18.06.2024

How to get Penny Mordaunt’s sword bearing arms in seven steps

At Westminster Abbey on Saturday, there was one woman above all who left us gasping in awe. No, not the Queen or the Princess of Wales, but Penny Mordaunt.

For 51 minutes straight, the MP and Lord President of the (Privy) Council stood (in sparkly heels no less) carrying the Sword of State, which weighs 3.6 kg (8 lb) — think a bouncing newborn baby or 3.5 litres of milk.

Then, just when we thought she could finally give her aching arms a break, a few minutes after surrendering the first sword, she was handed the (slightly lighter) Jewelled Sword of Offering, which she also held upright — her elbows tucked into her body, her forearms and biceps taking the strain — for the rest of the two-hour ceremony.

It was a feat that would have daunted a muscle-bound twentysomething, let alone a 50-year-old woman who is not conspicuously ‘ripped’.

After 25 years of working as a fitness trainer, and with more than two million YouTube subscribers, I know that as well as requiring balance, physical alignment and, of course, strength — the prolonged use of her arms, deltoids (the thick muscles hugging the top of your shoulders), upper back and transversus abdominis (part of the deepest stomach muscles) — Penny’s feat required real endurance and mental grit.

A few minutes after surrendering the first sword, she was handed the (slightly lighter) Jewelled Sword of Offering, which she also held upright for the rest of the two-hour ceremony

A few minutes after surrendering the first sword, she was handed the (slightly lighter) Jewelled Sword of Offering, which she also held upright for the rest of the two-hour ceremony

For 51 minutes straight, Penny Mordaunt stood carrying the Sword of State, which weighs 3.6 kg (8 lb). She said that she took painkillers beforehand and 'wriggled her toes'

For 51 minutes straight, Penny Mordaunt stood carrying the Sword of State, which weighs 3.6 kg (8 lb) — think a bouncing newborn baby or 3.5 litres of milk

It was a whole body workout of royal proportions. How did she do it?

Penny revealed that she had been ‘doing some press-ups’ beforehand, as well as practising with a weighted replica of the intricately bejewelled bicep-breaker.

It might not seem like much, but with the right advice, lifting your own body weight in small repetitive movements is a brilliantly simple way to improve arm muscle tone, develop core strength and increase endurance without putting undue pressure on joints. It’s what I always suggest for beginners or those with knee or hip issues.

Like Penny, who’s a Royal Naval reservist, I served in the Armed Forces, for five years from 1990, and understand how important discipline and commitment are when it comes to getting in shape.

I once met King Charles, then the Prince of Wales, who shook my hand and told me how proud he was that I’d chosen to serve; a woman in the military, it was a rarer sight back then.

But I also know that just getting out there and doing something regularly is key to developing strength and stamina.

We have been sold the idea that you have to go the gym to get in shape, but that can be off-putting and it’s just not true. I’m 51 and much keener on the idea that a little goes a long way. Penny is a fantastic role model for that approach, and for how strong and fit a woman in her 50s can be.

So let Penny be your inspiration! Here are seven quick and easy exercises anyone of any ability can do, wherever you are, to get arms strong enough to hold a royal sword — or just look toned in a sleeveless top.

I’d advise trying each for 60 seconds, but you can start at 30 or 40 seconds if easier. It’s important to listen to your body and build up slowly to doing a full set once, twice or even three times a day.

1. The Coronation Arm Lift (Shoulder Press)

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your knees slightly bent and your stomach tensed and tucked in tight. Push your arms up above your head and bring them back down again. Repeat

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your knees slightly bent and your stomach tensed and tucked in tight. Push your arms up above your head and bring them back down again. Repeat

Before starting, I would always suggest a quick warm-up to increase muscle temperature and blood flow, and reduce the risk of injuries. A minute walking on the spot is enough.

For this first exercise, stand with your feet hip-width apart, your knees slightly bent and your stomach tensed and tucked in tight. Push your arms up above your head and bring them back down again. Repeat.

