5 Pilates Exercises That Will Give You Toned Arms

Pilates is a great total-body workout that can tone each and every muscle. It even has other health benefits, such as improving cognitive function and easing back pain. If you’ve never tried Pilates before, it’s something to consider. All you need is a basic gym mat and a set of weights that are between one and three pounds. If you’re looking to get toned arms, these are some Pilates exercises you should definitely try.

1. Arm circles

Athletic woman in sports clothes

Arm circles are great for strengthening your arm and shoulder muscles. | iStock.com/Milan Markovic

This move may seem basic, but Livestrong.com mentions it’s effective and a great way to warm up your shoulders. Arm circles also help tone your biceps, forearms, and triceps. Get started by standing with your legs close together, heels touching, and toes pointed out to create a “V” stance. Letting your arms hang, begin to draw small circles from your shoulders as you raise your arms toward the ceiling. Reverse the direction of the circles as you lower your arms back to the starting position. Add weights to increase resistance.

2. Boxing

woman working out with some dumbbells

Boxing can be performed with or without light weights for increased resistance. | iStock.com/Antonio_Diaz

This move is more than just the average bend of the hips and punch of the arms. According to Shape, during Pilates, you can supercharge the basic move with light weights. Bend your body forward, leaning your chest toward the ground so it’s parallel to the floor. Slightly bend your knees, resting your weight on the heels of your feet and making sure your knees don’t go past your toes. From here, extend your right arm straight in front of you, palm facing down, and your left arm straight back, palm facing up. Both arms should be parallel to the ground. Switch sides in a swift, controlled motion and repeat. Make sure that you keep your core tight to work your ab muscles as well.

3. Pilates push-up

woman doing push-ups in gym

Pilates push-ups are difficult yet effective. | iStock.com

The main difference between a Pilates push-up and a regular push-up is the way that you bend your arms. HuffPost says you should start this move in a plank position, arms straight and right below your shoulders. Keep your feet close together. Then, you’ll want to bend your elbows to start your push-up, keeping them as close to your core as possible. You should feel your triceps working if you’re doing this move correctly. Once you’ve bent your elbows as far as they can go without rounding your back or sticking your butt toward the ceiling, bring your body back to starting position. Repeat eight to 10 times.

4. Shaving

Athlete with kettlebell

This move tons your triceps and shapes your shoulders. | iStock.com/Chris_Tefme

If you’re looking for a move that will tone your triceps and shoulders, shaving is a great exercise to complete. Prevention says says it also works your back, core, and your legs. During this exercise, you’ll move your arms in a motion as if you’re shaving your head.

You should be standing with your legs hip-width apart, weights in hand. Slightly bend your knees and lean your upper body forward, so it’s at about a 45-degree angle. Raise your arms straight and up above your head with your palms facing forward. This is the starting position. Next, bend your elbows to bring your hands toward your head. With that motion in mind, extend your arms back up to starting position, completing one repetition. For one set, complete 10 to 12 reps.

5. Zip-up

A female gym instructor demonstrating an upright row

Your arms will thank you after this challenging exercise. | iStock.com/Craig Swatton

The zip-up, also known as the upright row according to PopSugar, will help tone your upper arms and shoulders. Start this move standing straight with your feet hip-width apart. Hold one weight in each hand, arms down in front of you with your palms facing your body.  To start the move, bring your arms up, pointing your elbows outward as you bend them. Raise the weights up by your chest, reaching as close to your chin as you can get. This motion should be like you’re zipping a zipper. Push straight back down to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 12 reps for one set.