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Nicole Winhoffer On Training Stars Nicki Minaj, Madonna—And Her Tips For Toning Your Arms

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Nicki Minaj and Madonna perform during the Bridgestone Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 5, 2012 in Indianapolis.

Nicole Winhoffer believes fitness isn’t merely physical. After dancing in three Broadway shows, performing on MTV and in various award shows, and working with stars such as Madonna, Shakira and Mya, Winhoffer set out to develop a fitness routine that fused physical skill with emotional and spiritual elements. Winhoffer eventually created the NW Method, which combined her dance background with the study of anatomy, physiology and the Eastern philosophies of Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic natural practices.

Along with teaching NW Method classes and producing her NWChurch Livestream, Winhoffer has trained artists including Nicki Minaj, M.I.A, and Madonna in their 2012 musical video for Madonna’s “Give Me All Your Luvin’.”

Just in time for warmer weather, Billboard teams up with Winhoffer on a four part series to help get your body into summer-ready shape. In this post, Winhoffer talks about training Minaj and Madonna, committing to healthy workout habits, and her favorite workouts for toned arms.

What was it like training Nicki Minaj, M.I.A, and Madonna for the “Give Me All Your Luvin’” music video?

Part of our job as choreographers and coaches is to make sure the choreography and movements are in sync, and if anything feels or looks off to the artist, we make changes based on the environment. What people don't realize is that these women are super physically fit, sing live in heels and costumes, and make it look effortless for 1-2 hour shows. The endurance quality on these women is incredible. 

Give us a little more detail on how the NW Method integrates the arts, science, and fitness to facilitate a fitter figure.

NW Method is about enhancing the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical state of the world. I use the science of sports and anatomy and pair it with creative expression. Our bodies are multi-cellular, and in order for all things to be working correctly, the muscle is not separate to the brain, the heart, or the soul.  The NW Method uses lighting, music, and messaging paired with physical movement to achieve overall balance in the body. 

How often do you recommend people work out?

I'm interested in people creating new habits. Some people need less repetitions, others need more. I recommend moving your body five to six times a week.  The NW Method has different levels of intensity based on what people are looking for in their workout. Sometimes people want a simple day, while others want to sweat out last night's drinking! 

How integral is diet to weight loss and keeping up with your fitness routine?

Everything is connected. What you eat and the amount of stress you are under certainly affects your weight, chemical balance of the body, and hormones.  I don't believe in deprivation of diet; I believe in balance. I know that word is cliché, but what helps me is defining my mood and emotional state when I’m eating something.  Emotions affect hormones, hormones affect digestion.  

Where do you stand on the machine versus no-machine exercise routine debate?

NW Method is a machine-less exercise routine and it certainly works! I'm about convenience and being resourceful. We are human: the most infinite machine in the world! I believe in training the body to get it to do what you want it to do through new moves, focusing the mind, and having fun! 

How To: Tone Your Arms

What are some of your favorite stretches and warm-ups for arms?

In a tech-driven world [where we’re hunched over with] phones and computers we need to impose habitual movement patterns to keep balance in our bodies. Clasp your hands behind your back and keep a strong grip. Open your chest and stretch your chest away from your hands while bringing your arms as a far as you can to the ceiling. This opens up the deltoids, shoulders, and chest. 

There is so much focus on the outer line of our body, that we often neglect the inner line, so we solve that with a finger stretch. Take one arm and face the inside of the arm to the ceiling straight in front of your chest. Take your opposite hand and fold back your fingers of that hand that’s raised and stretch the inner muscles.

Guide us through three of your favorite arm exercises.

Arm Circles: Stretch your arms out wide and move your arms in a circular motion 100 times forward and 100 times backwards. This gets the blood working and works the tinier muscles of the arms and shoulders.

Alternating Push Up: In a push up position with your inner thighs together and keeping your hips forward at a 45 degree slant, put your right hand forward, while keeping your left hand below your shoulder. Bend your arms as low as you can and push up. Repeat on the left side. Try for 50 to 100 reps. This is a food lift for the breasts, working the muscles at all angles and increases the muscles' awareness stay toned.

Bird flap: Put your arms straight out and turn the palms of your hands away from you. turn your palms away from you. Make sure you put your energy into your finger tips. Bring your palms behind you and raise arms towards the ceiling, stretching them as far as possible.  Once you’ve stretched them as far as you can, pulse the arms an inch. Try 100 reps of small pulses. This works the back of the arms and is a very convenient workout you can do anywhere.

What do you say to those who think women shouldn’t exercise their arms to maintain a “feminine” look?

Muscles atrophy without use. It's not sustainable. The arm movements I focus on create a lean feminine look while giving muscles exercises needed to maintain perfect health.

How do you combat soreness in your arms after workouts?

Icy Hot, baths with Epsom salt, and my favorite: massage!