When you think Pilates, you probably think core strength, but this less-than-30-minute circuit does double duty giving you a strong upper body, too.
We *all* want a strong upper body: Building strength in your biceps, lats, tris, back, and other muscles not only helps you in the gym (unassisted pull-up, anyone?) but also in your day-to-day routine (read: carrying your baby in between errands, carrying a heavy backpack during a long hike).
And usually, we turn toward traditional, tried and true moves—push-ups, dips (FYI: tricep dips are an upper-body move you should master ASAP), planks, and more—to get stronger.
But here’s a new idea: For a strong upper body, steal some of Pilates’ go-to moves. Not only is Pilates a known core-strengthener (that’s prenatal friendly, to boot!), it’s also a solid way to sculpt a strong upper body.
This Pilates-inspired workout targets your arms, shoulders, back, and abs using dumbbells and a resistance band to mimic Reformer-style moves and add a new twist to traditional mat favorites. (Related: The Megaformer-Inspired Pilates Workout to Sculpt and Tone)
You’ll work key muscle groups of the upper body (and the core!) and leave the gym one step closer to that strong upper body you’ve been after. Boom.
How it works: Three or four non-consecutive days a week, do each move without resting. Repeat the entire circuit 3 times total.
Total Time: up to 30 minutes
1. Front Scoop
Stand in Pilates 'V' position with heels pressed together, toes turned out naturally from hips, inner thighs squeezed together, and core braced. Hold dumbbells in front of hips, palms facing up and elbows bent behind body.
Extend arms in front of body in line with shoulders (maintaining a slight bend in elbows), keeping abs braced in tight and shoulders stacked over hips.
2. Triceps Extender
Stand in Pilates 'V' position. Extend arms overhead holding dumbbells, palms facing away from body, and rise onto toes.
Lower heels and bend arms, opening elbows out to sides and lowering dumbbells behind head, lightly shaving back of head with fingertips (drop chin slightly toward chest to avoid neck strain). Keep spine neutral and core braced in tight.
3. Rowing Series
Sit with legs extended, spine neutral (bend knees slightly if needed to maintain spinal alignment), feet flexed and pressed together, hands holding each end of a flat resistance band wrapped around arches of feet.
Pull abs in deep toward spine and round forward, squeezing shoulder blades back and together while reaching arms back (imagine trying to press palms together behind back).
4. Band Arm Extension
Anchor a flat resistance band about a foot above the floor. Lie faceup with toes pointed away from the anchor point. Hold each end of the band, elbows bent 90 degrees, squeezing arms in by sides, palms facing legs. Engage core and lift legs up to tabletop position with knees bent 90 degrees over hips, keeping spine neutral.
Extend arms and lift head, neck, and shoulder blades off the floor, curling up over the top of ribcage, gazing forward at legs. (Increase intensity by extending legs 45 degrees from the floor.) Bend elbows back to 90 degrees and lower head to the floor.
5. Upper Back Hinge
Anchor a flat resistance band about a foot above the floor. Kneel facing anchor point, knees hip-width apart and toes pointed. Hold each end of the band, arms extended low in front of body.
Hinge back at knees as far as possible, keeping spine neutral and abs tight, bending elbows 90 degrees out to the sides of shoulders, and squeezing shoulder blades back and together (imagine trying to grasp a pencil between them).
6. V Press
Sit with knees bent, holding each end of a flat resistance band wrapped underneath arches of flexed feet. Engage abs and lift legs up into a bent-knee 'V' sit, feet in line with knees and elbows bent in front of chest with palms facing in.
Extend legs as straight as possible, pointing toes, and extend arms up, pressing band overhead (body should resemble a letter 'V'). Hold for one second. Bend arms and legs to return to bent-knee 'V' sit position.