Pull-ups.Pull-ups are the king of upper body exercises. You’re using your own body weight as resistance to literally pull yourself up. Talk about a killer exercise! Pull-ups mainly target your lats, which are the muscles that run along the sides of your back and up to your shoulder. They also work your shoulders and biceps. It’s okay if you can’t do a pull-up on your own. In order to work up to it use an assisted pull-up machine or a band. Each week try to use less and less resistance.
Bench press. You may think a bench press is only a chest exercise, but you recruit many other muscles. You’re working your chest, triceps, shoulders and core. Make sure you keep your back flat against the bench, feet planted on the ground, and hands a little wider than shoulder width apart. Lower slowly, then blast it up. Keep your core tight throughout, and when you have trouble lifting it up, squeeze your glutes and push down with your legs (while pushing up). If your gym doesn’t have a barbell, you can use dumbbells.
Military press. This is similar to the bench press, except it’s mainly targeting your shoulders. Having strong shoulders will help you with many upper body lifts, especially pull-ups. You will be using a barbell for this as well, but you can also do this with dumbbells. Stand in a split stance and keep your core tight as you lift the bar up over your head. Your arms should be right by your ears, not in front or behind them. Be careful not to arch your lower back as you lift the weight up. If you feel yourself doing that, choose a lighter weight.
Seated row. Working your back is a great way to torch calories because it’s a big muscle group. It also helps build strength in the upper body (and who doesn’t want to have a defined back come summer time?). At the seated row machine, grab the bar then as you pull it into your chest make sure you’re sitting with your chest up and shoulders back. Your back should never be slouched or rounded. Slowly let the weight go out, then pull it in with force. This exercise works your lats as well as the muscles in the middle of your back by your shoulder blades. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades with every pull. Make sure to relax your traps though (muscles by your neck and shoulders). You don’t want to tense up during this exercise. If you do, you need a lighter weight.
These are four of the main lifts when it comes to upper body strength training. If you want defined arms, doing bicep curls and dips will only get you so far. Utilizing exercises that work big muscles and multiple muscles at once will drastically increase your strength. Make sure to write down the weights you use, as well as sets and reps in a training log in order to track your progress. In a few weeks you’ll look back and be astounded by the changes you’ve made! This is one area I am always needing help with, since women by nature aren’t as strong as men when it comes to upper body strength, and I’d rather walk! What is your favorite arm exercise?