Being slim is vastly different than being strong. When it comes to upper body strength, many women shy away from lifting weights or performing body-weight exercises because they’re scared they’ll bulk up. This common misconception has exaggerated the gulf between a man’s upper body strength and a woman’s. It is also plays a role in the number of women who have slim arms with no real strength or flabby arms with no muscle tone.
Rather than hiding your lackluster arms under long sleeve tops all summer, build up your strength and transform your arms, shoulders, back, and chest with some simple exercises. Mix and match workouts to target your trouble areas.
1. Arm extension
Grab your resistance band and anchor it securely so it’s about a foot off the floor. Lie on your back with your toes pointing away from the band. Hold each end of the band, elbows bent to 90-degrees squeezing your arms tight to your sides with your palms facing your legs. Contract your abs and lift your legs to a tabletop position so that your knees are bent 90-degrees over your hips. From here, extend your arms and lift your head and shoulder blades off the floor, curling up over your ribs. Bend your elbows back to 90-degrees and lower your head to the floor. Do 15 reps for a total of three sets.
2. Cross jab
This exercise is a great way to burn off some steam while building strength and definition in the arms and abs. Stand with your feet wider than hip-width keeping your knees slightly bent. Grab two dumbbells (five to eight pounds should do the trick) and bring the weights to your chest. Your palms should be facing each other with your elbows bent. From here extend your left arm across your body until the weight is in line with your right shoulder. Return to center and repeat with the right arm to complete one rep. Do this rapidly, with energy for 15 to 20 reps for a total of three sets. Increase the intensity by minimizing rest periods between sets.
3. Pilates press
Come into plank or push-up position. Bend your right knee 90-degrees, take it off the mat, and point your toes to the ceiling. Then, bend your elbows, keeping your arms close to the sides of your body and lower a few inches before pressing back up. It should resemble a one legged push-up. Do eight to 10 reps and then switch legs to complete one set. Perform a full second set.
4. Lying triceps extension
Find a bench and lie on your back. If you’re at home, lie on the floor. Grab your dumbbells and hold them up above your head with your arms straight and your palms facing each other. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells down until they’re by your ears on either side of your head. Slowly bring the weights back to the starting position to complete one rep. Perform 15 to 20 reps for a total of three sets.
5. V press
Grab your resistance band and sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Wrap the band underneath the arches of your flexed feet. Bend your knees as you lift your feet off the ground. Balance here sitting on your tailbone with your knees bent. When you’re comfortable here, extend your legs straight and your arms up overhead so your body makes a “v” shape. Hold for one breath and then bend your arms and legs to return to the bent-knee balancing position. Perform 15 reps for a total of three sets.