lovely,

      We know that reaching your fitness goals can be hard and that you probably have a lot of questions about how to get that lean and toned body.
      We’d love to help as much as we can :) that’s why we have created our Lean Legs Program and the Lean Legs Training Club.

      The program in the eBook is an 8 week workout and nutrition plan designed to help you get lean and toned without bulking. It will help you slim down your legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body). It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe eBook and demonstration videos.

      You can find out more about the Lean Legs program here:

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/lean-legs-program/

      We suggest you try power walking instead of running because it’s even better for slimming down your legs!

      If you need any extra support, please join our Lean Legs Training Club where you can ask Rachael any questions
      you want and how to modify the program to suit your needs.
      Being a member of the Club while doing the Lean Legs program will ensure that you get the best possible results as
      you get a more personalized fitness and nutrition advice.
      And you also have access to a community of like-minded and supportive women to help you too!
      Here’s the link to the Club:

      https://www.rachaelattard.com/lean-legs-training-club-up/

      Love, Lean Legs Club support xx

  32. Hi Rachel, Thanks for the post, first one I’ve found that addresses my problem. My problem is my broad lats, and since I am very petite and short waisted, it makes my look way out of proportion. And I only use 5lb weights! It is also hard to fit into clothes that fit the rest of me, and tailoring can be expensive. Should I keep doing bicep and tricep weights since I don’t have a problem with my arms, so stop upper body weights for a while and just focus on body combat and maybe do yoga twice a week instead of once? I eat a high protein, low-moderate carb diet to control hypoglycemia, so I can’t modify it too much without negative effects. I’m not trying to lose weight, just some muscle (I’m only 5’2″, 104.5lbs). How long do you think it will take to reduce my lats, a couple months? Thanks!

    1. Hi lovely,
      I know that reaching your fitness goals can be hard and that you probably have lots of questions about how to get that lean and toned body.
      Rachael would love to help you as much as she can :) that’s why she has created her Lean Legs program and Lean Legs Training Club.
      The program in the eBook is an 8 week workout and nutrition plan designed to help you get lean and toned without bulking. It will help you slim down your legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body). It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe eBook and demonstration videos.
      Yoga seems perfect too and you should see a significant improvement after about 2 months.

      You can find out more about the Lean Legs program here:
      https://www.rachaelattard.com/lean-legs-program/

      Love. Lean Legs Club support
      xx

  33. Hi Rachael, i’m Sophie and i’m 15 years old. I’ve always had an a bit more muscular body than other girls did but it didn’t really bother me until recently. I started doing planks regularly and it toned my stomach incredibly, however my forearms unfortunately also got bigger and I desperately try to decrease their size but I also want to be fit and lean for the summer. Any advice?

  34. Hi Rachael
    I found it quite hard to find any information on this issue so thank you! I have had big biceps and shoulders for years and I hate the look. I haven’t done any weights for arms for years now. I do a lot of fitness classes and I have even almost stopped push ups altogether. The only ones I do now are on my knees if it all (for lower resistance). My arms are still big! I was doing three combat classes a week. I have cut them down to two and cut out boxing. My arms got bigger when I was doing too many of these. So I am thinking that all the punching in combat classes actually can make your arms get bigger because you are tensing up when you punch – particularly upper cuts – they seem like the make my biceps bigger.

    1. Hi lovely, thanks for sharing your experience! Yes I guess if you do something a LOT it can overuse those muscles and cause them to become too big. If you are trying to reduce the muscle and body combat was what made them big, I would cut out all body combat (and boxing) for now! xx

  35. I just wanted to say how happy I am to have found your blog. I’ve been working out at a strength-based gym, and while I love my trainers and am happy to have been taught proper and safe movement, I’m tired of being told that “women can’t get bulky.” I mean, none of my jackets fit anymore because my arms and shoulders have gotten so big! It’s not at all the look I’m going for.

    While it is a bit disappointing to give up a lot of the weightlifting I’ve learned, ultimately the body goals I have are a lot more important to me than strength goals. So I’ve been trying to transition to walking/running on a flat treadmill, and I’m hoping that leaving my arms out of my workouts will allow that muscle to atrophy the way you’ve described here.

    Quick question: You wrote, “You can speed up the process by eating at a calorie deficit, eating low carb and eating low protein.” Not to sound stupid… but in lowering carbs and protein, does that mean increasing intake of healthy fats? Or are you just eating a ton of low-carb vegetables? Thanks!

    1. Hi lovely, I understand your situation as I pretty much went through the same thing! But I’m a lot happier now with my workout routine. It takes a bit of adjustment but I’m sure you’ll find what’s right for you! There’s no stupid questions :) Yes, it means increasing your healthy fat intake, and it’s also a great idea to eat lots more green veggies too! :) xx

  36. Thanks for the tips! My arms and shoulders did bulk up after couple years of doing pole fitness. Do you think yoga will help make the upper body muscles leaner? I don’t really want to look like a muscle man but it’s gonna be torture for me to give up pole!

