Building Arm Strength

There are a lot of ways to develop the muscles in your arms. Here are some tips to give you real upper body strength, not just nice-looking muscles.

Having even a little bit of arm strength is important for making it through several hours of marching band rehearsal. Try these exercises to strengthen all the muscles in your arms without adding a lot of bulk.

Dip and Bridge

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet out in front of you. Place your hands on the floor behind your back with your fingertips pointed toward your toes. Lift your hips up into a flat bridge formation.

Dip down a few inches, bending through your elbows and then straighten; that is one repetition. Repeat 20 times. You should feel the muscles work at the front of the upper arms. Then turn your hands, so that your fingertips point behind you to work the backs of your upper arms.

Shoulder Fly

Use a 3- to 5-pound weight in each hand. Lift your arms up from your sides to create an airplane formation. Hold for one to two breaths. Slowly bring your arms back down. Make sure to keep your shoulders away from your ears. Repeat 10 times.

Bicep Curl With a Twist

Using the same small weights—one in each hand—start with your arms down by your sides. Curl one arm up into a bicep curl. As you release your arm, twist it to its original position down by your side. Do two reps of 10 on each side.

Push-Up Variation

Try push-ups that utilize the backs of the arms. Instead of allowing your elbows to move out to the sides as you move toward the ground, consciously squeeze your elbows in toward the sides of your body. Repeat 10 to 25 times.

Power Downward Facing Dog

To get into position, start on your hands and knees, then straighten your legs to point your tailbone toward the ceiling. Press your palms down strongly into the floor and anchor as much of your feet as possible down into the ground. Gaze at your navel or your knees. Unless you have extremely tight hamstrings, your knees should be straight but not locked. After you have spent two breaths in the posture, bend your elbows back to move from traditional downward facing dog into power downward dog. Try to maintain the pose for five breaths. Make sure that your shoulders are not crunching around your ears. Lift through your upper back and slightly squeeze your shoulder blades together.

As always, make sure to check with your doctor before starting any new kind of exercise.

About the Author

After dancing since the age of 3, Haley Greenwald-Gonella thought it was time to try a new art. In elementary school, she began playing the flute and was in the marching band in middle school and for the first two years of high school. She also played the bassoon during concert season. Dance drew Haley back while in high school. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with degrees in dance and English. She recently graduated from the University of Southern California with a master’s degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts). Haley is also a certified registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance. She draws upon her dance and yoga training when it comes to all things fitness and the arts.

About the author

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