Arm Dancing Is the Key to Getting Ballerina-Strong Arms—Try These 3 Moves to Get You Started

Photo: Getty Images/JGI and Jamie Grill
American singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins wrote the lyrics, "everybody cut loose, footloose" for the 1984 film (must I specify?) Footloose. Almost 40 years later, Bomont has been conquered, the movie's remake has been released to mixed reviews, and now it's time we start setting loose our other limbs. Meet arm dancing, the dancer-approved way to strengthen your arms without picking up a single weight.

"Every style of dance has a type of 'arms,' in both aesthetic and movement," says Donna Flagg, a dancer, ballerina, and stretching instructor at New York's Broadway Dance Center. "You could take any of them and create an upper body workout, but 'arm dancing' per se is an unweighted exercise for your arms."

By moving for a sustained period of time (anywhere between one to 10 minutes), you work up a burn that runs from your shoulders to your fingertips. "You’ll see really great shoulder development because the weight of the arms challenges the shoulders’ strength the most," explains Flagg. That's because you target the teeny, tiny muscles of your upper arms, forearms, and shoulders that help you perform everyday tasks like carrying your grocery bags.

"Arms can be heavy if you don’t put them down for a rest," says Flagg. "So that is where the resistance comes into play." If you've ever French-braided your hair and felt the sheer torture of pulling off the ornate work with your hands overhead, you know exactly what I mean.

That's enough talking—let's get to the arm dancing with 3 moves to get you started

1. Up and downs

Fairly straight forward, this move involves standing up and extending your arms into a T-shape. Then, simply move them down five inches, and back up.

2. Arm circles

If you've watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, then you may already know arm circles by heart. But if you haven't, the instructions are simple enough to figure out. Extend your arms out to the side and draw circles in the air with your fingers clockwise, then counterclockwise.

3. Swimmers

"Put your arms straight out in front of you and open them straight to the side. Your arms are going to start to feel very heavy and the key is to not let them bend or collapse," says Flagg.

Dance your heart out:

If your legs need to stretch too, try stretches for your hamstrings or quads

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