The other day, when we had to take a break from mashing avocados for guacamole, it occurred to us that our arms are basically overcooked spaghetti noodles. (Gluten-free spaghetti noodles, obvs.) In our defense, we were making a lot of guac.
It got us thinking about all the other ways having a stronger upper body would be helpful. Being able to fill our Target shopping basket with more things not on our list. Winning one of those Survivor challenges where you have to hold something above your head for hours. Bringing in all of our groceries in one trip so we don’t have to venture back out into triple-digit weather. We would be unstoppable. Right then and there, we decided to add some Pilates arms workouts into our exercise routine.
Why Pilates? Glad ya asked. The movements work our slow-twitch muscle fibers, aka the harder-to-target ones that we don’t typically give much attention to. Strengthening these is important because they help with muscle tone, as well as stability. Plus, tbh, Pilates is the type of workout we’re most likely to do. Work smarter, not harder, people. So turn on the beats—or, as we sometimes do, the TV—and get ready to strengthen your upper body.
1. A Pilates arm workout that multitasks
Meaning, we can do it in front of the TV or on audio-only zooms. The first three movements in this sequence from our CCO Sarah Howard are all about that upper body burn.
How to: Hold the Pilates ring in front of you at about chest height. Make sure your hands are aligned on the pads. Press your palms toward each other then release, but still keep a bit of tension. Thu 10 reps.
How to: Place one of the pads of the ring in the crook of your neck. Lift the corresponding arm and place your palm on the opposite pad. Press down and release, making sure to keep a bit of tension. Do 10 reps per side.
How to: Position the ring so that one pad is resting just above your right hip, then reach your arm down and place your right palm on the remaining pad. Use your palm to press the ring toward your body. Then release, making sure to keep a bit of tension. Do 10 reps per side.
2. A Pilates arm workout that only takes 5 minutes
It may sound short, but trust us, you’ll feel the burn.
Reach with rotation
How to: Start kneeling, reach both arms out to a “T.” Rotate your palms to face behind you, then slowly bend your elbows, squeeze your shoulder blades behind you, and rotate your palms to face up.
How to: Glue your elbows to your waistline, palms facing each other, shoulder-width distance apart. Rotate from your shoulder to move your forearms away from each other, keeping your elbows glued to your torso, then slowly return to your original position.
How to: Goal post your arms. Option to stand at a wall and press your elbows, wrists, and backs of your hand into the wall to keep your shoulders nice and open. Extend your arms overhead, then band back down to 90 degrees.
How to: Maintain your goal post position, keep your elbows at a 90 degree angle, then drop your hands until they hit the level of your shoulders, and rotate them back up.
Lateral raise hold
How to: Extend your arms to a “T” and hold.
3. A Pilates arm workout for when we want to push a little harder
Using a one-pound weight ups the intensity and brings the shaky arms.
Breathing warm up
How to: Make sure to take a moment for grounding before starting your arm workout. Begin the breathing warm-up with your weights on your palms; you will use them the entire workout. Start by closing your eyes and releasing tension in your body. Hang your weighted arms to the ground and stand straight. Inhale and exhale. Then take your hands toward your heart and place them together as if you were in prayer. Breathe in with affirmations for your workout or everyday life, then exhale.
Half-circle arm pulses
How to: Start by tucking your belly in and with a soft bend in your knees. Extend both your arms out and turn your palms toward the ceiling. In a consistent circular motion, bring your arms toward the ceiling then toward the back. Keep doing this for 10 reps.
Upper chest pulse
How to: Take your arms into a 90-degree bend. Make sure your elbows are in alignment with your shoulders. With your palms facing your face, extend your arms to the sides of your body and open up your chest. Bring your arms from the sides of your body to the front and touch your elbows together. Keep doing these pulses for 10 reps.
Hand to ceiling lift
How to: Put your arms to the sides of your body with your arms bent and palms facing forward. Your arm should be in an L shape, and fingertips pointed toward the ceiling. Gently lift your arms up and down. Complete 10 reps before switching to the next weighted exercise.
Front to back arm extension
How to: Hinge forward while keeping your abdominals tight. Reach your arms back with your palms facing the ceiling then reach forward in a consistent motion. Make sure while you’re reaching to move your body up and to bend in a consistent motion. Continue for 10 reps.
How to: At a hinge, extend your arms to your sides with your palms facing behind you. Begin to extend your arm out toward your sides and then back in. Make sure to engage your tricep. Continue for 10 reps.
Weighted circular arm pulses
How to: Stand tall and extend your arms out with your shoulders back and palms facing the floor. Make small circular motions forward for 10 seconds. For the last 5 seconds, you can make the circular motions even smaller. Then, for another 10 seconds, go the opposite direction. For the last five seconds of your reverse pulses, you can stretch your arms even longer to really engage your muscles.
Side to side arm extenders
How to: For 10 reps, extend your left arm out and have your right arm reach up toward the left side of your body then back down to your right side and extend it. Repeat the same exercise on your other side for another 10 reps.
Weighted arm stretch
How to: End your workout with a closing stretch. Relax your arms and extend them out, stretching your entire upper body. Slightly raise your arms up and exhale.
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