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Creative Spin Class Upper Body Exercises That Only Require a Towel

It's time to ditch those tiny dumbbells. Instead, grab your sweat towel and get an equally brutal burn with these genius upper body exercises cooked up by Crank Cycling Studio in New York City.

"Towelography is actually more effective than light dumbbells," says Amanda Margusity, master instructor at Crank, who's demoing the moves below.

    "Since you're isolating the muscles with control, there's little room for error," she says, "The exercises make it easier to target individual muscle groups with greater accuracy." And even though you're not using weight, it shouldn't feel easy. If it does, pull the towel tighter to create more resistance, says Margusity.

    While these towel moves are perfect for engaging your upper body during a spin workout and building muscle endurance, they aren't designed to be used in place of heavier strength training, which will help you build muscle. (See: Do Arm Exercises In Spin Class Really Count?) Remember to work a heavier weight day—or three—into your weekly routine. (Try this three-days-a-week strength training plan for women if you don't know where to start.)

    Stop spinning for one song to bust out these moves, or do them off the bike for an anytime, anywhere arm workout suitable for all skill levels.

    How it works: Do each move for the designated number of eight counts. (While listening to music, count the beats of the song using the numbers one through eight. Once you get to eight, start over at one. Each set of eight is one "eight count".) The entire workout should last you one to two songs, depending on the length of the tracks.

    Total Time: up to 15 minutes

    You will need: Towel

    1. Extended Horizontal Pulse

    A.

    Grab both ends of the towel about shoulder-width apart. Relax the shoulders down and back and extend arms forward at shoulder height, keeping a slight bend in the elbow. Holding this position, pulse up and down. Start small then slowly make the pulses larger.

    Sets:

    1

    Reps:

    2-3 eight counts

    2. Tap Those Traps

    A.

    Grab both ends of the towel about shoulder-width apart. Relax the shoulders down and back and extend arms forward at shoulder height, keeping a slight bend in the elbow.

    B.

    Pull the towel toward chest with elbows wide, squeezing shoulder blades together. Extend arms forward to return to starting position.

    Sets:

    1

    Reps:

    2-3 eight counts

    3. Progressive Angular Twist

    A.

    Grab both ends of the towel about shoulder-width apart. Relax the shoulders down and back and extend arms forward at shoulder height, keeping a slight bend in the elbow. Twist towel to the left, raising right hand slightly and lowering left hand, then switch, twisting in the other direction.

    B.

    Start small, twisting about 10 to 20 degrees in each direction. After one eight count, progress into a medium-size twist, and for the third eight count, twist a full 180 degrees so the towel is vertical and one hand is directly over the other. Progress back to medium twists and then small twists for one eight count each for five eight counts total.

    Sets:

    1

    Reps:

    5 eight counts

    4. Flexion Raise

    A.

    Grab both ends of the towel about shoulder-width apart. Relax the shoulders down and back and extend arms forward at shoulder height, keeping a slight bend in the elbow to start.

    B.

    Slowly lift the towel overhead for one eight count, then slowly lower the towel down to starting position for one eight count.

    Sets:

    1

    Reps:

    6 eight counts

    5. Alternating Triceps Trigger

    A.

    Grab both ends of the towel about shoulder-width apart. Relax the shoulders down and back and extend arms forward at shoulder height, keeping a slight bend in the elbow. Twist the right hand down and up, ending with your palm facing you and the towel wrapped around the back side. Then flip palm toward the center of the towel so palm faces forward.

    B.

    Repeat on the left side so the towel is taut and hands are side by side. Relax shoulders down and back and keep a slight bend in both elbows. Holding this position, push right hand slightly forward. Then switch, pushing left hand forward. Start slow, then speed up, alternating each side.

    C.

    To make it more advanced, pull the towel in toward chest, elbows in tight to sides. Extend arms forward to return to starting position.

    Sets:

    1

    Reps:

    2-3 eight counts

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