What are Some Upper Body Workouts?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 February 2020
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Developing the muscles of the neck, arms, shoulders and chest are part of a well-balanced workout plan. Essential for strength training, some examples of upper body exercises are also designed to help sculpt the area above the waist, creating a figure that is desirable and pleasing to the eye. Along with the aesthetics of engaging in upper body workouts, there is also the enhanced mood and general sense of feeling strong, as well as the increased level of confidence. If you have decided the time is right to develop an upper body workout plan, here are a few exercises you may want to include in your approach.

One of the most simplistic exercises to include in an upper body workout is a variation on the good old-fashioned push-up. Get into position by kneeling on an exercise mat. Leaning forward, place the hands palm down on the floor in alignment with the shoulders or at a distance that is slightly wider than the shoulders. Bend the elbows until the shoulders are just above the floor and hold for a moment, then return to the original position. Once you have mastered this exercise, you can choose to include full push-ups in your upper body workout as well.


Another solid exercise that works the upper body is the chest press. This one requires small barbells. Lie on a bench or the floor, facing upward. With the weights in hand, raise them over your chest area, leaving the elbows only slightly bent. Begin to lower the weights by bending the lower arms and elbows until the elbows are more or less at shoulder level. Take in a breath of air to contract the chest and push the arms up as you exhale. Make sure that the weights do not touch during the routine.

For the shoulders and back, one of the best upper body exercises is a simple back extension. This exercise requires nothing more than a clean floor and an exercise mat. Stretch out face down on the floor, taking care to place the hands behind the back. Slowly lift your upper body off the mat. Do not allow the head and neck to move out of a straight line with the upward curve of the back. Also, don’t feel you have to lift up more than a few inches. This exercise not only place tension on the back and shoulders, but also will stretch your chest muscles slightly.

Another upper body exercise that is great for the chest, shoulders, and upper arms is known as the overhead press. This exercise can be performed on an exercise bench or a straight back chair. Sitting upright, grab a small barbell with each hand. Lift the arms until the elbows are level with the shoulders. Straighten the elbows so the weights are pushed upward. Make sure to keep the palms facing one another and to move each arm with equal speed. Extend the arms until they are fully stretched. Hold the position for a moment, then lower the weights by bending the elbows back into a level that is even with the shoulders.

Front raises are similar to the overhead press. The difference with this upper body exercise is that the arms are positioned so the hands are resting in front of the thighs. Make sure the palms of the hands are facing inward. Grip a weight in each hand and slowly raise the arms to shoulder level, allowing the elbows to bend slightly. This will place you in a position where the weights are in front of you and more or less at shoulder height. Hold for a moment, then lower back into position. The front raise is ideally done while standing, but will work in a sitting position as well.

The number of repetitions for each exercise depends on the current fitness level of the individual. People who are just beginning to exercise the upper body will want to start off with a fewer number of repetitions for each exercise, possible no more than one set of eight to ten repetitions. As body strength begins to increase, add a second set of repetitions and possibly move from ten to twelve or fourteen repetitions of each exercise per set. Keep in mind it is a good idea to have a checkup before embarking on a new exercise plan and make sure the exercises you have in mind will not cause a health issue or aggravate an existing one. The goal of doing upper body exercises is to enhance your health, not create more problems.



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