Tips for killer arms

So here we are.  Remember yesterday, when it was January first, and the new year shown with endless possibility, and somehow it’s the middle of February and you’ve already managed to: ruin your new diet; unbalance your budget; and destroy your office with piles of paper and mail…just me?
Sometimes goals need reloading. and reloading. and reloading again. It’s ok to fall off the wagon/or horse/or what-have-you, just as long as you get back on it. 
I teamed put with my beautiful, power house of a friend Megan Densmore at  Form Pilates, to go through a couple of work outs that work important muscle groups that we usually forget about. Fitness challenge [re]accepted! 

I will let Megan do the explaining, since she’s the expert, but I assure you these moves are all harder than they look!

Megan: Okay ladies – we all want to avoid the dreaded flabby arms amiright?? Contrary to popular belief the most effective way to do this is NOT a gazillion tricep kick backs with 5lb weights. Let me introduce you to a classical Pilates exercise that packs a big punch! 
Here Jen beautifully demonstrates the kneeling chest expansion exercise on a convertible tower unit made by Pilates Designs by Basil (IG @pilates_designs). Nothing like pilates equipment made lovingly by hand in the USA (to be more specific Basil’s workshop is around the corner from my apartment in Astoria, NY)!
Step 1: Kneel facing the rolling back bar with your palms lightly resting on the bar
Step 2: Think of pulling your abdominal muscles toward your spine to support your lower back
Step 3: Engage the glutes and hamstrings and feel your shins pressing down into the mat below you
Step 4: Feel your abdominals lift in and upward as if to stretch your spine long through the ceiling
Step 5: Stay lifted like this and inhale as you press the bar toward your hips with straight elbows
Step 6: Feel your chest opening as the bar comes closer to your hips
Step 7: Exhale as you allow the bar to return to the starting position
Step 8: Stay lifted and repeat!
Step 9: Add a head movement when the bar is close to your hips in order to test to make sure that your neck is free and relaxed while you are strengthening the entire back of your body (and those TRICEPS as promised!) – Look Left, Right and back to center before releasing the bar

Step 10: Repeat 5 more times alternating your head movements and remembering to breathe!
Here I am reminding Jen to keep the muscles at the base of her neck as relaxed as possible so her head can move freely!
You can see here that Jen is doing an excellent job of engaging all of the muscles down the backs of her arms and stabilizing her shoulder blades!
No pilates machine? No problem! Just grab a couple light weights (or even two bottles of water!) And stand with your feet in a small V position. In Pilates we call this “Pilates position.” It is a slight external rotation and your big toes are about as far apart as the width of a fist. We take the same steps in the standing chest expansion as we did kneeling and we add the element of balance and connection in the back of the legs (no one ever complains about a little workout for that spot where the glutes meet the thighs on the back of the legs!)
To begin just keep your weight evenly distributed over your feet and make sure that the lower back doesn’t arch when you bring the weights behind you.
When this starts to feel confident try lifting onto your toes when you bring the weights behind you as you open your chest. Keep the heels together and make sure the tummy is in and that you are pulling your spine up tall to the ceiling!
When you have your balance down try looking to the left and right and see if you can keep your balance with your heels in the air. This is tricky! If you let the tummy relax and the back arch you will know it because you will lose your balance!
Jen did a great job of keeping her neck free so her head could move easily and she kept her balance so well!
Because Jen did so well with Pilates I wanted to let her try one of my favorite exercises on the Wunda Chair.
In this exercise Jen keeps her feet on the pedal of the chair in Pilates position and she connects though the back of her legs as she did in the standing chest expansion. She pulls her chin toward her chest and pulls her abdominals in and up toward the ceiling giving her a rounded spine position. You can see my right hand on her lower back as a touchpoint for her to feel her tummy pull in and my left hand is on her upper back for safety just in case she loses her balance I don’t want her to fall forward! Exercises where we challenge ourselves to learn to hold our bodyweight over our hands are excellent for strengthening the arms and specifically the triceps! I think this may be why holding a plank has gotten so popular in the last 10 years or so and why I am currently seeing a resurgence of clients wanting to learn how to do handstands. So have fun with it and remember that your triceps join the party when you do exercises that work the entire back of the body like in the Pilates chest expansion. You can find me online at and IG @meganmasterfit and Twitter @meganmasterfit 
Giveback Workout wear: Vest: Give Apparel Meaning // Leggings: Give Activewear

So work your back, and giveback!


Thank you to Lindsay Lopez (IG @linzrle Twitter @LindsayLopez_) of Form Pilates (IG @formpilates Twitter @FORMPilates) for the beautiful space! And to the lovely Laurie Hymes for photography.
Featured Giveback Brands:

Give Activewear: We are a women’s activewear brand that is dedicated to ending world hunger. Our mission is to promote a better you, while providing for a better world.
We provide life-saving meals to severely malnourished young children across the globe with each purchase in our fight to end world hunger. 
Give Apparel Meaning:  For every purchase they donate 100 liters of clean drinking water to those in need through the children’s safe drinking water program.

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