Are you desperate to get rid of those pockets of bulgy fat around your armpits? Have you tried some exercises to target the area but are still waiting to see the results? Well, you’re not alone. How to get rid of armpit fat is one of the most commonly asked questions of fitness professionals.
This article provides the answers you need to defeat stubborn armpit fat once and for all. As a personal trainer, I’ve been helping women and men overcome this problem for decades. The four-step plan I’ll lay out in this article has worked for them and will work for you.
What is Armpit Fat?
Armpit fat is also called axillary breast tissue. Though it is most common in women, it can also affect men. It refers to fat tissue build-up between the armpit and the pectoral muscle. This can result in a bulgy protrusion that worsens when a person wears clothes that expose that area of the body.
Why is Armpit Fat More Common in Women?
As previously stated, women are more likely to have a problem with armpit fat than men. Women typically carry more fat on their bodies than men. That is primarily because the female sex hormone estrogen tends to promote fat storage in three areas:
- Armpit area
Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause can also contribute to extra fat storage in women.
Sometimes, a woman may wear a bra that is too tight, causing her skin and fat to bunch up. This can give the appearance of her having armpit fat when all she has is a tight-fitting undergarment.
What Causes Armpit Fat?
There are several reasons that armpit fat may become a problem. Here are eight of them:
Armpit fat can be due to a variety of factors. Here are eight common causes:
Several hormones affect fat storage, including leptin, estrogen, growth hormone, ghrelin, and androgen. At certain stages in people’s life cycle, they experience certain hormonal changes that may lead to extra fat storage. A prime example is when a woman experiences menopause. She will secrete more estrogen, increasing fat storage in the hips, thighs, and armpit area. 
You will put on fat when you eat unhealthy, calorie-laden foods high in sugar and bad fats. Some of this extra weight will end up in your armpit area. A poor diet will also lead to a person not getting sufficient essential vitamins and minerals. This can negatively affect their metabolism. When your metabolism is compromised, you cannot burn stored body fat for energy as effectively.
Being Overweight or Obese
People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have problems with armpit fat. For women, a body fat percentage of 30% or more is considered obese. For men, it is 25 percent.
Being overweight is often caused by eating more calories than you burn off for energy, though there may be other causes.
Lack of Physical Activity
People who don’t get enough exercise are unlikely to burn off enough calories to create a negative calorie balance. This is when you are using up more calories than you consume. The extra calories must come from stored body fat, which helps lower fat stores, including that around your armpits.
People who do not exercise, whether resistance or cardio training, are also more likely to have lower levels of lean muscle tissue. The more muscle you have, the more efficiently your body will burn fat. So, people who train can better burn off the fat that might build up in the armpit area than those who do not.
Genetics plays a role in determining how effectively the body stores fat and where in the body it stores that fat. That is why some people accumulate more fat in the stomach area while others put it on the butt or thighs. Others may tend to build up in the armpit area.
Some of us, unfortunately, also have a genetic predisposition to high body fat levels. If you are in that category, you’ll have to work harder and longer to get the same results as a person with better genetics for leanness.
Some people are affected by a condition called lymphedema. This is when excess fluid accumulates in the body, leading to swelling and bulging protrusions in the affected area. If this occurs in the side chest area, it could manifest armpit fat. Lymphedema happens because of a damaged lymphatic system.
Many people suffer from poor posture these days. It often results from people spending too many hours each day hunched over a computer or phone screen. The slouching can put extra pressure on the underarm skin, causing it to fold over itself, giving the impression of armpit fat.
Excessive Breast Tissue
When women have excessive breast tissue, this can put undue pressure on the underarm skin. This will cause it to fold over itself in the same way as poor posture.
Axillary breast tissue may also cause extra fat in the area between the armpit and the side breast. Though more common in women, this condition can also affect men.
