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Get Arms Like Michelle Obama's

By Ben Kallen

As perhaps the fittest first couple of all time, Barack and Michelle Obama are living proof that regular workouts really do work. And Mrs. Obama's well-toned arms in particular have become a symbol of female strength and beauty—as well as a demonstration of what even extremely busy people can accomplish with a little sustained effort.

Woman Holding Dumbbells

If you want strong, sculpted muscles like the First Lady's, this post-4th of July week is the perfect time to get started. Here are eight tips for achieving those all-American arms.

  1. Make workouts a regular part of your schedule. If Michelle Obama could find enough time to exercise during a presidential campaign and with the overscheduled life of a first lady, what excuses can anyone else have? According to published reports, she manages to work out for 90 minutes, three or four times a week, regardless of her other obligations.

  2. Woman Working Out with TrainerNow, 90 minutes is a long time for sustained exercise, and you can get the same results from shorter but more frequent workouts, say 30 to 60 minutes, 5 to 7 times per week (without stressing the same muscle groups two days in a row). The important thing is to keep it up—don't let other daily tasks interfere with your workout plan. Not only does your body respond to consistent effort, but that's the best way to build up the habit that will keep you exercising regularly over the long term.

  3. Don't just work your arms. Even if you're particularly interested in improving one "problem area," a proper workout program will deal with your entire body equally. This will give you a more natural look, and it's important for your well-being, too. Working on your legs, core, back, and chest will provide overall strength and flexibility, supporting you as you exercise and helping prevent injury.

  4. Work all of your arms. When it comes to arm workouts, men and women have something in common: caring too much about a single part. While a lot of men concentrate on building their biceps for that show-offy "bulging" look, women tend to focus on the triceps in an attempt to avoid flab. But if you want genuinely strong arms (and an attractive, well-balanced appearance), you need a combination of moves that strengthen the biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Each of these areas supports the others.

  5. Don't be afraid of weights. Stop worrying that resistance exercise will give you an overly muscular, "unfeminine" look. Lifting weights (or using resistance bands) is the best way to push your muscles beyond their capacity, causing them to grow stronger. Woman Doing Push-upsBut since women have a different hormonal profile than men, they'll become firm and toned rather than big and bulky. Take a look at the women who've completed ChaLEAN Extreme® or P90X®, and you'll see what we're talking about.

  6. And do body-weight exercises too. Exercises using only your body weight are a great way to gain "functional" fitness that can help you move more easily in everyday life. In People magazine, Mrs. Obama credited her arm strength to the following exercise: "You go down into a push-up, then you jump up." (You'll find a similar move in the Core Synergistics workout of P90X.) If this seems too hard, start with regular push-ups and work your way up to the more complicated version.

  7. Get lean. No matter how strong and beautiful your arms become, no one will know it if your muscles are covered in a layer of fat. According to a workout pal, Mrs. Obama cross-trains by mixing cardio into her weight-lifting sessions, which is great for raising the metabolism and melting away excess pounds. (You'll also need a proper diet plan, focusing on moderate portions of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beneficial fats.)

  8. Get help. Michelle Obama uses a personal trainer, which is a great way to learn new exercises, get support, and add a level of accountability to your workout plan. The downside? A trainer can be expensive, and getting to the gym can be time-consuming. Woman with Bare ArmsYou'll get similar benefits by working out at home with enthusiastic friends (or WOWY SuperGym™ Workout Buddies), or by following your favorite home-fitness DVD program.

  9. Assert your right to bare arms. Some media commentators criticized the first lady for her arm-baring outfits, saying they're too casual for someone in her position. We say that's bunk. Sure, you might want to dress up more formally for meetings with the French ambassador (or whatever job you happen to have). But once you've worked for those firm guns, why not show 'em off? After all, in this era of obesity and sloth, demonstrating the results of a fitness plan isn't just your right—it's practically your duty.

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Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, July 13th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Ben Kallen If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Guys: Get a Body Like Barack's (or Better)

By Ben Kallen

Anyone who's seen those shirtless beach photos of President Barack Obama can see he's in remarkably good shape for a busy working father, not to mention the leader of the free world. But let's face it, he could still use some improvement. For someone who works out just about every morning, he has less lean muscle mass than he should—he calls himself "skinny"—and a relatively soft midsection. He's said that he exercises mainly to clear his head and get rid of stress (which are excellent reasons, to be sure), but he could be getting more from his efforts.

Time, the White House, and Dumbbells

We've never worked out with the president (darn it!), but based on interviews and news accounts by those who've seen him in action, we have an idea of what he tends to do in the gym: a regular routine of isolated-muscle weight-lifting moves. And that's fine, as far as it goes. (We doubt we could concentrate on dumbbell flyes with the economy, foreign policy, and various other crises hanging over our heads.) But here are 5 tips to do it better.

  1. Learn a wide variety of moves and change things up frequently—the method that P90X's Tony Horton refers to as Muscle Confusion™. When your muscles aren't allowed to get used to any particular set of exercises, they'll react to new challenges by growing faster.

