So long snow, hello sunshine! Spring is finally, actually, OFFICIALLY here and we are so ready to bust out our tank tops to show off the arms, shoulders, and sculpted upper back muscles we’ve been building all winter long.
Fit lats, delts, biceps and triceps go great with tank tops and strapless dresses, but the importance of a strong upper body goes beyond aesthetics. Strengthening your arm and back muscles will also:
• Improve Your Posture
Slouching isn’t a good look, and it can also lead to pain in your neck and shoulders. Working your upper back will combat chest tightness by strengthening the muscles that pull back your shoulder blades so you can walk with confidence.
• Enhance Your Form
Upper body strength is key in a number of sports and activities like running, cycling, skiing, swimming, and yoga. Pilates is the perfect way to cross train because it can help you build strength and flexibility so that you can maintain your balance, increase your agility, and boost your speed.
• Increase Your Full-Body Burn
Abs and glutes are always among the most popular requests in our classes (and the booty is important, we get it!). Consider though that these muscles get a lot of attention outside of class (like walking up and down the Metro escalator, what did you think we meant?). Your arms, shoulders and back need a little more targeted TLC if you want to see results, and even if you don’t care about building your pecs and biceps, remember that at rest, muscle burns calories faster than fat, so strengthening your full body is a more efficient way to workout. Many upper body exercises also require you to engage your core (hello, planks and pushups!), so consider your arm work a 2-for-1 deal.
Ready to whip your upper body into shape? Start with these moves. The first five require nothing more than your body and a mat — the ultimate challenge. Want to get fancy? Test your strength with our bonus move on the Fuse Ladder!
Double Leg Kick
Works Back Extensors, Shoulders, Hamstrings & Glutes
– Lie down on your stomach, resting your head to one side.
– Pull in your abdominals to protect your low back.
– Grab your left fingers with your right hand behind your back.
– Press your elbows down towards the floor.
– Exhale and bend both knees as you kick your feet towards your seat. Make sure to keep your hipbones down on the mat.
– Inhale and look forward as you simultaneously life your upper body and straighten your arms and legs.
– Lower down and turn your head so that the opposite cheek is now resting on the floor.
– Bend your elbows back to the start position.
Full Back Extension
Works Upper & Lower Back
Repetitions: 3 rounds, holding for 10-20 seconds each
– Lie down on your stomach with your arms long by your sides. Keep your palms facing down on the floor and your head on the floor.
– Inhale as you lift your upper body off the floor while you keep your hands down on the mat.
– Exhale to lower.
Down Dog Pushups
Works Shoulders & Triceps
– From hands and knees, tuck your toes under and come into a down dog. Keep your chin tucked in.
– Keep your arms and legs straight and your seat lifted high in the air.
– Turn your hands so that your fingers face towards each other (“pigeon-toe” your fingers).
– Come high up on your toes.
– Inhale as you bend your elbows out to the side and lower the crown of your head toward the floor.
– Exhale to press back up, extending your arms straight.
Works Back Extensors, Hip Extensors & Abdominals
– Lie down on your stomach.
– Bend your knees and reach back to grab hold of your feet or ankles.
– Inhale as your lift your body up into an arch. (Bow pose for all the yogis out there.)
– Exhale to rock forward.
– Inhale to rock back.
Works Upper and Lower Back
Repetitions: 5-10 Breaths
– Lie down on your stomach and engage your abdominals.
– Stretch your arms over head and reach your legs long behind you.
– Inhale as you lift your upper and lower body off the floor. Look down at the floor and keep your neck long.
– Exhale as you begin to flutter your arms and legs.
– Continue as you inhale for a count of five and exhale for a count of five.
BONUS MOVE: Arm Pit Pull Ups
Works Lats & Rear Deltoids
– Find something to hang from – a bar, a (strong) tree limb, etc. (Ahem, the Fuse Ladder is perfect.)
– Let your body hang.
– Engage the muscles under your armpits (your lats) and pull, keeping your arms straight while your shoulder lift up a couple of inches, then slowly release.