Spring has sprung. March 21st boasted the first day of spring and with that comes sunshine, barbeques, spring sports, and days in the park. Sleeveless tops are then a mere few weeks behind the first thaw of the ground. After a long, cold winter spent under bulky sweaters, are you ready to bare your arms?

Probably not. After a winter on the treadmills or in group exercise classes, you might have let those arms go a little bit. It’s ok, you’re in good company!

Below is a guide for the top exercises to invite tone into your arms, depending on how you like to work out and what your goal is.

If you love, YOGA:

Case 1: Your goal is just to tone and have long lines:

Yoga is great for this goal. Sun salutations, chaturangas (yoga push ups), planks, side planks, and long holds with the arms extended and strong (think Warrior 2) can all lead to lovely, toned arms and long lines. Ensure you are doing Vinyasa (flowing) and/or Power Yoga to get these poses brought in. Some Hatha classes focus on the arms, but other kinds of Yoga such as Yin and Bikram do not focus on the poses that will get your ready for bare-worthy arms for spring.

Case 2: Your goal is definition and enviable ripped muscles:

There are 2 options for getting ripped muscles while being in love with Yoga. First, you can add weights into your Yoga routine in a Yoga Sculpt class. In Yoga Sculpt, participants use up to 2 sets of weights (one manageable and one challenging) and the instructor will bring in bicep curls, tricep extensions, and more while the lower body is holding a Yoga pose. Another option is, in addition to one’s Yoga practice, to add in a simple arm weight routine 2-3 days per week for 20 minutes with free weights. While this may not be the answer you want to hear, free weights are hands down the best way to tone arms- they continually challenge the muscles in a way that body weight can’t when used correctly. A barre class where light weights are used might also be a good option to take it up another level without being too far from Yoga. Read on to see if any of the below ideas appeal to you.

If you love, PILATES:

Case 1: Your goal is just to tone and have long lines:

Pilates is already great for long, lean lines as advertised by the celebrities who sing its praises. Up your Pilates class attendance to 4-5 times per week to really see results and perhaps up the weights you are using in class by 1-2 pounds. Challenge yourself! Spring is here and summer is coming!

Case 2: Your goal is definition and enviable ripped muscles:

Pilates, like Yoga, can lead to ripped arm muscles with the right classes and instructors. You could compliment your Pilates routine with a Yoga Sculpt class (as discussed previously), a barre class, or try an arm weight routine for 20 minutes 2-3 days per week to add onto your Pilates practice for excellent results. Keep reading for some ideas.

If you love, CARDIO and weights sound awful:

Case 1: Your goal is just to tone and have long lines:

Running, the elliptical, and Spin class result in thin but not toned arms. How can you take it up a notch for some toning? Try a barre, Pilates, or Yoga class, where using your upper body will be new to you, as will be moving at a slower pace. If you can’t fathom moving slower, try at HIIT (high intensity interval training) or Tabata class. Usually only 30-45 minutes long, these kinds of classes turn & burn with quick intervals on intense exercises; think 4 minutes alternating 30 seconds of high knees with 30 second of plank pose. You’ll get your cardio high with some needed tone in those guns!

Case 2: Your goal is definition and enviable ripped muscles:

As mentioned earlier, try a HIIT or Tabata class to get some arm work in. To really get ripped muscles, you will want to bring in more than just body weight exercises. Try a BodyPump, CXWRX, or another branded weight lifting class. These classes tend to move quickly and with weights, body bars, and other muscle-ripping exercises with pumping music. You will get your cardio fix with the ripped limbs you are looking for = win-win!

If you love, WEIGHTS, then you are probably ahead of the game but if aren’t seeing the results you want:

Case 1: Your goal is just to tone and have long lines:

The secret to toning with long lines in your arms with weights is light weights with a LOT of repetitions… think 3-5 lb weights with 2-3 sets of 30-50 reps. Think push ups, planks, and other low impact bodyweight exercises. Make sure you have good form, breathing the whole time and keeping the core engaged. The bonus to this kind of weight work is a tone core and glutes from simply hold good form for extended periods of time!

Case 2: Your goal is definition and enviable ripped muscles:

You might need to take it up a notch. If you wanted strong, defined arms, and already using free weights, ask yourself: am I lifting as much as I could? Studies have shown people grab free weights that are about 20% less than what they could do. For example, if you always use 10 pound weights for bicep curls, try 15 or even 20 pounds for a set… could you actually do all 3 sets with the higher weights? Or even just 2 or the 3 sets? If so, it’s time to push yourself and move up a weight class.

Next, if you usually work with machines or bars, try good, old free weights. Free weights challenge the arms in a way that machines do not- they require stabilizing muscles to keep good form and to perform the movement (think of a bicep curl on a cable machine versus with free weights). If you are nervous to try this on your own or to take it up a few pounds, hire a personal trainer for a session or bring a knowledgeable friend to check your form/ spot you.

So there you have it. Spring is here and summer is coming and you will be ready this year for the sundresses, tank tops, and the wedding season that boasts cap sleeved dresses and sheath dresses. You will be ready to bare your arms for spring!

Christy Lyons

Christy Lyons, M.A., PHR, is a former corporate wellness company owner & freelance Yoga, Pilates, and barre/toning instructor. As an E-RYT, she has been teaching yoga since 2007 and has also run 2 teacher training programs. She is an NASM-CPT and specialized in working with clients with autoimmune diseases, spinal injuries, and other unique cases. After selling her business in 2013, Christy... Read More

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