Want to amp up your arm workout? Hit the floor


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Photo: Patrick MacLeod Photography

You definitely want strong arms (you know, so that you can lift things and open pickle jars). But the traditional means to achieving that end can be a little, well, boring. Honestly—who wants to do bicep curls or tricep dips or straight-up push-ups for 20-minutes straight?

The good news is that you don’t have to burn-out your arms that way. The secret, according to Obe trainer Amanda Kloots? Do arm workouts on your knees. “I find that if you are on your knees doing arms, it’s harder because you don’t have your legs to help you, so you really isolate the muscle and you have to really just focus on using your arms,” she says. “When you have your legs and your feet planted on your floor and your knees bent, you have the support of your lower body, and you can use your lower body to help you move your arms up and down. But when you go down on those knees, you don’t have that—so you really put all that weight into your arms.”

Essentially, when you take your arm workout to the floor, you’re making it more efficient by isolating the muscles since the rest of your body can’t help you out. Kloots likes to use this method to target deltoids, triceps, and lats—sometimes all at once. “I was a dancer my whole life, so I’ve always been trained to use your back muscles to lift your arms, and that’s killing two birds with one stone because then you’re toning your back at the same time you’re lifting your arms,” she says. “I’m really a proponent of using your back to lift your arms.”

One thing to keep in mind no matter which arm exercise you’re doing from half-height: Be sure to take it very, very slowly. “I feel like a lot of times, people tend to just rush through something… and you’re not really thinking about how you can work the muscle in the most efficient way,” says Kloots. “So if you do them nice and slow and really think of keeping your elbows up, really lengthening or using your back and really working form underneath to use your arms, I just find it a better way to work your arms.”

Here are a few of Kloots’ favorite moves worth dropping it low for:

Tricep extensions (with an optional pulse): Keep your elbows pinched by your sides in “chicken wing position,” and extend them in and out, holding your elbows high. To make it more challenging, add a few teeny, tiny pulses at the end of your extension, then pull your arms back in and do it again.

Deltoid raises: Working your deltoids requires keeping your shoulders down, and bringing your arms out straight or to the side. “When you do those over and over again, just burning out that muscle and muscle endurance, it starts to really get painful, but in a good way,” says Kloots.

No weights? No problem. Try these 11 arm exercises that don’t require any weights at all. And for more of Kloots’ genius fitness trips (seriously, she’s a pro) check out this 10-minute toning workout she swears by.

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