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Pilates is known for building strength in your core—but that doesn’t mean it only works the abs. This popular workout can also lengthen your limbs and sculpt lean muscle all over. Take it from Julie Erickson, founder of the Endurance Pilates and Yoga studio in Boston. A certified Pilates instructor who’s trained pro athletes and dancers, Julie knows exactly how to use this workout to target each part of the body so you stay strong, no matter what type of activity you’re into (football, ballet, you name it!). In this video, Julie demonstrates six Pilates exercises that are specifically intended to help tone you from the waist up. Don’t have time to watch? Here are the six sculpting moves she shows us:

Shoulder opener: On a mat, rest on your knees holding a weight (or water bottle!) in each hand. Raise your arms out slightly behind the body, keeping them straight and pulsing your hands in towards your midsection behind the back for 45 seconds. 

RELATED: This 10-Minute Ab-Sculpting Pilates Workout Targets Your Inner Core

Shave: On a mat, rest on your knees with your arms raised straight above your head. Create a diamond shape with hands above the head. With hands still in a diamond shape, bend at the elbows to lower the arms behind the head, then extend straight again. Continue this bend-and-extend movement for 45 seconds. 

Arms wide: Standing tall with your back against a wall, slowly raise arms out to your sides until they create a wide “V” shape above your head. Return them down to the starting position and repeat this movement for 45 seconds. 

RELATED: Get Sculpted Shoulders and Toned Arms with Emily Skye’s Upper-Body Workout

Goal: Standing tall with your back against a wall, raise your arms to a goal post position with each elbow creating a 90-degree angle at shoulder height. Keep arms raised and slowly shrug your shoulders up and down for 45 seconds. 

Chest expansion: On a mat, rest on your knees with a weight in each hand. Slowly raise your arms straight out to chest height in front of you, then lower them back down. Turn your head to the right, then left, then return to center and repeat this sequence for 45 seconds. 

Overhead side stretch: Standing tall, raise your right arm up overhead and lean your torso toward the left to stretch the side body. Return to center and repeat with the left arm raised, leaning your torso to the right to stretch the other side. Continue to switch off stretching to each side for 45 seconds.


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The information herein on "6 Pilates Exercises for a Sculpted Upper Body" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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