Killer Arms & Back

JM_Killer_Arms&BackKiller Arms & Back is the 4rd (and final) workout collection in Jillian Michael‘s Killer series. The other 3 workout collections in the series are Killer Abs, Killer Buns & Thighs and Killer Body. This DVD contains 3 approximately 30 minute workouts that work the entire upper body–not just the arms and back. And since this is a Jillian Michaels workout, it is not only tough and challenging, but it works more than the upper body; it works the core, the lower body gets some attention and you also get cardio. Like all of Jillian’s workouts it is very metabolic. Jillian recommends doing each workout for approx 10 days before progressing to the next level.

All 3 of the workouts are tough if you use the proper weights (more on that in a moment) but if it is too challenging for your level of fitness there is a modifier in every workout. Now, this workout suffers from the same problem that all of Jillian’s workouts suffer from. She uses her special “brand” of dumbbells–3s, 5s and 8 pound dumbbells. And, as always, if you want to actually get a “killer” upper body, you need to lift heavier weights than what is used in her workouts. Now, she does repeatedly encourage you lift heavier, but how she illustrates this is by holding two 3 pound dumbbells in one hand. <really?!?> To go heavy, she should have been holding two 8 pound dumbbells in one hand. Not that that is super heavy, but it is far better illustration of what “heavy” is than using 3 pounders. However, I don’t think Jillian or crew ever touched the 8 pound dumbbells in any of the workouts. Also this is a Jillian workout, which means fast-paced compound exercises that are difficult to go super heavy on. Nevertheless, I used dumbbells ranging from 3-20 pounds for these workouts.

Since the Killer series consists of muscle split workouts, you can create a really nice rotation using only Jillian’s Killer workouts. Do a Killer Buns & Thighs on Monday, Killer Abs on Tuesday, Killer Arms & Back on Wednesday. Then either start the cycle over or break it up with one of her cardio (One Week Shred has a cardio workout and she also has a cardio collection called Cardio Kickstart which is just the cardio workouts pulled from Body Revolution) or yoga workouts (Yoga Inferno or Yoga Meltdown). Then start the cycle over: Lower, Core, Upper, Cardio or Yoga; take a rest day, then start over. And once you get tired of those 3 Killer workouts, finish it all up by rotating Killer Body in the same way. You could do a complete Jillian rotation if you wanted to. Just an idea if you’re a Jillian devotee.

The structure of these workouts is all the same: 4 circuits, each circuit contains 5 exercises that you repeat. If the exercise was done on one side of the body then when you repeat it, it is done on the other side of the body. Each exercise is done for approximately 30 seconds. If an exercise uses dumbbells I mark it w/ (DB) somewhere in the description.

Workout #1 32 minutes; 3:30 minute warm up, 2:30 minute stretch. For a level one workout, I found this challenging and excellent overall–with the proper weights! Not the 3 pound dumbbells Jillian and crew are using. And of course, I didn’t do any of the easier modifications either. Jillian was wearing an interesting outfit in this workout. A leathery-like number. Not her best wardrobe choice, but she has a great body and it looks great on her anyway.

Circuit 1: 1. one arm row in deep lunge (DB); 2. one arm burpee; 3. push ups; 4. get into straight arm plank w/ legs wide; twist around, bringing leg under you (but straight) and arm to sky (open side plank); alternate sides; 5. swimmers. Repeat Circuit 1 on other side of body.

Circuit 2: 1. ab hold moguls (get into elbow plank and run feet up to one elbow then back, then up to the other elbow; keep alternating sides; 2. lat pull to chest press while in bridge w/ hips raised throughout (DB); 3. sit up w/ chest fly and tricep extension at top of move (DB); 4. goddess squats with overhead press (DB); 5. reverse fly w/ warrior 3 (DB). Repeat Circuit 2 on other side of body.

Circuit 3: 1. squat w/ wide row (DB); 2. static chair w/ side to overhead straight arm raises (DB); 3. squat thrust alternated w/ plank jack; 4. side lying tricep push ups; 5. static side lunge w/ concentration bicep curl (DB). Repeat Circuit 3 on other side of body.