    1. Hi lovely, stopping the exercise that makes your upper body bulky (in your case, pole) will help reduce the muscle size. Yoga will help you work your arms without making them bulky. You could always stop pole for a while until your upper body slims down, and then re-start but just reduce your frequency :) xx

  37. Hy dear Rachel, I love your free workouts and YT videos and started doing them last week. I’ll purchase your ebook soon hopefully when I can afford it. I want to lose about 3kg, anything more would be unsustainable for me. Currently 57.5 and 165cm. I think i’m a mesomorph. I have naturally bigger thigs and I think lots of lower body hiit througout the years made them muscular too. Now I combine walking around 10.000steps few times per week and resistance legs and abs 2-3 times. I went to gym one last spring and got some biceps and bit bigger arms. Do you think resistance arms exercises can slow down the slimming? And what about low carb/low protein part, how can one do that haha? Lots of fat? I’m vegan and eat around 1500-1600kcal C40%, F40%, P20% macros. Your insight would be helpful. Thank you

    1. Hi lovely, yes resistance exercises can slow down the slimming so you just need to be careful about which type of exercises you do. I think your macros sound good already – it’s quite hard to eat really low carb on a vegan diet. But what you’re doing now is great! Keep it up babe xx

  38. Dear Rachael,
    Great topic to discuss. I am in this boat as well. I have huge upper body muscles and do no heavy lifting or overhead weight work. My workouts consist mainly of bodyweight and HIIT. So, does this mean I should give up push-ups, burpees, etc.?

    1. Hi lovely, I would definitely tone down the workouts that you use your upper body if you’re trying to slim it down. Perhaps try cutting out the push ups and burpees and see how your body responds! Good luck xx

  39. Hi~ So, I did swimming for 4 years and I did 3 hours everyday, and it was hard, Now I don’t swim anymore, and I think that I look muscular. Half a year has passed since I gave up on swimming, and I look the same, even if I don’t exercise at all. What should I do?

    1. Hi lovely, I’m sorry to hear that. Are you doing any other type of training? I would make sure that any training you’re doing is very light. And really focus on your diet! Eat at a slight calorie deficit and a little lower on carbs to help reduce the muscle size xx

  40. I was a gymnast and got bulky through lots of handstand balances and driving acro moves through my arms..I can’t seem to reduce the tricep and shoulder bulk.

    1. Hi lovely, it will take a while to reduce the muscle size so you just need to give it time. I would avoid any shoulder/tricep workouts for now until you feel like they have reduced to a size that you are happy with xx

  41. Rachel I do really need your help. My thigh and shouder muscles are killing me. I look too bulky than my liking. Do you think body weight cardio , boxing and running can help me ??

    1. Hi lovely, I definitely think boxing and running could help! Body weight exercises are great too but it also depends on what exercises you’re doing. Try some of the free workouts I post on my blog to get an idea of good exercises to do! Good luck xx

  42. Thank for the post, very useful. Where do you stand on pull ups…? i am very reluctant to give these up as the strength build up it took to get there was tough. I can only do about 5, and up until about a month ago, my back and shoulders were fine. Now i’m wider, and have overgrown lats where i believe heavy rows and lat pull downs are the culprit :( So, do I stick to close inward grip pull ups, or give them up??

    1. Hi lovely, pull ups also caused my back and lats to become a lot wider. So now I tend to avoid them and do lighter overhead pressing exercises instead. It’s really up to you. Closer grip pull ups and lat pull downs shouldn’t cause your lats to increase as much as wide grip. But you won’t decrease the size of your lats if you continue to work them unfortunately! xx

  43. Thanks for posting this, I learnt from it and would start the practice tomorrow, but actually I have night muscles as a Lady, which sometimes it could be embarrassing and people say I have that of a a guy. With respect to what you wrote would, shadow boxing and swimming help greatly? Cos I want to see and get back a slim arm. Thank you

    1. Hi Lilian, those exercises are great to tone up without bulking. But if you’re trying to reduce muscle, I would just give your upper body a break from exercise for a while to give your muscles a chance to reduce in size. Then you can do those exercises! xx

  44. hi! thanks for posting this!

    i have always tried to avoid any types of arm exercises but i do alot of different workout classes – barre, pilates, bootcamp , spinning, slt etc – so even though I use light weights I think they are all making my shoulders really bulk up. when i lift my arms up I can really see the bulk – any advice for shoulders?

    1. Hi Chloe, oh that’s a bit of a tough one! I know what you mean though – my arms were the same and only slimmed down when I decreased how much I was exercising. I would try to avoid any overhead pressing exercises if you can in the bootcamp (and SLT if they do them in that)! But it will just take time to reduce the muscle xx

  45. THANKS for posting on this topic. I remember reaching out to you few weeks back on muscular upper body and boom this article! I think I might give boxing a go, although I have no access to gyms – is shadow boxing (air punching) okay;will that have the same effect? Also I would need to avoid push ups no? As per your advice above (pressing activities)?
    Thanks again for this Rachael! I’m going to give your advices a try! xx

    1. Hi Sal, you’re very welcome! ;) Shadow boxing will definitely help. I sometimes do Body Combat classes at home when I don’t have access to a gym. It doesn’t tone me up as fast but it still works. And I would just avoid any overhead pressing (so any lifting about your head). Push ups should be fine :) xx

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