Armpit fat is a pesky problem for many people, yet most don’t know what causes it or how to fix it.
If this sounds familiar, this is the article for you.
Whether you’ve tried exercises for armpit fat without success or you’re just starting to wonder how to get rid of armpit fat, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about how to lose armpit fat, including what armpit fat is, what causes it, how to lose it using diet and specific armpit fat workouts, and more.
Table of Contents
“Armpit fat” is fat that bulges from the underarm area where the arm and chest converge. Here’s how it looks:
Women often express concerns about armpit fat, as bras or similar strapped clothing can highlight this bulge, commonly known as “bra bulge.” That said, men can also experience armpit fat.
Not every bulge in the armpit area is armpit fat.
Sometimes, a protrusion in the armpit area is due to axillary breast tissue or accessory breast tissue, which is breast tissue growth outside its usual area, commonly in the armpit.
Changes in hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, can impact this tissue. This might lead to a more noticeable appearance during times such as pregnancy or right before menstruation.
However, most people with extra armpit tissue likely don’t have axillary breast tissue. Research shows that it affects just 2-to-6% of women and 1-to-3% of men.
In other words, if you have extra fat around your armpit, there’s likely another cause.
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Rootle around the internet and you’ll find many fantastical ideas about what causes bulges of tissue to form in the armpits. In reality, it usually comes down to five things: body fat, genetics, hormones, swollen lymph nodes, and posture.
In most cases, armpit fat appears when your overall body fat percentage is too high.
Thus, most people can easily reduce armpit fat by losing weight through diet and exercise (more on the specifics soon).
Our genes influence where our body stores fat. If your parents or grandparents had armpit fat, you might be predisposed to it, too. Your ethnicity might also play a role in how likely you are to store excess fat in the armpit region.
Changes in hormone levels, especially during periods like puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, can cause tissue in the upper arm and breast area to swell, making them appear larger.
Lymphedema is a swelling of the lymph nodes. If an infection or injury causes your armpit’s lymph nodes to swell, you may appear to have more tissue in your armpit than usual. In cases like these, any protrusion should shrink when the swelling subsides.
More serious conditions, such as lymphoma or skin and breast cancer, can also swell the underarm lymph nodes. As such, you should seek medical attention if you have swelling in or around your armpit.
While poor posture can’t increase the size of any underarm protrusions, it can exacerbate the appearance of bra bulge. Slouching forward can squeeze the skin and fat around the chest area, making any existing armpit fat more noticeable.
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Most people with armpit fat don’t have lymphedema—they have too much body fat.
Hormonal fluctuations, poor posture, and a genetic disposition to store fat in the underarm area may exacerbate their plight, but they’re not the root cause.
The good news is that if your armpit fat stems from having excess body fat, you can easily address it with a fat-loss diet and by following a strength training program designed to drive weight loss.
Research shows that eating 20-to-25% fewer calories than you burn every day will help you lose fat lickety-split without losing muscle or wrestling with excessive hunger, lethargy, and the other hobgoblins of low-calorie dieting.
(And if you’d like specific advice about what diet to follow to reach your weight-loss goals, take the Legion Diet Quiz, and in less than a minute, you’ll know exactly what healthy diet is right for you. Click here to check it out.)
High-protein dieting beats low-protein in every way, especially when you’re dieting to lose weight.
Specifically, you should eat about 1-to-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
And if you’re very overweight (25%+ body fat in men and 30%+ in women), reduce this to around 40% of your total calories per day.
The best supplements to help you get rid of armpit fat are . . .
- 3-to-6 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight per day. If you want a clean, delicious source of caffeine, try Pulse.
- 0.1-to-0.2 milligrams of yohimbine per kilogram of body weight before fasted training. If you want a natural source of yohimbine, try Forge.
- One serving of Phoenix per day.
(And if you’d like to know exactly what other supplements you should take to reach any and all of your fitness goals, take the Legion Supplement Finder Quiz.)
Most guides on how to get rid of armpit fat recommend silly exercises, such as high-fiving the air while performing jumping jacks.
These won’t give you the results you want—you can’t lose fat from a specific area (“spot reduction”) by performing movements that jiggle that bit of your body.
To maximize the fat-burning effects of strength training, focus on the following:
- Compound exercises: A compound exercise is any exercise that targets multiple muscle groups at once. Studies show that compound exercises produce the greatest increases in metabolic rate, muscle mass, and strength, which means they’re the best type of exercise for increasing fat loss.
- Heavy weightlifting: Research shows that training with 75-to-85% of your one-rep max (weights that you can do 6-to-12 reps with before failing) builds more muscle and burns more fat than training with lighter weights.
- Progressive overload: To maximize the muscle-building and fat-burning effects of weightlifting, strive to add weight or reps to every exercise in every workout. This is known as progressive overload, and it’s the single most important driver of muscle growth.
