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Michelle Obama's buff arms: a how-to guide

September 8, 2009 |  9:40 am

The answer: tricep pushdowns and hammer curls. The question: how to get sleekly sculpted arms like First Lady Michelle Obama.

First Lady Michelle Obama in February 2009 watching her husband President Obama address Congress Her personal trainer, Cornell McClellan, has been working with the first lady since 1997, the year her husband Barack Obama was first elected to the Illinois Senate. At first she split the cost with two other girlfriends, to save money. In the years since, he says, more than 1,870 times, usually starting at 5:30 a.m., the two have perfected her approach.

Now, in the October issue of Women's Health magazine, he spills the beans on how you too can have FLOTUS buff arms, as follows:

Perform one set of tricep pushdowns using a straight bar attached to the high pulley of a cable station and then, without resting, follow with a set of hammer curls using dumbbells. Immediately repeat the entire process until two or three sets of both exercises have been completed.

The first lady's arms have attracted a surprising amount of attention in the fashion world since the Inaugural Balls in January when she wowed reviewers by wearing a one-sleeved Jason Wu confection.

Then in February she showed up in Congress to watch her husband address Congress in a sleeveless dress by Narciso Rodriguez, seen above, inspiring catcalls from politicos who wondered why the summer look in winter and African Americans who were upset the first lady never seemed to use black designers. By the next sighting, on the cover of People magazine, the first lady was wearing a pink gown designed by African American Tracy Reese.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy But the first lady's arms have also garnered a fair amount of political attention -- or dare we say cattiness, provoking what some call a new arms race.

Critics -- mostly anonymous tweeters but some serious thinkers such as the Daily Beast's Sandra McElwaine -- lament that a first lady's arms should be only occasionally seen, perhaps forgetting First Lady Jackie Kennedy's pioneering work in this area. Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan dismisses the naysayers by describing Michelle O.'s look as more a feminist statement, “post-Title IX arms."

As for me, I'd say more about this but I think I'd better get back to the gym.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo (top): Michelle Obama. Credit: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press

Photo (bottom): Jackie Kennedy. Credit: Reuters

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