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The Ultimate Arms and Abs Workout

Upper-Body Makeover

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This fast and effective upper-body circuit was designed to tone your arms and abs without any equipment! For best results, do the workout on two or three nonconsecutive days per week, alternating with cardio and lower-body exercises (and of course pairing it with a healthy diet).

How it works: Complete each set of exercises twice, moving quickly back and forth between the two moves, before moving on to the next set.

Set 1: Pushups and Planks
Set 2: Dips and Sits
Set 3: Side Press and Sweep
Set 4: Shoulder Pushup and Reclining Circle

Workout tip: There are a lot of pushups and pressing moves in this routine, so if you experience any wrist issues, try placing a folded towel under your palms or perform the move while holding onto a dumbbell—or modify in another way that works for you.

 

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1A: Tapping Pushup

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Kneel on a mat or towel on the floor. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, 'walk' your knees back behind your hips, and shift your weight forward into your arms. Keep your abs drawn in tight and lift your shins off the floor, curling your heels in towards your body and staying light on your knees by pressing your chest forward between your hands and lowering your hips towards the ground (without letting your lower back sag). Your body should form a straight line from your knees through the top of your head.

Bend your elbows and lower your chest all the way to the floor (maintaining a straight spine), lightly tapping your chest on the ground at the bottom of your pushup. Press away from the floor and extend your arms, returning to your starting position. That's one rep. Do 10 pushups in a row and then move right into the plank knee twist [1B].

Form tip: Be sure to bring the midline of your chest between your thumbs, and keep it there as you raise and lower with each pushup.

1B: Plank Knee Twist

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Start in a full plank position with both legs straightened behind you, feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Draw your abs in tight and bend your right knee in and across your body towards your left elbow, allowing your hips to twist. Quickly step your right foot back into plank position. Repeat with the left leg. That's one rep. Do 10 reps in a row, and then go back into your tapping pushups [1A].

Form tip: Exhale and pull your belly button in towards your spine as you draw your knee across your body, and keep your arms and shoulders strong and steady.

Try to complete 2 full sets, moving quickly back and forth between the pushup and the plank, before moving on to the next pair of exercises.

2A: Single-Leg Dip

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Start seated with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands just behind your hips, fingertips facing forward. Draw your abs in tight as you lift your hips up off the floor, pressing down through your hands. Lift your right leg and extend it straight up towards the ceiling. Bend your elbows and lower yourself to just above the floor. Quickly press back up. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps with your right leg lifted, 10 with the left, and then move right into your hovering sit up [2B].

Form tip: Emphasize the press up, not the drop down, on your dips. Try not to sink into your hands, but instead press up pushing with the backs of your arms to help alleviate any stress on the wrists.

2B: Hovering Sit Up

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Once you finished your dips, lower your hips back to the floor, bend your knees in close to your chest, lifting both feet off the ground and balancing on your sit bones. Bring both hands together and clasped behind your head, elbows bent out to the sides. Draw your abs in tight and lean back and touch your lower back on the ground, while extending both legs out, as straight as you can, away from your body (your shoulders should remain off the floor in this extended position). Squeeze your abs in tighter, and then sit back up to your starting position, using your abdominals, not momentum, to sit all the way up. That's one rep. Do 10 reps in total and then repeat your dips [2A].

Form tip: If this is too tough to do with your hands behind your head, you can try reaching your arms out towards your feet, or even placing your hands on the floor lightly behind your hips.

Try to complete 2 full sets, moving quickly back and forth between the dips and the sit ups, before moving on to the next set.

3A: Triceps Press

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Lie on your right side with both legs bent and together and your left arm bent in front of your chest, left palm pressing into the floor in front of your right shoulder. Bend your right arm under your left armpit and grab the outside of your left shoulder with your right hand. Tighten your abs, and exhale, pressing away from the floor, lifting your upper body off the ground with your left arm. Bend your left elbow and lower your body back to the floor, but only until your right shoulder lightly touches the ground. Press back up. That's one rep. Do 10 reps with the left arm, 10 with the right, and then quickly move into your side plank sweep through [3B].

Form tip: Don't 'rest' on the floor when you lower back down. Focus on pressing up with the back of your left arm and keep your abdominals engaged the entire time.

3B: Side Plank Sweep Through

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From your triceps press position, bend your left elbow underneath your shoulder, propping your upper body up. Extend both legs out straight under your hips and cross your right leg over and slightly in front of the left, pressing the inside edge of your right foot into the floor. Extend your right arm straight up towards the ceiling and lift your body off the floor, pressing up through the left side of your body, into a side plank.

Next, take your right arm and sweep it under and behind your body, reaching underneath the left side of your ribcage. As you reach through, exhale and squeeze your abdominals in tighter and allow your hips and feet to twist naturally into the movement as you reach. Then, open your right arm back up towards the ceiling, returning to your starting side plank pose. That's one rep. Try for 10 reps on the left elbow, then do 10 on the right, before going back to your triceps press [3A].

Form tip: Be sure to keep your bottom elbow directly underneath your shoulder during this move. If you feel a lot of strain in your shoulder, you may need to pull your elbow in closer to your body and focus more on lifting through the side of your torso, not your arm.

Try to complete 2 full sets, moving quickly back and forth between the triceps press and the side plank, before moving on to the next (and final) set.

4A: Shoulder Pushup

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Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Fold your body forward from your hips, bending your knees until you can reach both hands flat on the floor in front of your feet. Walk your hands out and away from your legs until your body is in an upside-down 'V' position, pressing your chest back towards your thighs, sharing your bodyweight between your arms and your legs. Extend your left leg straight up towards the ceiling. Bend both elbows and bring the top of your head closer to the mat (be sure to keep your chin into your chest so you don't strain your neck). Then, press away from the floor and straighten your arms. That's one rep. Try to do 5 with the left leg lifted, 5 with the right, before moving on to the reclining circle [4B].

Form tip: This move can be tough, so feel free to do it with both feet on the floor instead of lifting a leg. Make your shoulder pushup smaller by only slightly bending your elbows until you feel stronger and ready for more.

4B: Reclining Circle

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From your shoulder pushup, quickly lower yourself down onto the ground into a seated position, knees bent and feet flat on the floor in front of you. Lean back and lower yourself onto your elbows, keeping your fingertips facing in towards your body, with your lower back lifted off the floor. Draw your abs in and lift your feet off the floor, keeping knees bent. Maintaining a 90-degree angle with your legs, trace a circle from the right around to the left. That's one rep. Make 5 circles to the right, then do 5 to the left.

Form tip: Don't let the word ‚'reclining' fool you&mash;nothing about this move should be relaxing! Be sure to keep pressing away from the floor with your lower back and elbows as you make your circles, focus on your abdominals doing all the work to control your leg motion.

Try to complete 2 full sets, moving quickly back and forth between the shoulder pushups and the reclining circles, and then you are finished!