Many women spend so much time on their abs and glutes, they neglect a regular upper body workout. And then it’s tank top weather and you realize your belly isn’t the only part of you that has a little more jiggle than you’d like. Not only are sculpted arms and a toned back sexy, discovering your own strength makes you radiate power and confidence. Just take a look at Michelle Obama, whose fondness for sleeveless frocks scandalized conservatives. In 2008 no less! In a 2009 NY Times op-ed, Maureen Dowd wrote, “Lets face it: The only bracing symbol of American strength right now is the image of Michelle Obamas sculpted biceps.” If you want to get inspired, check out her #GimmeFive FLOTUS Style video showing five ways she gets moving.

Another reason some women may avoid upper body workouts is that they’re concerned strength training and weights will make them too bulky. Forget that excuse! Have you ever seen anyone, male or female, who builds giant muscles without trying? And since we have much lower testosterone levels than men, it’s even harder for women to bulk up. Sticking to that upper body workout will improve your posture, make your waist look smaller and make you feel like the powerful woman you are.

Read Related: Adequately Armed: 12 Arm Exercises for Women


Flabby upper arms are most women’s main focus when it comes to upper body workouts. Your tricep muscles are the key to toning up that chicken wing. According to a study by ACE Fitness, triangle push-ups are the best way to target that area. Kickbacks and dips rounded out the top three. Back fat is another constant battle. Prevention magazine says the lat pull-down is the most effective way to target that area. When it comes to equipment-free bodyweight exercises, push-up and planks are great for your arms and your core.


If weights aren’t your thing, you’ve got lots of other options. Yoga is an excellent upper body workout, especially poses like downward dog, chaturanga and upward dog. For a long, lean graceful look check out Mary Helen Bowers’, of Ballet Beautiful fame, Swan Arms move.

If you live near the water — or belong to a gym with a pool and rowing machines — swimming a rowing are both excellent ways to work your entire upper body.