Spoiler alert: Celebrities maintain their killer bodies with a little—nay, a lot—of help from folks like personal trainers, private chefs, aestheticians, and maybe even a plastic surgeon or two, which is why we’re not always in the habit of comparing ourselves to their impossible-to-achieve physiques. Still, with winter getaways hopefully on the horizon, we’ve got fitness on the brain—namely, how to get strong, lean, star-quality arms. Turns out, it’s not so impossible after all—but it will take a little effort.
“There are a couple of simple things to remember [if you want] sexy lean arms,” says Minna Ajo, a personal trainer at Crunch’s Union Square location in New York. “Don’t be afraid of heavy weights, and you need to do exercises where you’re pushing weight away from your body to work shoulders, chest, and triceps; and pulling weight toward your body to work back and biceps.”
In terms of heavy lifting, Ajo points out that most women have a misconception that weights will make them bulk up—which isn’t always the case. “Lifting heavier weight actually burns more calories and therefore burns more fat,” she said. “Look at the First Lady, Michelle Obama, she kicks ass—literally. She boxes, she lifts, and her arms are incredible.”
When working out with free weights, Ajo suggests choosing dumbbells by feel for the first round of whichever reps you choose, then pushing yourself to go five pounds heavier for the second.
Don’t have access to dumbbells or a barbell? Not a problem! Ajo suggests engaging in calisthenics—which is really just a fancy name for exercises that use your own body weight. She suggests performing a circuit of the following for four rounds and 10 to 12 reps: push-ups, pull-ups, planks, and dips
If you’re more into yoga and Pilates like Miley Cyrus or Madonna, Ajo says to embrace it—but not to overlook the benefits of strength training if you’re serious about toning your arms.
“Both yoga and Pilates involve a lot of exercising where you’re pushing weight away from your body, but remember: To gain overall strength and round sexy shoulders, you also want to be doing exercises where you’re pulling,” she said.
Whether your goal is to build strong, ultra-toned arms like the aforementioned First Lady, Jessica Biel, Charlize Theron, or Viola Davis, or you’d rather go for a longer, lither look like Miley, Karlie Kloss, Kerry Washington, or Ashley Madekwe, follow the above tips—then check out these 50 photos that’ll 100 percent serve up all the inspo you’ll need to get your guns into gear this season.