Those hoping for shapely shoulders, toned biceps, and streamlined triceps this season may be surprised to learn that the best route to the arms you want is to focus on other muscle groups, too. “Training in isolation and expecting great results is a mistake,” explains Los Angeles–based trainer Gunnar Peterson, who is behind the perfectly sculpted limbs of Kendall Jenner and Ciara. “You have to change the body as a whole.” For such transformations to occur, Peterson challenges his clients to a series of weighted exercises that force the body to constantly adapt, and sculpt itself accordingly. It’s a method also practiced by New York City–based fitness guru Don Saladino, who helps Blake Lively and Scarlett Johansson maintain their aspirational silhouettes. Like Peterson, he believes that circuit work is best supported by interval cardio training, such as running—noting that a boosted heart rate will burn fat and strengthen your muscles simultaneously, revealing the most idyllic shape without bulking the body. Beyond dumbbells and the treadmill, there are plenty of fitness classes that blend metabolic work with arm-toning moves. Here are five of the best ways to break a sweat, because, as Peterson says, the ultimate workout is the one you like, and therefore will do.
Models from Cara Delevingne to Gigi Hadid swear by the results of this intense workout. Saladino likes it for its metabolism-boosting cardio benefits, which are coupled with resistance training. “When you’re striking a bag, you are tensing your muscles, flexing and extending against the impact of the bag, all the while getting your heart rate to a high level.” The result? Strong, shapely arms.
Whether pulling the water in freestyle or pushing it in backstroke, you’ll challenge your entire upper body while you whittle your waist with rotational movements and tighten your legs with strong, steady kicks. For the best results, Saladino says, go for “fast [paced], serious” laps that cover short distances. “That’s interval training.”
Available in many gyms, these weighted riggings, which are anchored to a wall or sturdy beam on one end, require strength and stability when maneuvered up and down, side to side, or in and out quickly—making them one of the best sculptors for your biceps, triceps, and back. “This is an intense way to attack the upper body while also getting your heart rate to a high threshold,” says Saladino.
Peterson starts his upper-body workouts by first turning on large lower-body muscle groups through lunges or squats with enough weight resistance to cause fatigue at the end of twelve reps. Next, he moves through a series of four arm circuits that incorporate shoulders, back, and chest (think: close-grip push-ups, wide-grip push-ups, overhead shoulder presses, and bicep curls), followed by holding a plank for 30 seconds—because “if you just focus on biceps and triceps, you’re missing the boat.”
“There’s a lot of flexion and extension going on,” says Saladino of this full-body indoor workout, which is experiencing a revival thanks to boutique gyms like New York’s City Row and The Orange Theory. While targeting all angles of the shoulders, chest, and arms, it also strengthens the core and legs. If breaking a sweat outdoors is your preference, spring’s warmer weather offers plenty of opportunities to take things outside.
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