“Women opting for surgery to get Michelle Obama’s arms,” blares a headline from the Los Angeles Times, implying that all it takes is a little snipping and stitching to get sleek biceps and triceps.
It’s true that the number of arm lifts has skyrocketed over the past 13 years, from just 300 women in 2000 to 15,000 who had the procedure last year, according to a report released Monday by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The society says the trend is “fueled, in part, by sleeveless fashions for women and more focus on strong-armed celebrities.”
But it’s also due to more people having excess skin on their arms after losing a hundred pounds or more following weight-loss surgery, said Knoxville plastic surgeon Dr. David Reath, in an interview with USA Today. Skin that’s stretched out from excess fat often doesn’t bounce back after weight loss, so a $5,000 procedure called brachioplasty can be performed to slice away the extra skin. It does, though, leave a long scar on the back of the arms—from elbow to armpit.
Sagging skin and arm tissue can also be inherited and often occurs as we age because of the long-term effects of gravity.
Some women also have liposuction to remove excess fat on their arms.
These procedures, though, still won’t yield Michelle Obama’s arms unless women actually exercise. (Obama works out several hours a week to get her arms.)
What can you do? Overall weight loss by reducing portions and kicking up the calorie burn through cardiovascular exercise can help reduce arm fat. And you should work to build arm muscles through strength-training—including moves like the ones featured in the video above.