The Workout Hack That Toned My Arms in 3 Weeks


Courtesy of Victoria Hoff

I used to think there were two possible subtexts when it comes to those #fitspo-y “get toned fast” workouts: A) This doesn’t actually work, and B) it works, but you’ll push yourself to the brink of misery and despair in the process. Pick your poison.

I’ve experienced both (and can certainly vouch for the effectiveness of the latter). And yet, in spite of my better judgment, I’ve still never failed to present my unrealistic demands to trainers and experts, in the hopes that one of them would suddenly whip out the secret to a killer physique in minimal time that still caters to my #lazygirl ways.

“I want to add a lot more definition to my arms in three weeks,” I informed Lauren Rounds, an Equinox trainer in NYC earlier this fall. “But I also don’t want to feel like I’m dying the entire time.” I thought I would be met with the usual dubious yet sympathetic look—what I call the Oh, honey, no—but Lauren just genuinely smiled. “I think we can make that happen,” she said. The secret to getting toned fast, I would find out, is actually slowing down.

Now it was my turn to be doubtful, but as we dove into our first session, she explained her strategy. “We’re going to do something called tempo training,” she said. “It’s a really efficient way to build muscle in a really short amount of time.” Basically, she explained, we would be doing a souped-up approach to push-ups: Instead of just straightforward reps, I would be deconstructing each push-up into parts—up, hold, and back down again—and count out each part in a very specific way. In our case, it was up-two-three, hold for one, down-two-three, hold for one. (You can see some variations on this technique in the video below.)