I am about to write a blog about Lupita Nyongo's arms, BUT . . .
I would like to say—for the record—that her performance in 12 Years A Slave, and rare humility during her acceptance speech, should be the real focus of the publicity surrounding Lupita. Do you think for an instant it ever occurred to her on the night before the Oscars, as she worried and prepared and psyched herself up, that the press surrounding her potential win would be largely speculating about what exercises she might be doing to get those sleek arms?
Anyway, to add to the ridiculous . . .
Arms are one of our Belly Bootcamp clients' most requested "target" areas. The arm-obsessed have coveted celeb arms for ages, idolizing everyone from Madonna to Michelle Obama. But since Nyong'o is the obsession du jour . . .
How do you get those Lupita arms? Well, it's more than just a few bicep curls.
1. Take a long, hard look in the mirror and determine whether you are a candidate for Lupita arms. If you are lean and fit, but still have flab on the back of your arms that could disrupt air currents if you flagged a taxi, you may never have Lupita arms. If you are 35+, you may also begin to see a shift in the way your body stores fat from the typically "female"—boobs, butt, and thighs—to more, shall we say, well-rounded fat storage, including more on the tummy, back, and arms, than ever before. If you do not gain weight, you may not notice this shift as dramatically as a woman who steadily gains weight (or suddenly gains weight) in the 30s, 40s, or beyond. Hormones have a dramatic effect on fat storage, and changing hormone levels can cause fat to be redistributed, as explained above. A person's particular hormone levels can also affect where, specifically, she tends to store fat on her body, and the arms are generally associated with higher levels of estrogen. While you can most certainly decrease the level of fat on your body overall, some pockets will be extra resistant. This all comes back to the old "stop wishing you had someone else's body because it's never going to happen" response.
2. Cardio, cardio, cardio. Whether you're in your teens or your sixties, you are a woman (probably, or else you're a man who has a crush on Lupita Nyong'o) and you have arm fat. Try saying it out loud:
"I have arm fat."
It's okay. Women have fat on their limbs because, historically—and I mean 10,000 years ago "historically," not in the 50s "historically"—women had to do less activity than men and could easily store fat on the limbs, where there is PLENTY of room for fat. Men, on the other hand, had to run after mammoths all day and needed their limbs sleek and lean and their fat on their tummies where it wouldn't interfere with swinging their arms and legs and throwing a spear. So, to remove fat from the arms, you must remove it from the body in general. Cardio is the fastest way to torch extra calories. Aim for 30-60 minutes of jogging, cycling, spinning, swimming, power-walking, inline skating, or a fitness class 3-5 times per week. Try to include more than one of those options each week and use interval training
once or twice per week.
3. Diet. I won't go into it at length, since it's technically not my area, but you should follow a moderate diet with lots of lean protein (fish, chicken, lean meats, dairy, and legumes), complex carbohydrates mostly from whole vegetable and fruit sources, plus lots of water, to help your body shed the fat, which might be masking your arm muscles right now. Cutting calories does a body slim, BUT you must eat a well-rounded diet of real foods and get plenty of fluids in order to maximize your metabolism and keep up with the training you need to do to stay healthy and get those Lupita arms.
4. What do you get when you put cardio + a restricted diet together? SKINNY FAT. You'll never get arms worthy of an Oscar dress without strength training.
The key is to train the entire body. You must perform resistance exercises for all the major muscles of the body—those on the legs, torso, and arms—at least 2-3 times per week to up your metabolism, prevent injury, and give that toned look you're hoping for. Since it is Lupita's arms that you covet, you can devote a few extra minutes to training the arms and shoulders.
Here are a few exercises I do with clients, which, done together, will provide a very well-rounded shoulder and arm workout.
Hammer Curl: Choose a dumbbell (or full water bottle or anything you can grip) between 3-12 pounds. Stand with back and upper arms against wall and feet a few inches from the wall, with arms at sides and palms facing in. Inhale, then exhale as you curl the weights upward, toward your shoulders, without removing your upper arms from the wall. In other words, no swinging. Palms should stay facing inward, not upward. Repeat 8-20 times, depending on the weight you've chosen, to the point of fatigue.
Triceps Push Up: Stand in front of a staircase and place your hands, shoulder-width apart, on a stair. The higher the stair, the easier. Keep elbows pinned back, brushing past your sides as you lower yourself toward the stair and inhale. Pause momentarily at the bottom of the push up and exhale as you press up until your arms are straight again. Do not let your elbows swing out to the side. Repeat 8-20 times to the point of fatigue. If you can comfortably perform 15-20 reps, move down a stair to increase the difficulty level.
Bent Over Flye: Choose a light dumbbell (or water bottle or can, etc.) between 3-8 pounds. Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Bend forward, maintaining a flat back with a natural arch at the lower spine (bum sticks back and up into the air). Allow arms to hang down naturally, but keep back flat. Inhale, then exhale as you raise weights out to the side, like wings, as high as possible and forming a T-shape with your torso and arms at the top of the movement. Pause and lower slowly. Repeat 8-20 times, depending on the weight you've chosen, to the point of fatigue.