Circuit 4: 1. 3 way curls (traditional bicep curls, hammer curls, reverse curls; alternate these 3 curls) (DB); 2. reach and pulls (they are like punches holding light DBs); 3. cross arms holding DBs across chest and hinge at hips (good mornings), straighten and do a W overhead press (DBs); 4. bend at hips, bring straight arms holding DBs behind you palms to ceiling and do tricep pulses (DB); 5. sumo squats w/ alternating front raises (DBs). Repeat Circuit 4 on other side of body.

Workout #2 is 34 minutes long; 3:30 minute warm up and 3 minute stretch. I found this workout extremely challenging. I have to share my day first tho. I gave blood in the morning around 9am and then did this workout after work around 5pm. So I’m not sure if it was solely the workout that killed me or a combination of the workout and being low a pint of blood. But either way, I found this to be a killer workout. ***12/07/16 I did this workout again–having not given blood recently, and it was not a killer. It is a very good workout, but being a pint low definitely had an impact on how this workout felt.*** As usual, Jillian and crew are using super light dumbbells (3 pounders) and for some of the exercises in this workout, super light dumbbells are actually appropriate, but for many of the other exercises (back work especially) you will need much heavier dumbbells than 3 pounds if you want to see any real results in that area. I used 3-15 pound dumbbells in this workout.

Circuit #1: 1. burpees w/ wide row (do a burpee holding DBs and do not come up to standing, remain in squat to do the wide row); 2. renegade row w/ tricep extension (DB) (so row and from the row do a tricep extension/kickback; alternate arms); 3. superman bicep curls (lay on stomach holding DBs w/ palms to ceiling; curl DBs and hold at top while lifting elbows/torso and legs); 4. figure 4 tricep dip (tricep dips but w/ one foot crossed over other knee); 5. dancing crab (lay flat on back, arms straight overhead and legs extended straight; bend one knee and push up on that foot and opposite hand while raising other foot and reaching for toe w/ opposite hand). Repeat Circuit 1 on other side of body.

Circuit #2: 1. push away balance (one leg pike press from standing); 2. walk out plank ups (start from standing and walk out to straight arm plank, come down to elbows then back to hands and walk hands back to feet); 3. push up to twisting heroes (do a push up, then push body back like you are going into child’s pose except knees never hit the ground and you twist hips to side); 4. sit ups w/ figure 8 pass (lay flat on back w/ one DB held in both hands over head; sit up while raising one leg, pass DB around leg and lower back to ground bringing DB overhead; alternate sides); 5. reverse plank to boat pose. Repeat Circuit 2 on other side of body.

Circuit #3: 1. deadlift w/ low row (hold DBs w/ palms facing forward; deadlift and row at bottom); 2. static good morning (stand w/ legs wide and hinge at hips; holding light DBs circle straight arms around and back); 3. bear crawls (get onto all 4s but w/ knees raised off ground; in this position crawl forward 4 steps and backward 4 steps); 4. crab walk (get into table and walk forward 4 and back 4 in this position); 5. elbow drivers (lay on back, legs straight, holding DBs at sides, elbows bent and on the mat; push bottom/hips up, keeping heels and shoulders on ground, lower hips and do narrow chest press; alternate these two moves). Repeat Circuit 3 on other side of body.

Circuit #4: 1. donkey kicks; 2. dragging bicep curls while in static lunge (keep elbows close to side and drag DBs up side as you curl so that your elbows come out behind you); 3. cyclones (stand with legs wide and arms extended straight to sides holding light DBs; pivot to side and lunge, return to center and pivot to other side and lunge, arms always remain straight and extended); 4. plie squat w/ bicep curls (DB); 5. lower into chair pose raising DBs w/ straight arms overhead then straight legs and lower arms, pressing straight arms behind you into straight arm tricep press. Repeat Circuit 4 on other side of body.

Workout #3 is 34:30 minutes long; 3 minute warm up and 3 minutes stretch. This was a tough work but IMHO, not as tough as Workout #2. It still challenged me and, for me at least, it was impossible to go very heavy on any of the exercises. I used 8 pound dumbbells a lot. Also 12s, 5s and 3s, but mostly 8s.

Circuit #1: 1. wide push ups; 2. forearm up downs (still in plank, bring hands so the are crossed, one in front of the other, wrists parallel; lower to forearms and push back onto hands–hand position never changes); 3. surrender lunges w/ shoulder press at top (when lowering to knees you will hold DBs static at shoulders); 4. drop into static squat and do fast alternating bent over rows (DB); 5. dumbbell snatch (feet close together do squat bringing DBs along front of shins then snatch them up and overhead). Repeat Circuit 1 on other side of body.

