Need a Quick Workout? Grab a Towel.

by | Read time: 3 minutes

As your schedule fills up with deadlines and vacations, it becomes increasingly difficult to carve out time to exercise. While your initial intentions are positive and lively, it’s natural for fitness motivation to wane as time goes on. The good news is you don’t need much to get in a strength-building workout. Whether you’re at a hotel, at home or even at the gym, grab a towel and try this arm workout.

Woman Squatting Down Holds a Towel to do an Arm Workout |

Emily McLaughlin, manager at Dancers Shape barre, yoga and Pilates studio in Austin, Texas, says this quick-and-easy towel workout routine will help improve posture while building upper-body and abdominal strength.

The following four arm exercises can be done sitting or standing. All you need is one simple prop and five minutes of free time. But, McLaughlin warns, you must pay attention to your form to get the most from the towel workout. For each of the exercises, it’s vital that you pull the towel tight horizontally and maintain that tension as you perform the movements – similar to how a resistance band works.

“If there’s any slack in the towel, your muscles won’t be engaged, and the exercises won’t be beneficial,” she says.

To get started, see how many repetitions of each exercise you can do in 30 seconds. Aim for achieving proper form and working to the point of fatigue.

Exercise 1: Front Raise Rotation

  1. Slide your shoulders down your back, and sit up straight.
  2. While engaging your abdominal muscles, pull the towel tight, parallel to the floor, raising it to shoulder height in front of your body.
  3. With your palms facing down toward the floor, slowly rotate your hands inward so that your palms face each other.
  4. Now, return to your starting position with palms facing down toward the floor.
  5. Your arms should remain at shoulder height the entire time as you repeat the movement.

As McLaughlin explains, that “small, repetitive rotation of your hands works your rotator cuff and your shoulder muscles.”

Exercise 2: Biceps Curl

  1. With tension on the towel and palms facing up to the sky in front of you, do a biceps curl.
  2. “When doing this exercise, you’re creating internal resistance. Doing a slow and controlled movement — using your own body weight — is effective at sculpting those biceps muscles,” McLaughlin says.
  3. To make the movement more difficult, keep your arms elevated at shoulder level.

If you have a shoulder injury or want to modify the exercise for less intensity, lower your arms so that they hover above your hips, and do a hammer curl with your palms facing each other.

Exercise 3: Lat Pulldown

  1. With tension on the towel, do a lateral pulldown by lifting your arms above your head and sliding the towel down behind your head up and back up at a slow pace.
  2. Keeping your elbows wide will allow you to feel the bottom tip of your shoulder blades squeezing together.

You’re also engaging your triceps when you do this exercise, which is excellent for sculpting your upper back and improving your posture.

McLaughlin says the lateral pulldown is an ideal exercise for anyone who sits at a computer for most of the day, adding that the move “forces them to work those underused muscles that support proper posture.”

Exercise 4: Triceps Extension

You may find it easier to stand for this exercise.

  1. Once you’ve found a comfortable starting position, move the towel into a horizontal position behind your body with your arms resting slightly above hip level.
  2. With palms facing each other, begin doing triceps kickbacks by slightly bending and straightening your arms behind your hips while pulling the towel tight.
  3. The movement should be small.

“This exercise will make you surprisingly sore. It’s working the whole back of your arms and triceps. Be sure you don’t break your form by hunching your shoulders forward,” McLaughlin says.