Why I Am Not Afraid to Train My Arms + Upper Body Sculpting Burnout Circuit

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In my primary school years, I absolutely hated gym class. I especially hated the statewide fitness tests my gym teachers gave us. They picked students one by one for critiques on pullups and pushups in front of the entire class. Those with gifted athletic abilities, mostly boys, showboated in front of their peers. But for someone like me, gym tests proved to be pure humiliation. I could barely even lift my body off the ground to pull myself up for one push up.

In my middle and high school gym classes, it was normal for males to outperform girls in these kinds of strength exercises but abnormal for females to closely rival boys in the same fitness categories. Even in my fitness electives, like dance, female teachers shied away from upper body exercises in warm-ups or routines.

About two years into my fitness journey, I began to lift weights to tone and gain muscle. I started to train my lower half, then my upper body. My posture changed, I started to move heavy furniture, took only one trip up the stairs with handfuls of groceries instead of two, and could complete push-ups on the fly. With the change in my strength abilities, came a boost in confidence. I began to lift, push, and pull objects I could not before.

I now recognize, gendered body stereotypes were nurtured within my primary school fitness curriculum— females should never lift heavy or look too muscular. If I knew the power in lifting heavy in my younger years, I would have adopted the kind of confidence to always push harder, run faster, and sweat heavier.

I now aim to specifically train my upper body, core, and back at least two to three times a week. This is an upper body circuit I weave into my weekly exercise regimen. Complete each move with 10-15 repetitions and minimal rest in between, three to four times through. This workout targets the abdominal and upper body muscles and intertwines a bit of cardio. I find the incorporation of multiple body muscles, even in a targeted muscle workout, like arms, is super beneficial in improving overall fitness adeptness. Simply put, this is way better than aimless push ups and pull ups. In my experience, the more dynamic the moves, the better the workout. Get your sweat on, sisters!

One-Handed Dumbbell Press

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Using a dumbbell that will challenge you, start with the weight at shoulder height in one hand with palms facing towards you. Use your core and upper body strength to push the dumbbell up, while rotating it so your palms now face forward. Bring the weight back down to shoulder height and repeat on the other side. Here, I use 10 pounds.

Walk Down + Shoulder Tap

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Starting with feet hip-width apart, walk your body down into a push-up position, then tap each shoulder with your hand. Walk yourself back up by using both your core and arms.

Tricep Hip-Dips

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Use two dumbbells, sturdy enough to balance upright on and set them hip-width apart. Set your hands on the tops, pointing towards your body, while bending your legs at a 90-degree angle out in front of you. Bend your arms so that your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and push down, then up with your hands, then fully straighten your arms. This move can also be performed without dumbbells if you are not yet comfortable with this addition.

Ventral Raises

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A favorite of mine. Pick a weight heavy enough to create resistance, but light enough where you can complete the reps. You should be struggling towards the end of the repetitions. Start with the weight in front of you on your thighs with palms facing toward you. Using your core and upper body strength, raise the weights out in front of you to shoulder height, then back down. You should never flail your arms or use momentum. Slow and controlled motions here. I am using 8 pounds per hand.

High Knees

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Straighten your arms into the air and drive one knee up to ab level and back down while simultaneously bringing your other leg back up. Repeat this movement as quickly as you can. Remember to land softly and stay in one place.

Spider Planks

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I love this movement! This move targets the abs and upper body muscles. Start in a push-up position, feet hip-width apart. Then slide your foot up and out behind yourself. You will want to use a towel on your feet or wear socks to perform this move, as the objective is to slide your foot into position so most of the work will be felt in your abs and arms. Repeat 10-15 reps on each side.

Scissor Kicks

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With your lower back pressed to the floor, contract your abs and in a slow and controlled motion, begin to lift one leg up and above yourself while simultaneously hovering your right leg above the ground. As you bring your left leg down, bring your right leg up and alternate, mirroring a scissor motion. Keep your arms at your sides, to help stabilize yourself. To avoid straining your neck cross your arms back behind your head for support.

Push Ups

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Using two sturdy dumbbells to support yourself, begin in push up position. Feel free to position yourself on your knees for extra support. Push yourself down using your core and upper body muscles and back up.

How often do you train your arms, sweat sisters? How did you like this workout. Share in the comments below.

Mecca Russell, a rising senior at The New School in New York City, studies Journalism & Design. Both her coursework and internship experience reflect the intersections of reporting, photo, and documentary. She enjoys storytelling through mediums of film, writing, and photography and is inspired by journalism's power to tell untold stories. She's contributed to Teen Diaries & Pretty Girls Sweat as a weekly writer and reporter. When she is not editing or writing, Mecca is often found browsing through books at your local bookstore, sipping a matcha latte, or dripping in sweat after a HIIT and strength training workout in the early mornings. Mecca is also a singer-songwriter and can be found gigging around her city quite frequently. She looks forward to learning new ideas everyday and is always up for a challenge!