Carrie Underwood may be known for her mega voice and insanely sexy legs, but lately we’ve been noticing something else about the country singer: her hella-strong arms.
So when we got the chance to chat with her trainer, Erin Oprea (who also works with fellow country singer Kelsea Ballerini and The Bachelorette’sKaitlyn Bristowe), we just had to know what she’s been doing lately to up her arm game. The biggest takeaway? Heavier weights.
“[Carrie’s] not scared of weights,” the Nashville-based trainer told us at her CityStrong event in New York City. “Weights make pretty muscles, and pretty muscles burn lots of calories. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn and it’s like a double whammy.”
In other words, don’t be afraid of the heavy stuff. And don’t be shy about mixing it up, either. “Sometimes go no weights, sometimes go heavy weights, and other times go light weights,” suggests Oprea. “Variation is what’s important.”
With that in mind, it’s time to get crackin. These are the five moves Oprea suggests rotating into your workout routine if you want Carrie-like arms come spring.
Yep, it’s time to stop shying away from these bad boys. Oprea deems them one of the best exercises you can do to tone those back and shoulder muscles. Just find a bar that’s taller than you are and start pulling. Her biggest tip: Engage your core as you lift up, and really focus on rolling your shoulders back, as if you were pinching a tennis ball between your shoulder blades. And if you need to work up to an unassisted pullup, grab a resistance band and loop it around your foot (with the other end around the bar). There are varying levels of resistance available, making the exercise easier—or harder—as you get stronger.
Ever notice how awesome strong shoulders look in a sleeveless shirt or strappy tank? You can thank lateral raises for those Insta likes. To do the exercise, Oprea says to grab some weights and hold both arms out to your sides, palms facing toward the ground. Slowly lower one arm to your side, then return to start. Do the same with the other arm, and continue alternating until you’ve done 10 on each side. Want to really fire up the burn? Add 10 more reps at the end, lowering and raising both arms together. (Speed up your progress towards your weight-loss goals with Women’s Health’s Look Better Naked DVD.)
Compound movements like this one are perfect for those who need to fit in a workout even though they’re short on time. They work multiple big muscle groups at once, in turn stoking your metabolism so you continue to burn calories long after you’re done. If you want to focus on your arms, Oprea suggests the squat to overhead press. You’ll work your butt, legs, abs, and arms simultaneously. And don’t be afraid to really crank up the weight here. Most women can press more weight than they think, Oprea says, so go for it and see what you’re really made of. (If you’re experimenting with weight, though, be sure to have a spotter nearby in case you need some assistance.)
If Oprea could only do one abs move for the rest of her life, it would be the plank. “There are a million variations you can do, and they all do wonders for your abs,” she says. This version gives you a bonus workout for your upper body, though, and that’s what we’re really after. Be sure to keep your core tight as you lift into the row and do your best not to rotate your body from side to side, says Oprea. Another pro tip: Start with weights that have flat ends to help with stability as you row. When you’re ready for more advanced work, try weights that have rounded edges to throw you more off-balance (and make your abs really work for it).
It’s an exercise everyone turns to again and again, but for good reason: It works. And you don’t need any equipment to get it done—you can simply use a step, a box, a bench, or even a bed. Oprea says strong triceps can help improve shoulder stability and, LBH, they look pretty damn fine. As you lower, Oprea says to keep your core tight and be sure you’re lowering and lifting with your arms only—it’s common for beginners to accidentally use their booty for assistance. To make the move easier, bend your legs so your feet are flat on the ground before diving into those reps.