Building upper body strength is important for many reasons, and I know many of us wish we were stronger. We need it for functional use, such as reaching for something beyond our reach, mowing the lawn, picking up heavy items or carrying heavy boxes. Women, particularly, need to develop their upper body, since they are typically lacking in strength here. All of us, lose muscle as we age, so why not build it?
These are five strength-building exercises for the upper body that I’d recommend starting now. Begin with a comfortable weight that you can do until fatigued (tired and you can’t do even one more repetition).
Your goal is to do three sets of each exercise with 10-15 repetitions. Rest in between sets for 10-15 seconds (longer if you need to).
1. Chest Press: Use free weights on a bench. Lying flat on the bench, grab a pair of dumbbells and push horizontally up to the ceiling. Variation: Chest Flyes: Use weights lying on bench. Bring weights up to the ceiling, and open arms to the level of bench and bring the weights to the front of your chest, using a nice bent-elbow hug.
2. Biceps Curls and Hammer Curls: Stand facing a mirror. Biceps: Take one dumbbell in each hand, held horizontally. Bring weights up to curl your arm, without going all the way to the top. Hammer Curls: Hold weights vertically and bring arms up to shoulders.
3. Triceps Kickbacks and Overhead Extensions: Use weight bench and put one leg on it. Lean over, with one free weight in your hand. Lift your arm and bring it up to your side. Take the weight and kick it back to straighten your arm while keeping lifted. Switch sides. For overhead extensions, take one heavier weight to use with two arms. This could be twice the weight you used for your single arms. Sit on bench and grab the weight with both arms overhead. Start with straight arms, then bend and straighten the weight behind your head.
4. Assisted Pull-Ups and Dips: Use the machine in the weight room. Start with a heavier weight, such as 80 pounds, as this will provide more assistance with your exercises. As you become stronger, lighten the weight so you need less “assistance.” (Think about a future goal of doing an unassisted pull-up!)
5. Bent-Over Rows: Use your free weights on the bench. Put one leg on it and take a weight that you can use to take down to one side. Row and pull the weight back up to your side.
These are five great strength builders to incorporate into your weekly workouts. When you’re ready for more, we can talk about compound exercises, using upper and lower body exercises together. Stay tuned!
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