Warm weather is here, which means it’s sundress and bikini season. But it’s not just about looking good on the beach or in a halter—you need strong arms to get through those summer intensive classes and Nationals performances, too! “Upper body strength is important for dancers,” says dancer, personal trainer and NYC-based Physique 57 instructor Jessica Rochwarger. “We focus so much on our lower bodies, but it’s crucial to find balance. You need strong muscles for beautiful port de bras and to stay strong during partner work.”
Sculpting shapely arms doesn’t mean you have to spend hours lifting heavy dumbbells or bench-pressing your pas de deux partner. Instead, try these five exercises from the über-popular barre-based Physique 57 workout—and let the compliments start pouring in!
*Do 15–20 reps of each exercise. Build to 2–3 sets as you get stronger.
Sit on the floor with your feet flat on the ground, your knees bent and your hands shoulders-width apart a few inches behind you. Straighten your arms and lift your toes and seat off the ground so you’re balancing on your hands and your heels.
Bend your elbows, lowering your upper body toward the floor. Hover slightly above the ground—don’t let your seat touch—and then push back up using only your tricep muscles.
Jessica says: “Make sure your hips stay back throughout the exercise to keep the burn in the arms.”
Tricep Can Cans
Begin in the same starting position as the tricep dips. Bring your right knee in toward your chest—keeping the leg bent at a 90-degree angle and the foot pointed—as you bend your arms so your seat hovers over the floor.
Jessica says: “Keeping your grounded foot flexed throughout the exercise helps you shift your weight back toward your hands, which will really work the triceps.”
As you straighten your arms, extend your right leg upward at a 45-degree angle.
Bend your arms again as you kick your right leg straight up toward the sky.
Straighten your arms, bringing your right leg back to 45 degrees. Do the entire sequence 15 times, and then switch legs.
Overhead Tricep Presses
*You’ll need: a set of 3-lb. weights and one 5- to 8-lb. weight.
Sit on the ground in a comfortable position (Jessica recommends kneeling), keeping your abs tight. Hold one 5- to 8-lb. weight vertically in your hands. Raise your arms, keeping your elbows slightly bent but tight by your ears.
Maintain a loose grip on the weight and slowly drop it back behind your head.
Return to the starting position.
Jessica says: “Don’t stick your rib cage out—keep it in tight and think about your core. Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears, maintaining a tall, proud posture.”
Holding a 3-lb. weight in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your upper body hinged forward on a diagonal, with your elbows lifted behind you and bent at 90 degrees. Keep your knees soft and your gaze forward.
Extend your hands backward, pointing your pinky fingers to the ceiling to straighten your arms. Return to the starting position.
Begin in the same position as the tricep kickbacks. Hold a 3-lb. weight in each hand with your arms straight behind you, palms facing up.
Pulse your hands upward, keeping your arms straight and your abs tight.
Jessica Rochwarger is an instructor at Physique 57 in NYC. She holds a degree in dance from Barnard College and is a personal trainer certified by the NASM and AFAA.
Photography by Nathan Sayers