By Ben Kallen

As perhaps the fittest first couple of all time, Barack and Michelle Obama are living proof that regular workouts really do work. And Mrs. Obama's well-toned arms in particular have become a symbol of female strength and beauty—as well as a demonstration of what even extremely busy people can accomplish with a little sustained effort.

If you want strong, sculpted muscles like the First Lady's, this post–4th of July week is the perfect time to get started. Here are eight tips for achieving those all-American arms.
  1. Make workouts a regular part of your schedule. If Michelle Obama could find enough time to exercise during a presidential campaign and with the overscheduled life of a first lady, what excuses can anyone else have? According to published reports, she manages to work out for 90 minutes, three or four times a week, regardless of her other obligations.

    Now, 90 minutes is a long time for sustained exercise, and you can get the same results from shorter but more frequent workouts, say 30 to 60 minutes, 5 to 7 times per week (without stressing the same muscle groups two days in a row). The important thing is to keep it up—don't let other daily tasks interfere with your workout plan. Not only does your body respond to consistent effort, but that's the best way to build up the habit that will keep you exercising regularly over the long term.
  2. Don't just work your arms. Even if you're particularly interested in improving one "problem area," a proper workout program will deal with your entire body equally. This will give you a more natural look, and it's important for your well-being, too. Working on your legs, core, back, and chest will provide overall strength and flexibility, supporting you as you exercise and helping prevent injury.
  3. Work all of your arms. When it comes to arm workouts, men and women have something in common: caring too much about a single part. While a lot of men concentrate on building their biceps for that show-offy "bulging" look, women tend to focus on the triceps in an attempt to avoid flab. But if you want genuinely strong arms (and an attractive, well-balanced appearance), you need a combination of moves that strengthen the biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Each of these areas supports the others.
  4. Don't be afraid of weights. Stop worrying that resistance exercise will give you an overly muscular, "unfeminine" look. Lifting weights (or using resistance bands) is the best way to push your muscles beyond their capacity, causing them to grow stronger. But since women have a different hormonal profile than men, they'll become firm and toned rather than big and bulky. Take a look at the women who've completed ChaLEAN Extreme® or P90X®, and you'll see what we're talking about.
  5. And do body-weight exercises too. Exercises using only your body weight are a great way to gain "functional" fitness that can help you move more easily in everyday life. In People magazine, Mrs. Obama credited her arm strength to the following exercise: "You go down into a push-up, then you jump up." (You'll find a similar move in the Core Synergistics workout of P90X®.) If this seems too hard, start with regular push-ups and work your way up to the more complicated version.
  6. Get lean. No matter how strong and beautiful your arms become, no one will know it if your muscles are covered in a layer of fat. According to a workout pal, Mrs. Obama cross-trains by mixing cardio into her weight-lifting sessions, which is great for raising the metabolism and melting away excess pounds. (You'll also need a proper diet plan, focusing on moderate portions of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beneficial fats.)
  7. Get help. Michelle Obama uses a personal trainer, which is a great way to learn new exercises, get support, and add a level of accountability to your workout plan. The downside? A trainer can be expensive, and getting to the gym can be time-consuming. You'll get similar benefits by working out at home with enthusiastic friends (or WOWY SuperGym Workout Buddies), or by following your favorite home-fitness DVD program.
  8. Assert your right to bare arms. Some media commentators criticized the first lady for her arm-baring outfits, saying they're too casual for someone in her position. We say that's bunk. Sure, you might want to dress up more formally for meetings with the French ambassador (or whatever job you happen to have). But once you've worked for those firm guns, why not show 'em off? After all, in this era of obesity and sloth, demonstrating the results of a fitness plan isn't just your right—it's practically your duty.