Want to know something that isn't fair? We use our arms every single day, yet they're still one of the most difficult areas to tone. If you have a wedding coming up, you're probably wanting to look extra fit in your strapless gown, and these exercises will have your arms looking better than ever by your big day. Here, eight fitness experts share their favorite arm strengthening moves.
"Short 'sprints' on the rowing machine followed by a strength interval, either bodyweight or dumbbells, is a great way to work your arms," says Melody Davi, lead trainer at CITYROW in New York City. "Even though rowing is a leg-driven exercise, it works 85% of your muscle groups, including the upper arm and postural muscles." To get started, try this interval on the rowing machine: Pair 30-second hard pushes at a 28 SPM on the rower with 10 pushups and 10 triceps dips using the rower "rail."
Lateral Arm Raises
Get your arms wedding dress-ready with Jacqueline Kasen's, a body architect at Anatomy at 1220 in Miami, favorite move: the lateral arm raise. "Performing lateral raises shapes your arms, and most importantly, your shoulders. No matter what dress or style you're going for, they'll get you in the shape you desire," she says. Start by standing hip width apart with soft knees, holding a pair of dumbbells that are heavy enough that your last reps will be challenging, but you'll still be able to complete them with correct form. Then, with your palms down and at your side, raise your straight arms up to shoulder height and control the weight on the way down until your return to the starting position. Perform 12 reps controlled in the negative portion of the movement.
"Dancers are the ultimate multi-taskers—in every ballet class, you'll hear, 'Chin up, ribs closed, shoulders down, toes pointed!'—so I love any movement that works multiple muscle groups at once," says Julie Schechter, founder of fitBallet. "It's also fun to add some grace to a workout, and swan arms are a fluid, beautiful movement, for the first few reps, at least!" Stand in first position (heels together, toes out) holding a set of two or three-pound hand weights. Lift the weights overhead, then return them to their starting position, leading with your elbows on the way up and the way down. Make sure your shoulders stay pressed down and away from your ears.
Pushups with Pilates Ring
"People always say they can't do pushups. In fact, I used to be one of them. A great way to combat this is to use a Pilates ring, which will add resistance to your pushups, making them easier to execute without compromising form. Your arms will get the complete range of motion for a full pushup while slowly building strength," says Amy O'Bannon, New York City-based Pilates instructor at Pilates on Fifth and Physio Logic. While on your hands and knees, place the Pilates ring underneath your sternum and place one of the pads on the ground and the other end under your sternum. Lift your body into a plank position with your shoulders directly over your hands and your toes curled onto the mat. Slowly bend your elbows, keeping them close to your sides as you're trying to get as close to the ground as possible. Complete three sets with five to ten reps in each.
Simple Tricep Dips
"This exercise is super effective because we use our own body weight to create strength and receive the definition in the back of our arms," says Lauren Chiarello, barre, Pilates, and TRX Instructor at Exhale and FLEX Studios, and founder of Chi Chi Life. To start, sit down, bend your knees, and bring your legs hip width apart. Place your hands underneath your shoulders with your fingers fanning out to the side and your thumbs forward. Lift yourself up, making sure your wrists are underneath your shoulders. Simply bend and extend your arms, sending your elbows behind you, but be careful not to lock out your joints at the top. Try two sets of 15 with a 15 second rest in between. For an extra pre-wedding burn, add in ten pulses at the end.
Side Plank with Twist
"It doesn't matter what wedding dress style you choose—brides are known to 'bare arms,' not just on the day of, but on all the surrounding events. Ahem, honeymoon! So if there's one time in your life you want sexy sculpted arms, it's now," says Amanda Russell, creator of Fit Strong and Sexy. Master this variation on a classic side plank by bringing your body into one straight line on the floor stacking legs, hips, and your shoulder directly over your elbow (one arm should be on the ground, the other should be left floating). While lifting your hips, raise a dumbbell directly over your shoulder (in your lifted hand), keeping your abdominals engaged. Lower your entire body with control, working your arms and core, and repeat.
"I love chaturanga push-ups, also known as 'yogi push-ups.' They're incredible full-body strength builders, especially for the arms," says Sam Emrich, New York City-based private yoga instructor and instructor at Y7 Studio. "They target smaller, often weaker muscles in the upper body—particularly the triceps—and are easy to do just about anywhere." Beginning in a high plank, engage the belly up and in and spread the hands shoulder-width distance apart. On an exhale, shift the shoulders two inches over the wrists and bend the elbows to lower down to a half push-up position, keeping the elbows close to the rib cage throughout. Inhale to push back up to high plank and then repeat five times, trying to complete three sets.
Eagle Arm Pulls
"This move is easy, effective, and can be done anywhere! It's the perfect bridal arm exercise because the use of the resistance bands sculpt and lengthen the arm muscles like a dancer, then the arm movement targets not only the entire upper arm area, but also the upper back. It's perfect for those dresses with low exposed backs, or strapless dresses," says Rachel Piskin, co-founder of Chaise Fitness. Stand on the center of a resistance band and hold onto each end. Bend your knees with feet together, then pull your arms up to your hips with your palms facing down. Stretch legs straight as you pull the band and arms up to shoulder height. Release back down to the starting position. Repeat 20 times for two sets, but in the second set consider adding a double pulse with arms at shoulder height.