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If someone had told our ten-year-old selves that in 15 years we’d want nothing more than to show off the sculpted arms of a dancer, perhaps we never would have hung up our ballet slippers. Unfortunately that ship has sailed, and you couldn’t pay us to don a leotard in a ballet class. But that doesn’t mean we’re willing to give up on the dream of dancer arms. So we called in Grace Lazenby. As the owner of Rockin’ Models, a workout focused on creating feminine physiques and available exclusively at Equinox, Lazenby has plenty of experience in sculpting long, lean limbs, and she assured us we can get them without learning a dance routine.
Keep scrolling for the 5 moves that’ll give you ballerina arms!
The Chaturanga is a pose that is often seen in vinyasa yoga classes. It incorporates both the plank pose and upward-facing dog. It strengthens and tones the arms and shoulders, as well as the core and back muscles. “This position is a perfect starting point to open up the upper body and lengthen the arms,” Lazenby says. “It is allows every muscle in the upper body to work at once, but avoid doing too many, which will build up the back muscles.”
- Begin in a plank pose, with your body in a straight line and your elbows over your wrists.
- Lower your body to hover a few inches above the floor, keeping your core tight and body in straight alignment. Try to get your elbows at a 90 degree bend.
- Hold for 10-15 seconds.
- Push into Upward Facing Dog, with your chest up and hips down.
- Push into Downward Dog, with your hips up and arms on the floor in front of you.
- Perform three to four cycles of Chaturanga.
This exercise is a small movement, but it creates big results. “This will create striated muscle definition in the upper body. It also works the bicep muscle in a lengthening motion,” says Lazenby.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. To work your core, you could also sit on a balance ball during this exercise.
- Extend your arms out to either side at shoulder height, and spread your fingers wide.
- Begin pumping your arms forward about an inch as though you were pushing against a wall.
- Then switch the motion to pump down.
- Pump forward and down for 60 seconds each.
- Repeat the sequence, this time holding two-pound weights.
“This works every muscle in the upper body, but the arms are lengthened (rather than contracting) the whole time, so the result is lengthened, striated arms," says Lazenby.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Straighten both arms out to your sides at shoulder height.
- Circle your arms in a fluid motion forward, and then back.
- Complete 25 reps in each direction while keeping your shoulders and neck relaxed.
- For the second set, add two-pound weights.
Twist The Knot
“This focuses on the underarm muscle that’s so hard to reach,” Lazenby says.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms down at your sides.
- Hold a two-pound weight in each hand, with thumbs up and palms facing forward.
- Rotate your palms down and up, moving quickly.
- Perform two sets of 25 reps.
Magic Circle Squeeze
The Pilates Ring, also called the Magic Circle, is a great piece of equipment to tone and strengthen the muscles that support your shoulders, back and arms. You will even feel your core activating as your squeeze the ring. If you don't have a Pilates Ring, you can hold and squeeze a mid-sized ball instead.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or you sit with your legs in front of you.
- Hold a Pilates magic circle with your palms on the handles.
- With your arms extended out in front of you, press in on the ring
- Perform up to 50 times. Then rest, stretch out your shoulders, and repeat.
Sample Set Circuit
“I like to alternate and interval the exercises to create muscle confusion,” Lazenby says. She gave us a sample set of one of the many ways you can run through this routine:
3-4 Chaturangas with Downward Dog + 1 set of Butterflies + 1 set of Circles + 2 sets of Twist the Knot + 1 set of Magic Circle Squeeze + 1 set of Butterflies + 1 set of Circles.
Create your sequence or add a few of these moves into your existing workout. Either way you’ll be sculpting the lean lines of a dancer.