How to Get Rid of Armpit Fat
To permanently rid yourself of armpit fat, you must follow a multi-pronged approach that covers all your bases. Here are the four areas you need to address:
- Healthy Diet
- Reduce Stress
- Maintaining Good Posture
You need to work out to eliminate fat in any part of your body, including in the armpit area. Your workouts should be a combination of cardio and resistance training.
Resistance training will help increase your lean muscle mass. The more muscle you have on your frame, your metabolism will be more efficient. That’s because muscle is much denser than fat, so your body has to use much more energy to maintain it.
Cardio exercise will help you burn calories and create the daily caloric deficit that will help you lose fat. My favorite form of cardio to lose fat is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves repeated short, intense exercise bouts, followed by even shorter rest periods. HIIT workouts stimulate the enhanced post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect, by which the body’s need for more oxygen after the workout boosts the metabolism for several hours post-exercise.
How Not to Exercise to Get Rid of Armpit Fat
Many people who come to me for advice on how to get rid of armpit fat have failed to do it on their own. The most common reason is that they have been doing exercises to try and target the area between the armpits and the side chest, such as dumbbell flyes and presses. Usually, they’ll do unusually high repetitions, believing that this will help them burn off the unwanted fat.
They are wrong.
What these people have been trying to do is a classic example of spot reduction. It is based on the idea that you can lose fat in a particular area by exercising. However, spot reduction is a myth. The body gets rid of fat uniformly from all over the body. However, this may be affected by your genetics. 
So, if you’ve been doing set after set of dumbbell flyes to get rid of armpit fat, I recommend that you stop doing so and start to follow a smarter exercise plan.
7 Best Strength Training Exercises to Get Rid of Armpit Fat
The best strength training exercises to help you get rid of armpit fat help build muscle mass throughout the body and burn calories. Here are the seven exercises that you should put your energies into:
The squat is a compound movement that mainly works the lower body muscles (quads, glutes, hamstrings) but also involves the core. This challenging exercise burns a decent amount of calories, even when you’re only doing 10-12 reps. Squats have also been shown to stimulate growth hormone release, promoting muscle growth.
- Stand in front of a loaded barbell in a squat rack with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Position yourself under the bar set at shoulder height.
- Take a step back and assume a shoulder-wide stance; turn your toes slightly outward.
- Keeping your chest up, push your hips back and lower your body as if sitting in a chair.
- Go down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
- Drive through your heels to return to the start position.
- Repeat for recommended reps.
The push-up is a classic bodyweight exercise that works multiple muscles in the upper body. The primary target muscle is the chest (or pectorals). It also works the front deltoids, triceps, and core muscles.
- Get into the high plank position with your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart and your feet the same distance apart. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Slowly lower your body towards the ground by bending your elbows, keeping your body in a straight line.
- Engage your core by keeping your abs tight and your back straight.
- Lower your body until your chest touches the ground or is just above it.
- Push your body back up to the starting position by straightening your arms.
The deadlift is a compound gym exercise involving lifting a ‘dead’ weight from the floor. It works several muscles that run up the back of the body, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
- Stand behind a loaded Olympic barbell with your feet under the bar. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
- Hinge at the hips and bend your knees to come down to the bar, ensuring you maintain a natural arch in your lower back.
- Grab the bar with a mixed grip (one palm forward, the other back) at shoulder width.
- With your arms straight and your core engaged, pull the bar up your shins, keeping it close to your body as you return to a standing position.
- Breathe out as you lower the bar under control to the floor.
The lunge is a dynamic movement that simulates the striding forward action. It works the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a pair of dumbbells held at your sides.
- Take a big step forward with your right foot, keeping your torso upright.
- Drop your left knee toward the floor, stopping just short of contact.
- Push your front heel to return to the start position.
- Do all the reps on one leg and then repeat with the other leg.
The pull-up is one of the most challenging bodyweight exercises. It is a great overall mass and strength builder, emphasizing the lats, shoulders, and biceps.
Pull-ups can also help improve your posture. You’ll recall that posture may be a contributing factor when it comes to armpit fat.
- Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands just wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your legs straight and angled slightly in front of your torso.
- Retract your shoulder blades as you thrust your chest up toward the ceiling.
- Pull yourself directly up until your chin touches the bar, squeezing your lats in the top position.
- Lower under control and repeat. Avoid momentum
Mountain climbers target the obliques on the sides of the waist. You should do this exercise at a fast pace. This high-intensity exercise can boost your metabolism and help you burn more calories post-workout.
- Get down in the high plank position, resting on your forearms. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles.
- Draw your right knee to the right elbow, aiming to touch it.
- Immediately kick the leg back to the start position.
- Repeat with the left side.
- Keep alternating at a fast pace to complete your rep count.
The kettlebell swing does a great job of burning calories while also working the muscles of the
glutes, hamstrings, quads, core, shoulders, and back in a dynamic, functional movement.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your weight on your heels.
- Rest the kettlebell on the floor between your feet.
- Look down at the ground six feet in front of you.
- Sit back into your hips and reach down to grab the handle with both hands in an overhand grip.
- Swing the bell behind you, then aggressively snap your hips forward as you stand up. As you do this, extend your spine and squeeze your butt.
- Bring your arms up to chest level.
- Immediately return to the bottom hike position and move into the next rep.
7 Best Cardio Exercises to Get Rid of Armpit Fat
Cardio exercises burn calories to help you achieve the calorie deficit needed to lose body fat. These seven exercises are the best calorie burners, according to research done by Harvard Health. We’ve included some bodyweight options that you can do at home and also some machine-based exercises for the gym. 
The rowing machine is my favorite cardio machine because it works your upper and lower body better than any other machine. It is also a better calorie burner when compared to alternatives such as running on the treadmill or walking on an elliptical. This exercise will strengthen and develop your lats, deltoids, biceps, forearms, quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
The rowing motion is broken down into four parts. Here’s the proper form for each of them:
- Catch: Straighten your back and grab the handle. Your knees and ankles should be slightly bent. Tense your core and lower your shoulders. From here, slant your head slightly forward.
- Drive: Start the drive with the legs. The body should be at a 45-degree angle when the legs are fully extended. Pull the handle in towards your torso jet above the navel.
- Finish: Pause slightly in the finish position. Your legs should be fully extended, your torso should be tilting back slightly, your shoulders should be back, and your lower back should be neutral.
- Recovery: Reverse your movements to return to the start position; extend your arms, hinge forward with the hips, and bend the knees.
The treadmill gives you all the calorie-burning benefits of running outdoors, with the added benefit of running surface cushioning and precise workout monitoring. You can keep close tabs on your training heart rate, speed, and calories burned. Treadmills are excellent for HIIT workouts, which, as mentioned earlier, are excellent for calorie burning.
Here is the proper form for running on a treadmill for weight loss:
- Stand on the treadmill running belt and press the start button.
- Adjust the speed until you are at a medium-fast walking pace.
- Keeping your head up and moving freely, perform a 2-minute warm-up.
- Increase the speed to your desired working level.
- Maintain an upright torso, and swing your arms naturally as you run with even strides.
- When your workout is complete, slow the speed for a 2-minute warm-down.
The exercise bike excels in terms of its joint friendliness and calorie-burning ability. There are several bike styles, including recumbent for people with lower back problems and spin cycles for intense HIIT-style workouts.
Here are some of the best exercise bike workouts for weight loss:
- Interval Training: Switch between low and high-intensity cycling every minute or so. This will get your heart racing and boost your metabolism for greater calorie burn.
- Hill Climbs: Periodically increase the tension level to simulate biking uphill.
- Endurance Rides: Extend the length of your workouts, adding 15 minutes per week. This will increase your cardiovascular and muscular endurance and calorie-burning rate.
- Tabata: This is the original form of high-intensity interval training. It involves doing eight rounds of 20-second sprints, with a 10-second rest between each sprint.
