All you need is your purse.
Unlike sculpting a six-pack, which is basically the unicorn of fitness goals, toning your arms is (relatively) easy. “It doesn’t take a lot of weight to fatigue them,” says Josh Kernen, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Bridgetown Physical Therapy and Training Studio. And you don’t even have to use any special equipment to see definition.
In fact, one of your best muscle-sculpting assets may be sitting on your shoulder right now: your purse. Like a mini sinkhole, your handbag swallows up whatever you may or may not need to get through your day, and assuming it’s holding a few pounds’ worth of stuff, it definitely offers resistance for your arm muscles. Unfortunately, though, it won’t do you much good if it’s strapped to the same side of your body day in and day out. (That can actually lead to poor posture and back pain.)
A quick, easy fix—and a super-fast and painless way to get leaner arms—is to simply change up the way you hold your bag. ACE spokesperson Cris Dobrosielski, owner of Monumental Results and author of Going the Distance, recommends two different carrying styles: Gripping down on the handle of your bag and allowing your purse to hang by your legs with your arm extended downward (also known as a “farmer’s carry”), or hooking your forearm through the straps and resting the bag on your elbow, with your elbow bent so that your bicep and forearm come together. When you tote your tote this way, you’re firing up pretty much all of the muscles in your arms rather than just your shoulders. And if you’re feeling a bit adventurous (and are in the privacy of your own place), you can even combine your farmer’s carry with some bicep curls, tricep extensions, or lateral raises for bonus toning points.
“Even if you go on a short walk for five to 15 minutes, doing a variety of movement patterns with your bag can increase your heart rate and caloric burn, as well as tone your arms and shoulders,” says Dobrosielski.
Just as with any type of exercise, maintaining proper form is key—even if your pocketbook is what you’re using as a weight.
Dobrosielski recommends keeping your hips even, standing tall, and making sure to brace your core. And don’t tense your back muscles—instead, “allow them to drop and relax as you slightly tuck them in,” he says.
Keep in mind: Adding more weight to your bag isn’t necessarily better here. If you find that your purse is so heavy that it’s causing you to tilt forward or to the side when you’re carrying it, you’ll need to lighten it up.
“Also, be sure that it’s not just one side that continues to get the load, which most of us tend to do,” says Dobrosielski. “It’s really important to frequently change your hand and shoulder positions, and switch the bag from one side to the other so that there’s more balance.”
Granted, if you’re hoping to get jacked, you’ll still have to pump weights at the gym. But holding your pocketbook in a slightly different way is such a small change—why not do it for more arm toning?