As those who barre know, one of the first and most dramatic changes your body will undergo after only a few sessions is in the arms. Perhaps even more amazing than the sculpted barre arms themselves, is that you can achieve such impressive results with only very light (2-5 lb) weights or literally no weights at all. It’s all about the contraction deep into the muscles and it is INTENSE. Just ask my husband who can benchpress or deadlift 2 times as much as I weigh, but still struggles through a barre arms series every time. The small and sharp movements, the way we target the muscles from all angles, and the deep connection into them is one of the best ways possible to sculpt and tone the upper body from top to bottom. So today, I am bringing you a barre arms workout you can do from home, at the gym, or anywhere on the go just in time for all your LBD holiday parties!
First a couple tips:
- You’ll want to maintain good posture and stand in good alignment. Your feet should be hip distance apart and parallel to one another. Keep a soft bend in your knees and find a neutral spine/tucked position by pulling your abs in and up, reaching crown of the head to the ceiling and tailbone down to floor – this engages your core and protects your low back. Keep your neck long, shoulders pulled away from your ears and your shoulder blades pulling back towards one another and down. Try not to lean forward or back – your shoulders should be stacked right over your ribs and your ribs right over your hips.
- Your focus should be on CONTRACTION, not MOMENTUM. Try to connect deeply into the muscles rather than allowing them to swing or float. Concentrate on moving from the leader muscle first and control the movement in both directions.
- This is a quick workout that will take only approximately 7 minutes in total, but it gets intense quickly with good form. Once you go through it once you can repeat 2 – 3 more times or until fatigued or you can make it more full body by adding this to either the Park Bench Barre or the Hotel Power Half Hour workouts.
- You should shoot for about 30 seconds for each set. To make it easier than counting or thinking about the time, you can use an interval stopwatch timer on your phone or watch. I like the app “Seconds.” Try to make the transitions between sets seamless or at least as quick as possible without breaks.
The Warm Up:
- 30 Seconds. Start with your feet hip distance apart and parallel with your arms extended overhead and draw the knees to your chest, pull your abdominals in and back and lifting the crown of your head up to the ceiling to lengthen your spine. Make sure to lift from your ribs nice and tall, but keep the shoulders dropped away from your ears.
- 30 Seconds. Continue lifting the knees, with the arms up overhead but add a pulldown to your sides, leading with your elbows. Reach all the way up to the sky, keeping your shoulders low and then pull down strongly, squeezing your upper back and shoulder blades together behind you.
Set One: Bicep Curl to Overhead Press – 30 seconds
Start with your arms in a low V with your palms facing forward, your elbows slightly away from your body. Contract slowly, squeezing through the bicep to bring the weights or your fists into your shoulders without moving the elbows. Then holding the squeeze in the biceps, turn your wrist to face forward and press the arms up overhead in parallel, making sure to press your shoulders down away from your ears. Then bend the arms back to shoulder height and then slowly return down to starting position (break the movement into two, stopping briefly at the shoulders). Keep abs pulled in tightly, lifting from your ribs without pressing them forward and keep the neck long. On the last one/when the timer goes off leave your arms overhead for the next one.
Set Two: Overhead Triceps Extension, Pulse at Bottom and Pulse at Top – 30 seconds each change, 90 seconds total
Starting with arms overhead and straight, turn the palms in towards one another and glue the weights or your fists together tightly. Pull the elbows in tight to the sides of your head and don’t allow them to move or flare out as you lower them down slowly for two counts and back to starting position for two counts. Repeat for the first 30 seconds. When the timer goes off, hold the elbows bent and tight to sides of head with weights or fists toward nape of your neck and pulse the weights downward in a sharp and controlled movement like they are dragging down towards the floor. After 30 seconds are up, extend the arms back up overhead long and pulse the arms upwards with a little quiver in the muscle and then big press up to reach just a little higher each time for 30 more seconds. Keep elbows in and weights squeezing tightly, making sure that you keep your abs pulled in without any arching into the low back.
Set Three: Overhead Press and Pull Down – 30 seconds
Bring your arms back down with your elbows tight to your sides and palms facing forward. Push the shoulders down as you slowly circle arms out to the sides and all the way up overhead for two counts. Once you get to the top, pull from your upper back, sliding the shoulder blades back and down to draw the arms back out in the circular motion back to your starting position in two counts. Your arms should hit about 90 degrees on the way up and down, rather than extending too long and the losing connection to your back. You want to use continuous, fluid movements rather than two sharp movements or breaking up the work and try to think of opposing forces, keeping your shoulders down.
Set Four: Arms Extend to T with Upper Back Pull – 30 seconds
Hold the arms down with the elbows tight to the sides, but flip the palms up to face the ceiling. Slowly extend the arms out to your sides in a T for two counts, pushing the shoulders down and then squeeze the upper back tight to draw the arms all the way back in tightly for two counts. As you draw the elbows in, keep pulling the shoulder blades together and down the back. When the timer goes off, hold the arms out in the T ready for your next set.
Set Five: Lateral Shoulder Raise – 30 seconds
Starting with the arms in a T, flip the palms to face down and slowly for a count of two lower the arms down to the sides and then slowly lift them back up straight out to the sides in a T, just at shoulder height. Keep the arms stick straight and the shoulders pushing down away from your ears in both directions.
Set Six: Front Shoulder Raise – 30 seconds
Hold the arms down but bring them right in front of thighs with the palms facing back towards you. Keep the arms stick straight and slowly lift them up to shoulder height straight out in front of you for two and then lower back to starting position for two. Again, keep the neck long, abs in, arms straight and find resistance by pushing shoulders down. When the timer goes off, hold the arms lifted out in front of you with the palms facing down towards the floor.
Set Seven: Forward Row and Lateral Pulses – 30 seconds each change, 60 seconds total
Hold arms extend straight forward at shoulder height with palms facing down to the floor, keep the elbows as high as possible as you squeeze your upper back to draw the weights/fists into toward your shoulders for two and then press back out to starting point for two. Connect deeply by squeezing the shoulder blades together to drive the movement. When the timer goes off, hold the arms extend out in front of you, stick straight. Press the shoulders down as you pulse the weights up in small sharp movements, only about 1 inch working in opposition. Make sure the arms stay long with no bend in the elbow and at shoulder height.
Set Eight: Alternating High Biceps Curls – 30 seconds
Holding the arms long at shoulder height, flip the palms up to the ceiling. Keeping the elbows totally still, alternate biceps curls in towards your face with the arm that is extended staying perfectly still and long. When the time goes off, hold arms up and bend both in for your last change!
Set Nine: Shoulder Presses – 30 seconds
Keep those arm up at shoulder height! You’re almost there, make a number 11 with your arms – your elbows right in line with your shoulders and your wrists stacked right over your elbows. Try to pull the elbows in tightly towards one another and then push the weights or your fists a little further away from your head and a little higher. Push the shoulders down as you punch the arms up in opposition, keep pulling the elbows in and the neck long.
WHEW! The deeper you connect into the muscles the harder this is, so really squeeze and concentrate on the contraction to maximize your efforts and sculpt those barre arms! Repeat if you like, making sure to stretch your arms, shoulders and neck once finished.