Your arms will look better in strappy tops and sleeveless dresses with these moves.
If you’ve struggled to develop upper body strength, let’s just say that physiology isn’t on your side. You need to build muscle to gain strength, and the former is difficult for women, no thanks to the lack of testosterone. This hormone is largely responsible for muscle growth, and women have only about a tenth of it compared to men.
Research has shown that the difference in strength between men and women is more apparent when it comes to the upper body. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that men have 40 per cent more upper body strength and 33 per cent more lower body strength than women.
But not all is lost. Those “bat wing” arms can become a thing of the past with the right form of exercise. Yoga is great because it builds strength without adding bulk – you won’t need to worry about getting too muscular. Plus, strength training in itself is a good thing; the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism.
Ready to get started? Here are the best yoga moves to sculpt your upper back, shoulders and arms.
(Also read: Do This 8-Minute Workout To Get Rid Of Flabby Arms)
Start in a table top position. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Step your feet back, bringing your heels above your toes. Push the ground away with your hands while toning your belly and lifting the front of your thighs to keep your body parallel to the mat. Stay for five breaths.
Scale it up: Move into Forearm Plank by lowering your right forearm onto the mat, followed by your left forearm. Keep your shoulders directly above your elbows. Hold for five breaths before coming back up to High Plank.
Scale it down: Place knees down onto the mat.
Start in High Plank. Inhale, lean forward so that your shoulders move past your wrists. Exhale, bend your elbows 90 degrees and lower your chest towards the mat while keeping your core engaged. Hug your elbows in and point the tops of your shoulders forward (don’t let them droop down towards the mat). Hold for at least one breath and push back up to High Plank.
Scale it up: Hold the pose for five breaths.
Scale it down: Place knees down onto the mat.
(Also read: Get Strong Arms The Sandra Riley Tang Way)
Start in High Plank. Walk your feet together. Roll onto the outer edge of your right foot. Stack your left foot on top of the right, keeping both legs straight. Push the ground away with your right hand and extend the left arm up towards the ceiling. Don’t let your hips sink down towards the mat. Stay for five breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Scale it up: Lift the top leg as high up as you can while maintaining your balance.
Scale it down: Keep your bottom leg extended, bend your top knee and step your top foot in front of your body, aligning it with your hips.
Downward Facing Dog
Start in High Plank. On an exhale, push back into a Downward Facing Dog. Lift your forearms, externally rotate your upper arms and draw your shoulders back. Press down on your finger pads to lengthen your spine and lift your hips up. Ground your heels down towards the mat. Stay for five breaths.
Scale it up: Move into a three-legged dog by lifting your right leg up. Flex your lifted foot, reach your heel back and point your toes towards the mat. Keep hips square.
Start in a table top position. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Lower your forearms onto the mat. Tuck your toes in and lift your hips up. Straighten your legs and walk your feet towards your hands as far forward as you can, keeping your shoulders directly over your elbows. Stay for five breaths.
Scale it up: Lift one leg up towards the ceiling. Stay for five breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Start in a squat position and place your hands onto the mat about shoulder-width apart. Lift your heels off the mat so that you’re on the balls of your feet. Place your knees as high up as you can onto the back of your triceps. Bend your elbows, round your back and shift your weight forward into your hands till you can lift one foot off the mat and then the other. Pull your belly in and squeeze the inner edges of your feet together. Stay for five breaths.
Scale it down: Lift only one foot off the mat. Stay for five breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Start in a standing position with your hips a little wider than hip distance. Fold forward and tuck your shoulders behind your legs. Place your hands on the mat behind your heels. Bend your knees and your elbows and sit back onto your arms. Lift your feet, straighten your legs and spread your toes. Then straighten your arms. Pull your belly in and squeeze your thighs against your arms. Stay for five breaths.
Writer Zarelda Marie Goh is a certified alignment-based hatha yoga teacher based in Perth, Australia.