Circuit #2: 1. push up to hero; 2. lat pulls w/ single leg hip thrusts; 3. rocking cobra (cobra then rock forward lifting legs/thighs/hips); 4. dumbbell swings to overhead press (DB); 5. alternating lunges w/ figure 8 pass under front leg (when you are at top/standing of move, bring DB overhead). Repeat Circuit 2 on other side of body.

Circuit #3: 1. halo squats (hold one DB in both hands, squat, bringing elbows to knees and when you stand, halo DB round head) (DB); 2. lean over into good morning; alternate a reverse fly w/ a front raise in this position (DB); 3. static crescent lunge w/ low row kickback (row w/ palms facing forward into a tricep kickback w/ palms still facing forward) (DB); 4. get into side plank w/ one DB in top hand; lower hip to floor while DB is on floor in front of you, raise hip while raising DB to ceiling; 5. superman press outs (get into superman w/ light DBs and press arms forward then draw back in goal post). Repeat Circuit 3 on other side of body.

Circuit #4: 1. bird dog push ups; 2. start in down dog and transition into plank while reaching one arm forward (so one arm plank) and when you return to down dog you will reach for opposite ankle with the hand; 3. figure 4 squats w/ serving bicep curl (one leg squats while pushing dumbbells from mid-curl position out in front of you); 4. deadlift to upright row (DB); 5. hold two DBs together between both hands (or just use one heavier DB in both hands) and squat while pressing DB(s) straight out in front of you. Repeat Circuit 4 on other side of body.


6 thoughts on “Killer Arms & Back

  1. Hi,
    Have you seen actual results with this DVD? Because I wanted to try it, but I’m skeptical that using an 8 pound dumbbell isn’t going to get me arms like Jillian. Thanks!


    1. Hi Darlene! Sorry it has taken me so long to reply. I have been out of town for the past week. I workout every day but I do not do Killer Arms & Back every day. It is a workout I mix in with a lot of other workouts so I cannot say that I have seen results from this workout since there is a lot more contributing to any results I get than this workout alone. In fact, I primarily do Cathe workouts. But you are correct–using only an 8 pound dumbbell is unlikely to get you a great upper body. As I mention in the review to this workout, I used as heavy as 20 pound dumbbells in these workouts. Jillian’s workouts are primarily metabolic fat burning workouts. You will build muscle if you challenge yourself with heavy enough weights and do the most advanced version of all of her exercises that you are capable of doing, but it is unlikely her workouts alone will ever give you fitness model arms unless you are genetically gifted. That takes heavier and more focused weightlifting. Which is why I spend more time doing Cathe‘s strength workouts than any other trainer. I added links to my “cathe” category to this reply. If you click on it, it will list all of her workouts. Now, I also subscribe to her live streaming and review those workouts, so you’ll have to scroll for her DVDs. But I have reviewed almost all of her 100+ DVDs on this blog, too.


  2. Hello
    I love your blog. I check it first before purchasing videos. I have all of Jillian Michaels videos on DVD or iTunes or FitFusion. Do you have a beginner intermediate rotation you would recommend for her videos or do you know where I can find them. I have up to 45 minutes each morning. I am interested in full body weights and hiit 6 days a week. I looked at one of your Cathe Metabolic Rotations and I think I will try that in 6 months when I am finished school.


    1. Hi Steph! I’m so glad this blog is so helpful! Jillian does have some beginner workouts available but I have never tried them. That is a good place to start. Or you can try her Body Revolution. That is a great program and the first phase starts at the beginner level. With all of her workout DVDs she always has someone showing beginner modifications. Most of her DVDs are total body strength. You could alternate several different workouts: One Week Shred, 30 Day Shred and Ripped in 30. That gives you 8 different total body workouts (all under 45 minutes long) plus a cardio workout. Follow the beginner modifier and use light weights. Alternate cardio workouts w/ strength workouts (strength one day, cardio the next, etc). If you aren’t interested in Body Revolution as a whole program you can buy just the cardio workouts from the program–that gives you more variety for cardio so you aren’t doing the same cardio workout every other day.


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