All we have to do is step outside the office to get it; between skimpy tanks and strapless dresses, summer has arrived.
Zeel Pilates Expert Halle Clarke should know. "It's right about now that I start to get requests for exercises to tone the arm muscles, especially the back of the arms," says Halle, owner of Soho's Mongoose Bodyworks.
Halle adds, "The best shaped bodies are the best aligned bodies. So reaching-and thereby toning-the shoulders and arms is best done when the alignment of the upper body is correct."
From your pre-workout stretch to choosing the right weights, Halle offers up six simple steps for sexy summer arms.
Step 1: Humor us.
In order to tone the backs of the arms, your humeral head (translation: the top of the arm bone) needs to sit properly in the joint. Something else that affects your quest for a lean, mean right-left-hooking machine? Your shoulder blades, which should not be protracted or rounded forward while exercising.
Step 2: Powerful pinwheels.
Before toning your arms, a simple chest stretch can help to balance the muscles associated with rounded shoulders. Halle says that the pinwheel is a nice option.
Lie on your side with your hips and knees bent at 45 degrees, both arms extended in front of your chest. Reach your top arm forward, then bring it up over your head and back around to make a full circle. Keep your hand as close to the mat as is comfortable, and allow the spine to rotate with the twist. You should feel a nice stretch across your chest as you circle your arm behind you.
Step 3: Choose your weapon.
There are lots of options for toning your triceps (aka the backside of the upper arm). Start with a one to five-pound weight. To choose the right weight, know that you want to feel fatiguing after completing three sets of 10, so if you're huffing and puffing with a five-pounder after your first set, you might want to take it down a notch.
Step 4: Start your engines.
Hold one weight in each hand. Extend your arms straight behind you while visualizing width across the chest and the back. Don't allow your shoulders to roll too far forward, and don't pinch your shoulder blades as you envision opening your chest. Instead, try to create width in a three-dimensional way.
Step 5: Get moving!
From this extended position, begin to bend and straighten your arms 10 times while holding your weights. Remember to focus on stabilizing the top of the arm bone into the back of the joint as you straighten. Do three sets of 10.
Step 6: Quality, not quantity.
What's most important about triceps exercises is not which movements you choose but how you do them. You'll want to make sure that, as you contract the triceps, you are not simultaneously rolling the shoulder joint forward, but that you are stabilizing the top of the arm bone into the back of the joint. Imagine it getting "suctioned into the socket" as you extend.