We totally have a girl crush on Angela Bassett. Yes, that Angela Bassett. The fountain of youth (by which we mean eating right and exercising) has been good to the 57-year-old actress. Not to mention, the American Horror Story star has been stunting all over the red carpet lately, from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards to the Golden Globes to her latest camera-ready moment at the premiere for her new movie London Has Fallen. And there is one common thread in all of these appearances: outfits that show off her strong and defined arms, shoulders and back.
Clearly Bassett knows how to accentuate her assets—and from what we can tell, she works very hard to keep her upper body in ah-mazing shape. Case in point: When she took over E! Online’s Instagram account recently, she posted a picture of herself flexing at the gym that made our jaws drop.
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Not sure about you all, but over here at Health, Bassett’s toned frame has officially become our new body goal. And our secret weapon to help us achieve it: Tamara Pridgett, a NASM certified personal trainer and coach at Tone House in New York City, who also happens to be seriously buff up top.
“As women we place a stigma around sculpting a strong back, shoulders and arms,” says Pridgett. “We become consumed with the misconception that if we focus on our upper body we will look ‘bulky’ and ‘manly.’” Alas, Bassett, and Pridgett too, are proof that this misnomer couldn’t be further from the truth. So jump on the Bassett bandwagon with us, and try these three moves from Pridgett, who recommends adding them to your current strength-training routine 2-3 times a week.
What it targets: You essentially hit every major muscle group in your upper body: pecs, triceps, serratus anterior (right by the armpits, aka "wings"), deltoids, traps, and core.
How to do it: Sit at the end of a weight bench with feet flat on floor; lie back. Extend arms, grabbing a loaded barbell (try 5-10 pounds on each side to start) so hands are a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Straighten arms to lift barbell off of rack and up over chest. Lower barbell until it touches chest and then press back up. If you're new to this move, start with 3 sets of 6 reps. As you begin to get comfortable and build strength, increase to 3 sets of 8 reps. Want more variety? Try 3 sets of 10 reps at a comfortable weight (70-80% of max weight) and a fourth set of 6 reps at 90% of your max weight.
Tam’s Tip: Not ready to pile on the weight? No problem. You can perform the exercise with just the bar, which typically weighs about 35 pounds, or use hand weights of your choosing.
What it targets: The holy grail of all upper-body workouts, pull-ups work the lats, upper back, traps, biceps, forearms, shoulders, and core. And, as Pridgett notes, contrary to popular belief, this move is not impossible.
How to do it: Hang from a bar with an overhand grip; hands wider than shoulder-width apart. With abs engaged, pull yourself up until chin is over bar and then slowly lower yourself back down. Do 4 sets of 5 reps. Too hard? Try a partner pull-up (Bend knees and allow buddy to support lower body and assist you up) or use a large resistance band (loop and secure band around bar; place feet in loops and pull up).
Tam's Tip: Add pull-ups to your daily regimen pre- or post-workout for the best results. Also, focus on exercises like lat pulldowns, tricep extensions, and bar hangs, all of which simulate a pull-up.
Mirror Runs With Dumbbells
What it targets: The primary focus: deltoids, triceps, biceps, and lats.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, a 5- to 10-lb dumbbell in each hand. Bend elbows, bringing arms to a 90-degree angle. Simultaneously swing right arm forward toward the bust line and left arm back toward your pocket; then swing left arm forward and right arm back. Continue alternating. Do 3 sets of 30-second intervals, increasing weekly by 10 seconds.
Tam's Tip: Stand tall and focus on swinging arms back and forth as fast as possible (like an upper-body "sprint") while maintaining proper form.