  2. Woman Doing CrunchesIn addition to ab-specific exercises like crunches, do multiple-movement exercises that tax several areas at once, including your core. (Mrs. Obama's push-up/jump mentioned above is a good example.) A strong midsection doesn't just look great; it also supports your whole body and helps prevent injury.

  3. President Obama told Men's Health magazine that he'll "lift one day and do cardio the next." While that's a decent plan, you'll get better fat-burning results by doing strength training and cardio during the same workout, at least sometimes. And while it's important to let your muscles recover between weight workouts, there's nothing wrong with lifting two days in a row, as long as you work on different muscle groups.

  4. The president was also quoted as saying that "there's always a tradeoff between sleep and working out." While we're happy to know that he spends as many hours as possible running the country, missing out on sleep is detrimental to your fitness plan. Sleep helps your muscles recover, and it also helps your body produce important substances like testosterone and the human growth hormone. So skimp on shut-eye only if you absolutely have to.

  5. Mr. Obama enjoys sports, including basketball and bicycling—you should also find athletic activities you enjoy. By turning exercise into play, you'll get plenty of extra cardio without it seeming like a chore.

Related Articles
"The Great Motivators: 14 Reasons to Keep Pushing Play"
"The Magic Number for Health and Beauty"
"6 Ways to Find the Time to Work Out"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, July 13th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Ben KallenIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your White House Powerhouse IQ!

By DeLane McDuffie

All of this talk of 21st-century ripped first ladies and cut-up commander-in-chiefs has got me feeling nostalgic. Let's take it back to the old school—back when presidential hopefuls didn't have nice supplements to swallow, scientifically tested workout regimens, and state-of-the-art gyms. To stay in shape in those days, you had to outrun a mountain lion every morning or bench-press a stagecoach, with your family in it. You already know that T.R., FDR, and JFK were tough individuals, physically and/or mentally. No surprises there. Match these presidents with their tough-guy qualities.

  1. Andrew JacksonAndrew Jackson - The Brawler. One of the most popular U.S. presidents, this wild-eyed redhead (until it turned gray) proved his toughness by fighting in two wars, the War of 1812 and the First Seminole War. Historians estimate that he participated in 14 to 50 duels. When he wasn't getting the nation out of debt or trying to exterminate Native Americans, he was beating people down with his hands. Man hands! Just ask Richard Lawrence, the would-be assassin whose, not one, but TWO pistols misfired while trying to ice Jackson. Immediately, "Old Hickory" was all over Lawrence, like white on rice, attacking him with furious punches and some serious cane lashing. And to top it off, the man walked around with two bullets lodged in his side. Hard-core!

  2. Abraham Lincoln - The Giant. The man in the top hat was no joke. Standing at 6 feet 4 inches, "Honest Abe" was, honestly, the tallest U.S. president. He was self-educated and governed during one of the most turbulent times in American history. He was also an avid wrestler and deceptively strong, and burly Jack Armstrong knew this all too well. Word is their match ended with Lincoln snatching Armstrong by the neck, holding him out at arm's length, and then shaking him like a ragdoll, showing Armstrong that Lincoln's arm's strong, too.

  3. George WashingtonGeorge Washington - The Muscle. Forget about legends and folklore of wooden teeth and chopping down cherry trees, Washington was a larger-than-life figure. This 6-foot-2-inch (6 inches taller than the average man at the time) war hero was not only a founding father, but he was also a ridiculously gifted athlete, excelling at many events. Legend has it that he flung a coin-shaped chunk of slate across the Rappahannock River in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Apparently, no one has done it since. This is before protein shakes, people! In another account, G.W. hurled an iron javelin way past his competitors' marks—all while still wearing his coat and daring them to try to beat it! George Washington will break your face!

  4. Ronald Reagan - The Lifesaver. "The Gipper" may have been a Hollywood actor who enjoyed the benefits of his celebrity for a time, but don't let that fool you. The dude was tough as nails . . . and hammers. Not only was he a 3-sport high school athlete, at age 69, he was the oldest person ever elected to the presidential office. Survival is a tough-guy requirement. Like Jackson, he survived an assassination attempt. On the flip side of that, he also saved 77 lives during his seven summers as a lifeguard. Plus, one of his favorite movies was Rambo. Tough guys everywhere just nodded their heads in respect.

  5. Gerald Ford - The All-American. Born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., Gerald Ford proved his less-than-tough birth name wrong. He was yet another war-vet president who could break your face. Despite surviving falling down some stairs and being known as the guy who pardoned Nixon, Ford also sent the Grim Reaper packing twice when he survived two assassination attempts. In his younger days, he played center for the University of Michigan's football team, walking away with the 1932 and 1933 national championships (undefeated for both seasons) and making the 1935 college all-star squad. The Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers both wanted him, but he turned them down cold. Why? Because he could. That's why! Tough guys do what they want. (He wanted to attend Yale.)

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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