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Shapin’ it up: Arms Edition

Posted by on March 2, 2011

Recent pictures of Cameron Diaz have the public buzzing.  While she has always been slender and strong, her relationship with baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez seems to affected even her body shape.  She has emerged from intense, tractor tire flipping workouts with cut, ripped arms that some are describing manly.

I am not one of those people.  I think she looks great.  Granted, there is that small, snarky part of myself that would like to see her birth three babies and then try and come out with that same shape, but mostly I’m just impressed with her.

As a former personal trainer, I have quite a bit of knowledge on what one must do to lose weight and gain muscle.  It is all head knowledge, mind you.  It’s the kind of knowledge that makes it really easy for me to tell you what to do, but actually putting it into practice?  Well that’s a different story, now, isn’t it?  Especially for busy moms who need quick and easy workouts that will fit into their already packed schedules.

Want lean, cut arms?  Here are a few simple exercises to get you started, all of which can be performed without the necessity of a gym membership.  Don’t worry – none of them involve tractor tires.

Bicep Curls

The Bicep curl is the standard arm exercise always guaranteed to produce results.  Bicep curls can be easily performed in the comfort of your own living room while watching your favorite show.  Bonus!  All you need is a little bit of inexpensive equipment and you’re set to go.  A simple tension band or a few sets of weights will set you up for success.

When using a tension band, hold both handles and stand on the band with your feet shoulder width apart.  For more tension, widen your feet a little more.  Bend your knees slightly and tighten your core and with your elbows pressed to your sides, slowly curl your hands up to your shoulders.  Repeat this motion 10 to 15 times.  Perform this exercise three times.

Push Ups

I heard you groan.  I did!  There are few ways to shape up and strengthen your upper body than the dreaded push up.  You don’t have to do hundreds and hundreds of them to get results, either.  A few every day (or every few days) will quickly show noticable results in both strength and shape.

The key to a push up is a tight core.  Suck in your gut, squeeze your backside and tuck your pelvis under.  Be sure you don’t let your midsection sag as you push up.  Not only does this not produce desired results, it can also end in back injury.

When adding push ups to your daily regime, do so slowly.  Start with three sets of five good push ups.  Every day try and do one more until you’re up to three sets of ten.  Aim for 30-50 pushups three or four times a week and you will see your shoulders, biceps and chest begin to change shape.  And yes, you can do them on your knees – but try to do at least a few up on your toes.


These can be done at the same time you do your push ups.  Simply hold a push up position, your body straight and tight for a certain period of time.  Start small – 10 seconds.  You can slowly build up to longer periods of time as you get stronger.  Planks not only shape your upper body, they will also work your core – an added bonus.

Chair Dips

Sit on the edge of a chair and place your hands on the chair by your hips.  Scoot forward until you are holding your weight up with your arms and slowly bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle then push back up.  Do three sets of 15 repetitions.  For an added challenge straighten your legs in front of you as you dip down and up.  If that’s too easy, place another chair in front of you and elevate your feet on that chair as you dip down and up.

Never be afraid to challenge yourself!

Reverse curls

Sit on a chair with either your tension band or one of your barbell weights in one hand.  If using a tension band, place your foot on one end to create the desired amount of tension.  Straighten your arm above your head, pressing your bicep to the side of your head.  Slowly bend your elbow letting your hand fall backward toward the back of your shoulder.  Press your hand back up and repeat this motion 10 to 15 times for three sets on both sides.

It’s important when performing this exercise to keep your back stabilized, particularly if you have lower back issues.

Pair these exercises with a well balanced diet and frequent cardio workouts and you are on your way to summertime swimsuit arms.  No tractor tires necessary!

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