- Fat Burning: This workout involves cycling for 30-45 minutes within your fat-burning heart rate zone. Every 5 minutes or so, you should throw in a 20-30 second sprint.
An elliptical machine moves your lower body through a unique elliptical movement pattern which is less impacting on the joints and more glute centric than a traditional stepper movement. You can get ellipticals with both fixed and moving arms. Go for one with moving arms, as it will allow you to bring your upper body into the movement.
Here are some tips for using an elliptical machine for weight loss:
- Intensity: Change up the pace of your strides and adjust the incline and resistance level.
- Intervals: Switch between fast and slow strides, doing 60 seconds fast and then 30 seconds slow for repeat intervals.
- Posture: Maintain an upright torso, keep a tight core, and arch your lower back naturally.
The jumping jack is an old-school calisthenics exercise that gets the heart pumping while burning plenty of calories. It can be done anywhere, anytime, making it a convenient exercise when you’re away from your usual workout environment.
Here’s how to do jumping jacks:
- Stand with your feet together and arms at your sides.
- Kick your feet wide apart, and simultaneously bring your arms out to the side and up above your head.
- Clap your hands together overhead.
- Immediately return to the start position.
Swimming is an excellent exercise, especially for people with joint issues. That’s because it is virtually non-impact. When you move through the water, it takes a lot more energy to move your limbs. As a result, you churn through a lot of calories when exercising in the pool.
Here are some tips for swimming for weight loss:
- Try to get to the pool 3-4 times per week.
- Change your pace, doing fast laps and then throwing in a recovery lap. Or you could swim for time, doing 30 seconds fat and then 30 seconds slow.
- Use a variety of strokes to work your muscles differently and prevent boredom.
- Always warm up and cool down when you work out in the pool.
Jumping rope is one of the best calorie burners per minute of exercise time. It is also an excellent exercise for working your calves and improving your explosive speed and agility. This form of exercise can burn up to 13 calories per minute for a person weighing 155 pounds.
Here’s the proper form for jumping rope:
- Stand with a jump rope in your hands. Step over the rope so that it is behind your body.
- Rotate your wrists to bring the rope over your head.
- As the rope comes down to your feet, hop over it.
- Continue jumping in a fluid, continuous manner.
- Jump rope for 60 seconds.
Workout to Get Rid of Armpit Fat
The following workout incorporates the seven key exercises described above into a full-body workout that can be done thrice weekly on alternate days. You should perform this workout at a high intensity with minimal rest between sets (45-60 seconds). Use a weight that allows you to perform your reps with good form.
Warm-up: 5 minutes of your favorite cardio at a moderate pace
|Lunge||3||12 reps (each leg)|
|Kettlebell Swing||3||20 reps|
|Mountain Climbers||3||15 reps|
In addition to your three resistance workouts, you should also do 2-3 cardio workouts per week. Choose your favorite form of cardio from the seven options in the previous section. I recommend following a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program. Here is my favorite HIIT cardio workout:
- Perform a 2-minute warmup, gradually increasing intensity so that, at the 2-minute mark, you are sprinting
- Sprint for precisely 20 seconds
- Rest for exactly 10 seconds
- Repeat for another 7 rounds
- Finish with a 2-minute cooldown
How to Maintain Exercise Consistency
Staying consistent is the key to success with exercise when it comes to fat loss. That can be a real challenge when you’re living a busy life. Here are some tips to help you stay consistent with the exercise habit:
- Set achievable goals: Your exercise and fat loss goals should follow the SMART principle. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. When it comes to losing body fat, a realistic goal is to lose a pound per week.
- Plan: Plan your workouts a month in advance, writing them into your planner and making them non-negotiable. Plan your meals a week ahead, too, taking into account snacks and preparing healthy options.
- Partner up: Finding a workout partner will make you far more likely to stick with your training program. You’ll be able to motivate and keep each other on track.
- Switch up your program: Try different types of workouts per the suggestions in the previous section. This can prevent boredom and keep your body guessing.
