6 Exercises for Sculpted Arms From a Master SoulCycle Instructor

All you need is a set of light dumbbells.

Master SoulCycle Instructor Karyn Nesbit in front of an illustrated background
Photo: Courtesy/InStyle

If you've ever taken a spin class, you know that the arm section of class can be deceptively hard. Sure, the exercises may use super light dumbbells, but it's amazing how a two-pound weight can quickly feel like 20. And all you have to do is look at your spin instructor's sculpted biceps to know that they're effective, too.

We tapped Karyn Nesbit, Master SoulCycle Instructor on Equinox+, the personalized fitness platform that offers immersive live and on-demand workouts from Equinox's own studio classes as well as top boutique studios like Rumble and Solidcore. She shared her quick arm workout inspired by her Soul Arms class that sculpts your biceps and triceps, as well as your upper back and core. (The moves can be done either on or off of a spin bike.)

SoulCycle classes are known for being mind and body experiences timed to the beat of the music, and Nesbit says you can replicate that experience at home. "Just because you are not physically cycling to the beat, it doesn't mean that you can't get that meditative workout and endorphin release off-the-bike — and these moves will help you do just that," Nesbit explains. "The entire workout is meant to get your heart rate up and will leave you feeling stronger than when you started — mentally and physically."

How it works: To make this a full workout, Nesbit suggests starting with the jab-cross combo for a full minute. Then, do the next five exercises EMOM (every minute on the minute) for 50 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. Then repeat from the top. Go two rounds for a quickie and three rounds for a full burn.

You will need: A set of dumbbells. The pacing of reps is dependent on weight (quicker reps if using two to three pounds, slower reps with anything over five pounds). Nesbit recommends boxing with one to three pounds.

Jab-Cross Oblique Twist

This little combo is a play on boxing to get your heart rate up, your core engaged, and help warm up your shoulders, biceps, and triceps.

Set-up: Off the bike, find your boxing stance: Feet shoulder distance apart with your dominant leg back (if right-handed, right foot back). Knuckles facing up. Hands up above your chin. On the bike, you'll want heavy resistance on so that your legs are fully supported so they don't roll out. Bring your legs to a complete stop, dominant leg in front. Engage your inner thighs, tuck your tailbone slightly and brace your abs. Hands up!

  1. Jab with your front hand, extending your arm out, rotating your thumb down (like you're pouring out water from a pitcher), and quickly bring it right back in.
  2. Cross with your back hand (your dominant hand). Punch out, rotate your thumb down and snap it back in.
  3. Add an oblique twist on each side coming out of the cross. If you're jab-crossing "right left" the oblique crunch will be "left right" so that your body is already in position to throw the next jab cross. Repeat.

Bicep Curl

A classic move to target your biceps.

Set-up: Off the bike, stand feet hip-width distance apart with a slight bend in your knees. On the bike, heavy resistance with your legs moving slowly or not at all. Sit tall, core engaged with your shoulders back.

  1. With arms by your sides and a weight in each hand, bring the weights up to your shoulders by bending at the elbows.
  2. . Reverse the curl down and repeat. Resist the movement in both directions to fully engage your biceps.

Bent-Over Row

This exercise targets your upper and middle back (lats, traps, rhomboid, and rotator cuffs) with the added bonus of working your forearms and biceps.

Set-up: Off the bike, feet hip-width distance apart with knees bent. Hinge forward at the waist (45 degrees) with a flat back. On the bike, stop legs completely with one foot in front of the other. Hinge at the waist (45 degrees). You can stay seated or press into the balls of your feet, extend your legs fully and press your hips back. Straight line from the crown of your head to your tailbone with your core engaged.

  1. Extend both arms down toward the floor, palms facing in. Pinch your shoulder blades together and row your weights to your ribs.
  2. Lower your weights back to the extension. Repeat.

Reverse Fly

The reverse fly targets your upper back, zeroing in on the rhomboids and can help improve poor posture.

Set-up: Position yourself in the same way you did for the bent-over row in the last exercise.

  1. With palms facing towards each other and arms rounded (as if holding a beach ball), raise both arms out to your side, squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  2. Lower the weight back down. Try not to round your back or swing the weight. Repeat.

Overhead Tricep Extension

Overhead tricep extensions are a fantastic exercise to isolate the tricep muscles.

Set-up: Off the bike, position feet hip-width distance apart with knees bent and core tight. On the bike, ensure that your legs are moving slowly or not at all.

  1. Sitting or standing tall, hold a weight in both hands together overhead with arms fully extended and biceps by your ears.
  2. Bending at the elbows, squeeze your triceps, and slowly lower the weights behind your head. Return to start, resisting on the way up. Repeat.

Tricep Kickbacks

Tricep kickbacks are another excellent exercise targeting the triceps and achieving tone, sculpted arms.

Set-up: Position yourself in the same setup used for the bent-over row and reverse fly.

  1. Holding weights and hinging forward at the waist, bend both elbows at 90-degree angles, palms facing in. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and engage your core as you press your weights back past your hips, firing up your triceps.
  2. Return arms back to 90 degrees. Repeat.
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