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“Pilates is a great way to achieve toned arms and shoulders because it helps create long lean sleek muscles,” explains O’Meara. “It focuses on using specific fibers of the muscles and working them in a shortened and lengthen position.” And added bonus for all those working away on laptops or lugging weighed-down purses? “As you are working with the bio-mechanics of the body it also helps to lubricate the shoulder joint and assists with relieving neck and shoulder tension.” And as O’Meara says, “No point in having a tight belly and butt, and killer legs if you’ve got scrawny arms.” Plus, these moves all work the back muscles, creating better posture, which equals a more slim-looking frame.
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What you’ll need: “Not a thing! What’s great about this arm series is that you can do it anywhere,” says O’Meara. However weighted balls or simple small weights will make the series a bit harder and will help build muscle faster. “I would suggest two to five pounds and no more then that,” she recommends.
O’Meara’s secrets to toned arms
“I call the this the ‘Red Carpet’ series. You know when starlets pose on the red carpet and they bend one elbow and look over their shoulder their arms always look super sleek and sexy and toned -- this series will do that!” Sign us up!
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“The best way to do this series is sitting on the edge of a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your spine upright and in a neutral position. This can also be done sitting cross-legged on the floor or standing but I find the chair is the best way to ensure that your spine is in proper alignment.
Reach your arms out in front of you and gently draw the bottom two tips of your shoulder blades down the back to make sure you aren’t rounding your shoulders forward and your arm bones are set in their sockets. (Keep reminding yourself of this gentle setting of the shoulder blades -- this is to ensure proper shoulder stability and to avoid taking all the work into the upper trapezius).”
Get started on your toned arms on the next page ... Toning move #1
- Slowly lift your arms up towards the ceiling (lift, don’t fling arms quickly).
- Very slowly return the arms back to shoulder height (so you are focusing on the eccentric movement of the muscle).
- Here you want to allow the shoulder blades to rotate up, they are meant to move with your arms, so don’t be rigid but try to avoid shoulder shrugging.
- Repeat 8 times
Benefits: Warms you up, gets the arms and shoulder blades moving together as they are meant to, ultimately to help relieve neck and shoulder tension and starts to get your deltoids working
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Toning move #2
- Simply bend the elbows back so they line up with your shoulders and then slide them back out to the original starting position.
- Be careful here again not to round the shoulders forward as you reach the arms in front.
- Have the sensation that the shoulders are pulling back as the hands move forward.
Benefits: Works your posterior deltoids as you draw the arms back and anterior as the arms move forward, as well as your mid back muscles. There’s no point in sexy arms without a sexy back.
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Toning move #3
- With the palms up and facing forward and the elbows bent, straighten the arms over head.
- To pull back to starting position give the bottom two tips of the shoulder blades a little squeeze and make sure when you return the arms come back to a place where the elbows line up with the shoulders.
Benefits: The middle deltoid is working as well as those mid back and shoulder stabilizers.
Toning move #4
- With the elbows back, keep the upper arm bone still in space (don’t life the arms or drop the elbows) rotate the arm up so the palms are now facing forward as opposed to down.
- It might be more clear to say rotate the hands up but you don’t want to action to come from the wrist but from the back of the arm.
Benefits: Deltoids working isometrically to hold the arm still in space but now you are getting into the small oft forgotten rotator cuffs to rotate forward and back. People often have weak rotator cuffs, which lead to a lot of shoulder injuries so this has benefits way beyond making your arms look sexy.
Only 4 more exercises for toned arms to go! Find them on the next page ... Toning move #5
- With the palms facing down elbows still bent, draw the elbows down towards the body.
- Keeping the shape of the arms (elbows bent, wrists strong) lift the arms back up to shoulder height.
- Think of lifting right from the very centre of your shoulder as if there is a string there pulling the arms up- like a marionette.
Benefits: Now you are isolating the very centre of the deltoid here working it in a tight and shortened position. Also we’re using the other two rotator cuffs that abduct (move away from the midline) and adduct (move towards the midline) the arm.
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Toning move #6
- Repeat this whole sequence fluidly now as a set, one rep for each move a total of 4 times.
Benefits: Now you are using all of the muscles around the shoulder fluidly as a system, which is really great for strength but also to help relieve neck and shoulder tension by lubricating the shoulder joint.
Toning move #7
- With the arms lifted to shoulder height and then open the arms out to the side.
- Reach the arms out away from each other as if someone is pulling you apart by the arms (notice the spine get taller here), flip your palms so they are facing behind you and in small sharp and controlled movements pulse the arms back, initiating the move from the top of the triceps, or just behind the armpit.
Benefits: Wings, baby! Targets those bat wings. Great triceps exercise and the whole time you are still working those red carpet deltoids by holding the arms up.
Toning move #8
- Finish by flipping the palms down and repeat the reach, the more lengthened the arm the more likely you will activate biceps (in a lengthened position) and triceps.
- Then again in small sharp and controlled movements circle the arms forward and then back 10 times each.
- Then hold and reach until you can’t hold and reach any more.
Benefits: Again working to lubricate the shoulder joint and working all of the arms muscles here, in a way that creates long lean muscles. Also your core is forced to kick on when you reach those arms in opposing directions, and endurance by continuing to hold the arm up even after you’ve completed the whole series and are dying, you are telling your muscles that they can and must hold on!