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With the above in mind, here are the best exercises to get rid of armpit fat.
- Position a barbell in a squat rack at about the height of your nipples.
- Step under the bar, pinch your shoulder blades together, and rest the bar above the bony ridges on the bottom of your shoulder blades.
- Lift the bar out of the rack, take 1-to-2 steps backward, and place your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outward.
- Keeping your back straight, sit down and push your knees out in the same direction as your toes.
- Stand up and return to the starting position.
- Stand with your feet about hip-width apart with your toes pointed slightly out.
- Move a loaded barbell over your midfoot, so it’s about an inch from your shins.
- Take a deep breath into your belly, then place your hands on the bar just outside your shins with your palms facing you.
- Flatten your back and drive your body upward and slightly back by pushing through your heels until you’re standing up straight.
- Reverse the movement and return to the starting position.
- Get on all fours and place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Extend your legs behind you, so you support your body weight on your hands and toes, and your body forms a straight line from your head to your feet (an “high plank position”).
- Lower your chest to the floor by bending your elbows, then push your body up and return to the starting position.
- Sit on an upright bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand, resting them on your thighs.
- Hoist the dumbbells up so you’re holding them just above your shoulders with your palms facing away from you.
- Press the dumbbells toward the ceiling until your arms are straight.
- Lower the dumbbells and return to the starting position.
- Grab a pull-up bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with your palms facing away from you.
- Lift your feet so that you’re hanging with your arms straight.
- Pull your body up until your chin is above the bar.
- Once your chin has passed the bar, lower yourself under control to the starting position in a reverse motion.
- Hold a dumbbell in your right hand.
- Plant your left knee and hand firmly on a bench, your right foot on the floor a foot or two from the bench, and let your right arm hang straight down toward the floor.
- Keeping your back straight, pull the dumbbell upward until it touches your torso, and then return the dumbbell to the starting position.
- Once you’ve completed the desired number of reps, repeat the process with your left arm.
Perform the following workouts 2-to-3 times per week on non-consecutive days.
For example, if you choose to do 2 workouts weekly, you could do Workout 1 on Monday, then Workout 2 on Thursday.
And if you want to do 3 weekly workouts, you could do Workout 1 on Monday, Workout 2 on Wednesday, then repeat Workout 1 again on Friday.
The following week, do Workout 2 on Monday, Workout 1 on Wednesday, and Workout 2 again on Friday. In other words, alternate between the workouts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
And if you like the look of these workouts, and want an even more in-depth plan for burning fat and building muscle, check out my fitness books Thinner Leaner Stronger for women and Bigger Leaner Stronger for men.
+ Scientific References
- Bhave, Medha A. “Axillary Breast: Navigating Uncharted Terrain.” Indian Journal of Plastic Surgery, vol. 48, no. 03, Sept. 2015, pp. 283–287, https://doi.org/10.4103/0970-0358.173126.
- Rask-Andersen, Mathias, et al. “Genome-Wide Association Study of Body Fat Distribution Identifies Adiposity Loci and Sex-Specific Genetic Effects.” Nature Communications, vol. 10, no. 1, 21 Jan. 2019, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-08000-4.
- Sun, Chang, et al. “Genetics of Body Fat Distribution: Comparative Analyses in Populations with European, Asian and African Ancestries.” Genes, vol. 12, no. 6, 29 May 2021, p. 841, https://doi.org/10.3390/genes12060841. Accessed 5 Oct. 2021.
- Jemstrom, H., and H. Olsson. “Breast Size in Relation to Endogenous Hormone Levels, Body Constitution, and Oral Contraceptive Use in Healthy Nulligravid Women Aged 19-25 Years.” American Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 145, no. 7, 1 Apr. 1997, pp. 571–580, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a009153. Accessed 29 Mar. 2022.
- Huovinen, Heikki T., et al. “Body Composition and Power Performance Improved after Weight Reduction in Male Athletes without Hampering Hormonal Balance.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 29, no. 1, Jan. 2015, pp. 29–36, https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000000619. Accessed 4 Nov. 2020.
- Farinatti, Paulo TV, and Antonio G Castinheiras Neto. “The Effect of Between-Set Rest Intervals on the Oxygen Uptake during and after Resistance Exercise Sessions Performed with Large- and Small-Muscle Mass.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 25, no. 11, Nov. 2011, pp. 3181–3190, https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0b013e318212e415. Accessed 6 Jan. 2020.
- MARX, JAMES O., et al. “Low-Volume Circuit versus High-Volume Periodized Resistance Training in Women.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Apr. 2001, pp. 635–643, https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-200104000-00019. Accessed 24 Nov. 2020.
- Schoenfeld, Brad J. “The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 24, no. 10, 2010, pp. 2857–72, journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2010/10000/the_mechanisms_of_muscle_hypertrophy_and_their.40.aspx, https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3.