Exercising After Arm Lift Surgery (Brachioplasty)

Written by Cameron Craven, MD, FACS, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon on March 8, 2021 2 Comments

arm lift surgery

As we age naturally, our muscle tone decreases, skin loosens, and the upper arms become prone to carrying excess fat. Skin sagging in the arms is also very common after major weight loss. Arm lift surgery (brachioplasty) can dramatically alter the contour of the upper arms by surgically removing excess skin and fat, resulting in arms that are more tone and youthful in appearance.

After undergoing an arm lift, it is vital that patients exercise in order to maintain their results. Returning to physical activity too soon, however, can have grave consequences. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what patients can expect in terms of exercising after arm lift surgery.

About Brachioplasty

During arm lift surgery, an incision is made between the elbow and armpit, or in the armpit alone. Excess fat is removed via liposuction (if needed), and excess skin is trimmed before the incision is closed. The procedure takes place under local or general anesthesia depending on the type of incision.

An arm lift eliminates the ‘bat wings’ that form with age or after dramatic weight loss. Brachioplasty results in more firm, youthful looking upper arms. Understandably, patients are eager to return to the gym to maintain their newly toned look. This moderately invasive procedure, however, requires approximately 6 weeks of recovery time.

Exercising After Brachioplasty: A Timeline

Movement can improve healing, but too much too soon has negative consequences. Since most exercise involves movement in the arms, it’s important to be mindful of the activities you choose, and when you return to them post-surgery.

While the timeline below can help you understand what to expect, everyone heals at their own unique pace. Listen to your doctor and your own body as you recover. And remember, after 4-6 weeks of rest, you can’t simply pick up where you left off. A healthy return to fitness is patient and intentional.

1 Week After Your Arm Lift:

In the first week after surgery, make rest your priority above all else. Easy walking is ok, beginning the day after your procedure. Light walking helps the healing process by promoting blood circulation. While activities such as yoga may seem gentle, stretching or bearing weight on your arm is not ok.

  • Prioritize rest
  • Take brief, easy walks

2-4 Weeks After Your Arm Lift:

After the first two weeks, you may begin to slowly increase the pace or length of your walks. You may also introduce other low-impact cardiovascular exercises at this time. Limit movement to the lower extremities. Yoga, Pilates, or upper body strength training should still be avoided, as should high-impact exercises such as running.

  • Increase pace and length of walking
  • Stay with zero or low-impact exercise
  • Stick to lower-body exercise

4-6 Weeks After Your Arm Lift:

Depending on the pace of your healing, you can further increase the intensity and impact of your cardio workouts after 4-6 weeks. While an increase in heart rate should be ok, avoid excess movement in the arms (such as pumping the arms when running) and avoid upper body strength training.

  • Increase the pace of lower-body cardio
  • Build toward medium or high-impact exercise
  • Avoid upper body strength training

After 6 Weeks:

It’s typically not until the 6-week mark that patients are able to return to strenuous exercise and full body movement such as yoga, Pilates or weight training. By holding off on these exercises until you are fully healed and cleared by your surgeon, you reduce risk of injury, improper healing, or asymmetric results.

  • Return to strenuous exercise if cleared by your surgeon
  • If cleared by your doctor, return to upper-body strength training

Maintaining Results After Arm-Lift Surgery

Strength training after arm lift surgery is all about balance. To maintain your results for the long term, your body weight and muscle mass should stay consistent. Maintaining muscle mass in the upper arms will keep your new contour toned and your skin tight. Too much weight loss without an increase in muscle may cause skin to sag.

Post-Surgery Arm Exercises 

Strength training is necessary to preserve muscle mass as you age. Once you are fully healed and cleared by your surgeon, weight training will help maintain your results. The following toning exercises can be completed at the gym, or at home with simple hand weights.

Triceps Dip

Place the heels of your hands on a bench or chair behind you. Keep your elbows close together as you slowly press your torso straight up and down. Modify the challenge by making use of your legs, or not.

Triceps Overhead Lift

Hold a hand weight or heavy object over head in both hands. Keep your elbows above your head as you lower your hands toward the back of your neck then lift up again.

Triceps Extension

Come to an all-fours position on the ground. Hold a weight in your right hand and extend your right arm back, alongside your torso. Without lifting or lowering your elbow, bend it at 90 degrees to return your right hand toward the ground. Straighten the right arm again, without lifting or lowering the elbow. Repeat up to 20 times, then switch sides.

Bicep Curl

Hold a weight or heavy object in the palm of your hand. With your elbow tucked in by your side, lift and lower your face-up palm. Try this same exercise with your palm facing inward for a ‘hammer curl.’

Lateral or Forward Raise

Hold a weight in each hand with your palms facing down. Slightly bend your knees as you lift your palms up to shoulder height. For lateral raise, lift your arms out to the side. For forward raise, lift your arms in front of you. Avoid locking your elbows and keep your shoulders low and still as you lift and lower.

Cameron Craven, MD, FACS

Cameron Craven MD, FACS is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Craven specializes in the full spectrum of cosmetic surgery including breast augmentation, liposuction and body contouring, facial rejuvenation, laser surgery, eyelid surgery, and rhinoplasty, as well as reconstructive surgery for skin cancers.

2 Responses to “Exercising After Arm Lift Surgery (Brachioplasty)”

  1. Avatar AlZaid says:

    Great tips thanks for sharing

  2. Avatar Victoria says:

    Interesting! Thank you for sharing such an informative article about exercises after having an arm lift surgery. Keep on posting!

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