April 23, 2012
We all went them…MichelleObamaArms. I have been working on sculpting my arms since seeing Angela Basset in How Stella Got Her Groove Back. And those stellar arms helped her kick major butt in What’s Love Got To Do With It.
I hate to break it to you, but if it’s not in your genetic map, your arms will not magically chisel away and reveal perfectly shredded triceps and biceps (as I’ve been reminding myself all these years). But wait! There is hope… You will be able to firm up and flaunt those arms come summertime.
Here are a few moves to get you there that will strengthen your core and stabilize your shoulders.
This is a great full body warm-up exercise that also conditions your core, promotes hamstring and back flexibility, and strengthens your shoulder stabilizers.
Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Holding your stomach in and glutes pinched, lower your hands toward the floor in front of your feet. If your hamstrings (the muscles in the back of your upper legs) are tight, bend your knees when you need to in order to get your hands flat on the floor. Walk your hands out, as if going into push-up position, then walk your feet – using small steps – toward your hands. Repeat the hand walk-outs across the room and then reverse the order to go backwards as long as you can endure it.
GI Jane Push-ups
Also known as yogi posh-ups or tricep push-ups, these push-ups are great to stabilize your core and emphasize better tricep (the muscles in the back of your upper arms—yes, that spot) burn.
Begin face down, with your shoulders over your hands and arms straight, pressing up. If beginning the push-ups from your toes is too challenging, lower your knees and do the exercise from there. You may also modify by doing the push-ups against your kitchen counter.
Here’s the move: lower your body in one single movement (hold your stomach in tight so your hips don’t drop as you lower) by bending your elbows while sliding them toward your waist; then, straighten your arms, pressing your body away from the floor (or counter if you started there). Continue holding your stomach in to prevent your butt from pressing up in the air before the rest of your body does. Your body should move in one plane.
This is a shoulder strengthening and sculpting exercise you can do at the gym or in your kitchen, if you don’t have a gym membership.
Stand with your legs staggered in a slight lunge position. Position yourself in a forward lean, bending at the hips so your back remains flat, and your chest lines up with your mid-thigh. Hold a light weight in each hand (you can even use gallon jugs of water as weights, adjusting the weight by varying the volume of water in the bottles). With straight arms, lift the weights on either side of you to shoulder height. Lower and repeat. It’s almost like flapping wings in super-slow motion. You should be able to perform about 10-12 repetitions and feel a good burn in your shoulders. If not, then you need heavier weights (or more liquid in your bottles).
Side plank push-ups
This strengthens all of the above, plus you get bonus strength and stability by adding dynamic movement to two classic exercises: the side plank and the push-up.
Start in push-up position (shoulders over your hands, and body holding steady in a line to your toes, or knees for the modification). Do one push-up, then rotate onto the right side of your feet (or knees if you are modifying this movement) while lifting your left hand off the floor and reaching it toward the sky, holding steady for a few seconds. Holding your navel in, lower your left hand back to the mat and return to the ready position. Do another push-up and repeat the side plank on the left side. Repeat as many as you can with good form.
Now you know some moves to chisel your shoulders and triceps. This one will work the biceps at the front of your arms.
Use dumbbells if you have them. If not, grab those gallon jugs again. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders drawn back and stomach in. Keep your elbows close to your waist and curl the weights toward your shoulders. Repeat as many as you can with good form (that means, not swinging your body back and forth). You should feel fatigue in your biceps by 12 repetitions. If not, you’ll need heavier weights.
If this is the first time you are working your arms, you will notice that you feel stronger and firmer within a few weeks. For sculpting to really happen (sorry to break this to you, too), you will have to combine the exercise with a healthy diet with good food and reduced portion sizes. Keep at it, and you may be the next First Lady…OK, more realistically, you’ll be able to show off your arms in your cocktail dress. Have fun with it!