2. Healthy Diet
Cleaning up your diet to eat healthy, balanced meals is vital to losing armpit fat. If your diet is high in unhealthy fats and processed sugar-filled carbs, no amount of exercise will get you to your fat-loss goals.
Here are some tips to help you make the switch to a healthy diet:
- Eat real, whole food: Stay away from processed foods as much as possible. Instead, choose fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
- Increase your fiber intake: Fiber helps improve digestion and fills you up to help prevent overeating. Whole grains, fruit, and vegetables are good sources of fiber, along with nuts.
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water daily: Water supports weight loss, helps regulate digestion, and fills you up. Many people mistake hunger for thirst. Drink a glass of water before your meals to help control your caloric intake.
- Start meal prepping: Meal prepping is when you take a couple of hours each week to prepare your meals for the week. Portion them out in plastic containers and then freeze them. Each day you’ll then have your meals ready to pull out and heat up. This can be a lifesaver when life gets hectic.
- Plan to have three main meals and two snacks daily: Space your meals three hours apart. For snacks, choose such things as almonds, fruit, or Greek yogurt.
3. Reduce Stress
Stress has been shown to have a direct link to weight gain. When we feel anxiety, our body increases its production of the hormone cortisol, making us want to eat more. Comfort foods, which are usually unhealthy, can give us a temporary good feel to help counter stress.
Here are some tips to help counter stress:
- Build the exercise habit: Try to start your day with a workout. The endorphin rush you’ll get will give you a positive start and help counter stress.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment. Use meditation, breathing techniques, and muscle relaxation techniques to help control stress.
- Prioritize sleep: Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. This will help your body rejuvenate each night, helping to reduce stress levels.
- Make social connections: Having meaningful relationships can help reduce your stress. Talking about your concerns with those you trust can help relieve stress.
- Look after yourself: Treat yourself to a massage, take a bubble bath, read a novel, listen to music, and do other things that make you feel good.
4. Maintaining Good Posture
We identified earlier in this article that bad posture can contribute to underarm fat. That’s because it leads to a buildup of fat folds between the armpit and the side chest.
Here are some tips to help maintain good posture:
- When standing, consciously pull your shoulders back, lift your chest, and look straight ahead.
- Do exercises to make your back stronger. These include lat pulldowns, pull-ups, and rowing exercises.
- Do stretching exercises to improve your flexibility. More flexible back and shoulder muscles will be less tense, improving your posture.
- Be aware of your posture when you are seated; do not slouch.
- When exercising with weights, learn the proper lifting technique and perfect it before you add resistance.
Read also: Exercises to Fix Your Nerd Neck and Desk Slouch
You don’t have to live with armpit fat. By following the four steps outlined in this article, you can progressively reduce fat deposits in this area. At the same time, you’ll be losing weight from the other parts of your body and improving your overall health and fitness.
Consistency is the key to successful weight loss, whether in the armpits or any other area. Maintaining consistency with exercise and diet can be challenging, but with the right strategies, it can be done. By setting achievable goals, planning, finding a workout partner, mixing up your routine, making it a habit, avoiding deprivation, and celebrating your successes, you can stay motivated and consistent as you work toward your goals.
- Rask-Andersen, M., Karlsson, T., Ek, W.E. et al. Genome-wide association study of body fat distribution identifies adiposity loci and sex-specific genetic effects. Nat Commun 10, 339 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-08000-4
- Kostek MA, Pescatello LS, Seip RL, Angelopoulos TJ, Clarkson PM, Gordon PM, Moyna NM, Visich PS, Zoeller RF, Thompson PD, Hoffman EP, Price TB. Subcutaneous fat alterations resulting from an upper-body resistance training program. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Jul;39(7):1177-85. doi: 10.1249/mss.0b0138058a5cb. PMID: 17596787.
- Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/calories-burned-in-30-minutes-for-people-of-three-different-weights
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