Try This Arm Workout If You Want Michelle Obama's Arms

The former First Lady has some seriously impressive tri's and bi's. Try this Michelle Obama arms workout to get White House–worthy guns yourself.

Michelle Obama flexing her arms in the middle of a speech
Photo: Ethan Miller/Staff/Getty Images

Let's get one thing straight: There's much more to Michelle Obama than her arms. She's an attorney with demonstrated success balancing an influential career with being a great wife and mother. She fought for access to healthy food and LGBTQIA+ rights as the former First Lady. She's written a memoir, Becoming; released a documentary with the same name; and spearheads a production company with her husband.

Basically, she's strong in many ways — including physically. Seriously, look at Michelle Obama's arms. You can see her proudly show them off (as she should) in sleeveless dresses at formal functions, on the covers of magazines, and on tour for her book. It's clear that she puts a lot of hard work and effort into maintaining her strength, and in fact, Obama has said she's been an avid exerciser for years.

So, what makes Michelle Obama’s arms so spectacular? The answer is threefold: defined shoulders, strong biceps, and tight triceps. And if you want to work those muscle groups for Obama-esque arm gains, look no further. Try this quick workout that effectively targets all three and you'll feel strong like Michelle Obama in no time.

01 of 06

The Michelle Obama Arm Workout

Michelle Obama running outdoors

How to do it: Complete these 5 exercises 3 times a week (it only takes 15 minutes!). Do this entire sequence twice without pausing between exercises. In two weeks, you should begin to notice stronger arms, shoulders, and upper back muscles.

You’ll need: A pair of dumbbells; 3- or 5-pounds for beginners and 8- to 10-pound for more advanced exercisers. Two of the moves only use your body weight as resistance, which is actually even more challenging on your muscles than using dumbbells. (These best bodyweight exercises will convince you this is true!)

02 of 06

Sun Salutation

an exerciser in the middle of a sun salutation

Contrary to what you might think, yoga can be more than a gentle, head-clearing walk in the park. "You're lifting your own bodyweight in some poses," which works your arms, says Kathy Smith, a personal trainer in Park City, Utah. "The hour class passes and you don't even realize you've spent half the class on your hands, holding poses such as Chaturanga (aka triceps push-up) and downward facing dog," she notes.

A. Stand with feet together, big toes touching and heels slightly apart (outer edges of feet are parallel). Relax arms on either side of body, palms open.

B. Inhale, lifting arms straight up, and place palms together to form a prayer sign overhead. Exhale, taking prayer hands down midline of body while folding into a forward bend.

C. Inhale, coming to a long, flat spine with fingertips on the ground.

D. Exhale, then plant palms shoulder-width apart on the ground.

E. Jump back to Chaturanga (hold body halfway between a plank and the ground, like a triceps push-up, where elbows graze the ribcage).

F. Inhale, pulling chest through arms, and flip the tops of feet to the mat to land in upward-facing dog.

G. Exhale, flipping over toes, lifting hips — keeping legs long — and pressing chest back between arms. Reach heels toward the ground for downward dog.

H. Inhale, pressing high onto the balls of feet, softening knees, and looking between hands. Exhale, piking hips up and jumping to the front of the mat.

I. Inhale to a long flat spine, and exhale to a forward bend.

J. Inhale, hinging from hips with a long spine to come up to standing position. Reach arms all the way up to high prayer, above head. Exhale prayer to the center of the chest.

Do 6 reps of this flow.

03 of 06

Shoulder Press

an exerciser at the gym doing a dumbbell shoulder press
Mike Harrington/Getty Images

A bonus benefit of emulating Michelle Obama's arms workout is that these moves can help strengthen your back muscles for better posture too. "Muscles such as the rhomboids and rear deltoids are the 'forgotten' muscle groups because you can't see them in the mirror," says Smith. "If you don't strengthen them too, then your upper body won't be strong," she notes.

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees not locked, with core engaged. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, just outside of shoulders, with palms facing forward, and elbows in a goalpost shape.

B. Exhale and press dumbbells directly overhead, stacking wrists directly over shoulders, biceps next to ears.

C. With control, lower the dumbbells and follow the same path to return to starting position.

Do 8 to 12 reps.

04 of 06

Dumbbell Curls

a fitness instructor demonstrating how to do a biceps curl
Peter Ardito

Sometimes, the classic move is the best. In this case, a simple biceps curl with dumbbells really does give you the best bang for your buck as an upper body move.

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart with knees soft and core engaged.

B. Holding dumbbells in hands with wrists flexed, form a straight line from knuckles to elbow.

C. Engage biceps to curl the dumbbells up to almost shoulder height (moving just the lower half of the arm).

D. With control, lower back to the bottom of the movement to complete the rep.

Do 8 to 12 reps.

05 of 06

Triceps Dip

an exerciser demonstrating a triceps dip

No equipment? No problem. This Michelle Obama arm exercise strengthens the backs of your arms using just your body weight as resistance.

A. Sit on a stable chair with hands on the edge next to hips, fingers pointing forward.

B. Press into palms to extend arms, lift hips off the bench, and step feet a few inches forward to shift hips in front of the seat.

C. Inhale and bend elbows straight back (don’t allow elbows to flare out) to lower body until elbows form a 90-degree angle.

D. Exhale and press into palms. Engage triceps and straighten arms to return to starting position.

Do 8 to 12 reps.

06 of 06

Staggered Push-Ups

a fitness instructor demonstrating how to do a triceps push-up
Peter Ardito

Yes, this is more intense than a run-of-the-mill push-up. With the staggered stance, you're targeting your shoulder and core mucles in a new way.

A. Start in high plank position (or in a kneeling plank as if at the top of a kneeling push-up) with hands directly under shoulders and core engaged, forming a straight, sloped line from shoulders to heels (or knees).

B. Place left hand slightly wider and a few inches more forward than standard push-up position, keeping right hand directly under shoulder.

C. Keep right elbow tucked close to side while lowering to form a 90-degree angle with arms.

D. Exhale and press into palms while straightening arms to return to starting position. Complete all reps on one side, then switch sides; repeat.

Do 8 to 12 reps per side.

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