“Pilates Arms” Aren’t Real, No Matter What the Internet Tries to Tell You

Fitness

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 04: Miley Cyrus performs onstage during the 66th GRAMMY Awards on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

From the producers of the “leggings legs” trend comes yet another unnecessary label for women’s bodies. Introducing the internet’s latest fixation: “Pilates arms.” Following Miley Cyrus‘s stunning performance at the 2024 Grammy Awards, it was her toned arms that took social media by storm (rather than her first-ever Grammy win). One reformer Pilates instructor went so far as to create a TikTok about Cyrus’s “Pilates arms,” saying that Pilates gives easily identifiable, “copy-paste body types” to anyone who sticks with it.

“Those are Pilates arms, like right away, that was my first reaction to this photo,” she said in the video, referencing a full-body photo of Cyrus. “I teach a ton of classes a day, like every single day, and so many people in my classes have these exact same arms.” The creator of the original TikTok added that her own arms tend to “get super big” if she lifts weights, which makes Pilates a perfect alternative for building strength.

The “Pilates arms” term caught on, and suddenly TikTok was overrun with other creators suggesting specific workouts meant to help people achieve the look. But while Pilates may be what works best for one creator’s lifestyle and fitness goals, linking exercise modalities to specific body types is a dangerous game. (And no, lifting weights will not automatically make you look bulky.)

In all fairness, Cyrus is indeed a fan of Pilates, and has been spotted at Pilates studios as early as 2013. But the reality is that, while Pilates may help you build arm strength, no singular exercise can “tone” a specific body part.

In fact, you can’t really “tone” a muscle at all — they can grow or shrink, but not become harder or softer. When people talk about “toning,” they typically mean a combination of strength training, which makes the muscles bigger, and general fat loss, which makes them more visible. (Worth noting: you can’t control where your body loses fat either, according to the University of Sydney.) These facts make these elusive “Pilates arms” a bit tougher of a sell.

Pilates uses low-impact, resistance-based movement to improve strength and flexibility, although results vary depending on your lifestyle, genetics, and level of consistency. It’s a great workout for a dozen different reasons, but it’s not about granting everyone with the same pair of Grammy-winning arms.

Still, with nearly 500K likes, the concept of “Pilates arms” clearly resonated with viewers, and that’s part of the problem. It’s good to have goals, and you might find that certain exercises or classes make it easier to achieve them. But we’re doing people a disservice when we tell them their arms could look exactly like Cyrus’s, if only they cared enough to try one specific workout.

From what she’s shared publicly, Cyrus’s wellness routine includes Ashtanga yoga, Pilates, plenty of outdoor movement, a formerly vegan diet (which she is now “experimenting” with), and professional assistance from personal trainers. Fitness is essentially a part of her career, and it requires a lot of time, energy, and money that not everyone has access to. That’s not to mention the many different factors that play a role in body composition, including gender, age, race, nutrition, physical activity, and hormonal status.

The bottom line is, even if we all had the means to work out and eat exactly like Cyrus, we still wouldn’t look like her — and that’s OK. If you have arms, you have Pilates arms, and that’s worth celebrating.

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