2. The Regal Swan (Tricep Lift)

Stand in a split stance leaning slightly forward from the hips. Put your arms straight out behind you, palms up, lifting them as high as you can go, and do small pulses (tiny little lifts)

Stand in a split stance leaning slightly forward from the hips. Put your arms straight out behind you, palms up, lifting them as high as you can go, and do small pulses (tiny little lifts)

Stand in a split stance — when one foot is slightly in front of the other in a gentle lunge with knees bent — leaning slightly forward from the hips. Put your arms straight out behind you, palms up, lifting them as high as you can go, and do small pulses (tiny little lifts).

Make sure you keep your tummy tight and you are working the back of the upper arms. This is a great one to target that bingo wing area. Although it feels like a relatively small move, it is surprisingly hard work.

3. Penny’s Press-Up

Stand six inches away from a worktop or wall, with your arms out straight, keeping the hands wide in line with the shoulders and your fingertips pointing up. Bend your arms to take the weight of your body into your shoulders, then straighten up

Stand six inches away from a worktop or wall, with your arms out straight, keeping the hands wide in line with the shoulders and your fingertips pointing up. Bend your arms to take the weight of your body into your shoulders, then straighten up

This was Penny’s go-to move for preparing her body to hold the Sword of Offering, originally made for George IV’s 1821 Coronation.

If lifting your whole body weight off the floor feels a bit much to begin with, start off by leaning into a worktop or wall.

Stand six inches away from either, with your arms out straight, keeping the hands wide in line with the shoulders and your fingertips pointing up. Bend your arms to take the weight of your body into your shoulders, then straighten up.

Keep it slow and controlled, ensuring you are keeping your abdominal muscles tight. Repeat.

Once you feel strong enough you can progress to a box press-up, where your hands and knees are on the floor; or a three-quarter press-up, which starts from your hands and knees but with your feet lifted into the air behind you, ankles touching. Ensure you are on the fleshy part just above your knees and you are supporting all of the weight from your knees upwards when doing the press-up.

Finally, you might try a full press-up (with your legs stretched out straight behind you and the balls of your feet in contact with the floor), lowering your chest and full body down to the ground and pushing back up again. Work at a speed that feels comfortable.

4. Standing Leg Kick

Alternate swinging and lifting one leg as high as you can in front of you and reaching towards it with the opposite hand, keeping that arm straight

Alternate swinging and lifting one leg as high as you can in front of you and reaching towards it with the opposite hand, keeping that arm straight

Stand straight with your stomach muscles pulled in tight and your feet comfortably apart. Alternate swinging and lifting one leg as high as you can in front of you and reaching towards it with the opposite hand, keeping that arm straight. You’ll notice a slight abdominal twist. Keep your back straight.

This helps overall core strength, targeting the transverse abdominis muscles, which are actively engaged when trying to balance, and arm muscles.

5. Swimming To Victory (Breaststroke Arms)

While standing or seated, do a breaststroke motion using the full range of your arms and shoulders

While standing or seated, do a breaststroke motion using the full range of your arms and shoulders

While standing or seated, do a breaststroke motion using the full range of your arms and shoulders. Keep the movement controlled, neither too slow nor too fast. Again, this might sound easy, but try it for 60 seconds and you’ll realise just how heavy your arms are. This is a particularly good exercise to improve your posture — something Penny aced.

6. Ultimate Power Punch

While standing with legs comfortably apart, knees slightly bent, alternate punching each arm out in front of you

While standing with legs comfortably apart, knees slightly bent, alternate punching each arm out in front of you

This couldn’t be easier. While standing with legs comfortably apart, knees slightly bent, alternate punching each arm out in front of you. Keep control of your arms — no wild swinging. This improves balance, strengthening your arms and core, and improves hand-eye coordination. A simple, repeated punch particularly strengthens biceps and forearms.

7. Coronation Crunch (Knee-Elbow Twist)

Lift one knee up towards your waist and, as you do, rotate your upper body towards it, reaching down towards the knee with your opposite elbow

Lift one knee up towards your waist and, as you do, rotate your upper body towards it, reaching down towards the knee with your opposite elbow

While standing or seated, lift up your arms and place your hands at the side of your head. Lift one knee up towards your waist and, as you do, rotate your upper body towards it, reaching down towards the knee with your opposite elbow.

A great one for overall fitness, balance and building strength. You’ll notice a deeper abdominal twist than the previous Standing Leg Kick. Here, we’re working the internal and external abdominal obliques, engaging different abdominal muscles in your waist to give you a stronger core, as well as the triceps.

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