If you can easily do press-ups, keeping your body straight as you lower it to the ground and effortlessly raise it again … this blog is not for you. This blog is for those of us who don’t know how to even start arm strengthening. It is for those of us whose back is suffering more because our arms are not strong enough when lifting or carrying. It is aimed to help you feel more ease when doing yoga poses that require arm strength. And, since this blog is part of the summer-body series, it is for those of us who would like to have a bit more tone in the upper arms when wearing summer tops.
When arm muscles are not strong enough, our back can suffer. I already explained in a previous blog how our shoulders and lower back have to compensate for weak arms when lifting or carrying things. What I didn’t realise when writing my previous arm-strengthening blog, is that those exercises are still sometimes too difficult.
When an exercise is so challenging that you can just about manage it, it is likely that you compromise other parts in your body. For instance, using your abdominal muscles to protect your back when you do the arm exercises is very important. When you try press-ups with weak arms, you are quite unlikely to focus so much on your arms that the lower back sags down and gets strained. Starting with an easier exercise allows you to pay attention to the whole body’s alignment, and to your core muscles in particular.
You may wonder what these exercises have to do with yoga, but so many yoga poses, such as dog pose and plank pose, require arm strength. We can perform these poses more easily when we work on arm strength separately. Once you have mastered the exercise below, you can have a look at the previous blog with more difficult arm strengthening exercises and try those.
Finally, I challenge you to do these movements mindfully, with the breath and full attention…
Arm strengthening with a wall/tree
-Stand arm-length away from a wall or tree.
-Place your hand on the wall with the fingers pointing up and level with the shoulders.
-Rotate the elbows down so that when you bend your arms, the elbows will point down.
-Exhale and contract the abdominal area below the navel, enough to feel the tailbone is slightly tucked and the lower back “held”.
-The heels stay on the floor.
-In the same exhalation bend your arms and move towards the wall in a straight line.
-Inhale and straighten your arms again.
-Repeat several times very slowly until your arms get tired.
Avoid bringing the head or the middle of the body forward as you do this: keep your body as straight as a plank.
Elbows to the side
-Now place your hands at a diagonal, still shoulder height.
-Exhale and bend the elbows to the side.
-Inhale and straighten the arms.
-Repeat a comfortable number of times.
-Rotate the shoulders and upper body from side to side while allowing the arms to “flap” around loosely. Focus on the freedom you can feel in the shoulders.
When you have mastered these wall exercises, this blog will give you the movements to progress to.
If you would like more strengthening tips to support you back, this summer is all about gluts, abs and arms. Check out the previous blog about gluts here and do subscribe to this blog to get the future articles automatically in your inbox. If you are unsure about core strength and how to harness it efficiently in poses and daily activities, my next blog will tell you all about it.