Build Upper Body Strength
Why is upper body important? That’s pretty easy to answer for aesthetic purposes- to get in shape and look great! Because the upper body muscles are the most noticeable on you, upper body exercises are the most popular at the gym. Having a strong upper body includes shoulders, chest, biceps, triceps, abs and back. (It’s also important to maintain a strong lower body, so those muscles shouldn’t be neglected during workouts.) All these muscles play an important role in your daily life and in keeping good posture. Your back and shoulders need to be in proper alignment in order to walk, run, sit and workout correctly.
In my personal opinion, the exercises for upper body should be slightly different for men and women. It’s a known fact that women don’t have the adequate testosterone levels to retain muscle in the upper body. Actually doctors say that on average, women’s upper body strength is equal to only 50% of their lower body strength. For example, most men who can bench press 100 lbs can also leg press 100 lbs. However, the average woman who can leg press 100lbs, will only bench press 50lbs max. That being said, here’s a list of the top ten upper body exercises I’ve put together. None of them require added weight, but feel free to up the intensity as needed.
Ladies: Here’s my list of the most important upper body exercises (note: core will be a separate topic)
1. Band bicep curl: increase strength and muscle endurance of upper arms. Biceps are usually smaller in comparison to triceps so we need to train this exercise in order to successfully complete the other upper body movements.
2. Pull up: High reps are key here and resistance or band assistance is required to increase amount of reps.
To strengthen this movement: The bicep curl leads to pull up proficiency. Bottom position requires more arm strength to get moving. Top position requires more strength from your upper back, traps and rhomboids. The pull up hits the traps, lats , biceps and back.
3. Decline/incline push-up : upper/lower pectoral, tris and shoulders. Often neglected but important for muscular balance of the chest and arms. Also good for the forearms
4. Push-ups/ Diamond push up : forearms, tris and chest. Diamond push-ups Focuses more on tri’s specifically the upper arm. Target is to tone upper arms.
5. Bomber push-up : shoulders, traps , delts and tris. to strengthen delts and improve overall balance and posture. By completing this movement you’re working your way to the pike push-up (explained below).
6. Inverted row : back, tris and traps and stabilizers in between – this is an important exercise to help balance the push up and chest workouts. Those are anterior strengthening exercises and we need to do equal work with the posterior to improve posture and avoid injury.
7. Lower back extension: effective for elongating, strengthening and isolating the muscles of the lower back. Perform high reps and you’ll notice a decrease in lower back tension.
8. Superman: shoulders and mid/ lower back. I recommend this exercise to anyone who spends too much time in a seated position. This will help stretch and strengthen your lower back.
9. Rows: shoulders and mid back. This is one of the best exercises to gain mid back, arm and lat strength. Can be performed with band resistance.
10. Rear delt pulls (reverse flyes): shoulder and upper back. This will improve your overall upper body lifting capacity. These muscles are often neglected and need to be strong in order to stabilize other movements.
I’d also like to include dips/ bench dips to this list. The chair you use needs to be the appropriate height to reach a 90 degree angle.
Okay guys, it’s time to overload the upper body with bodyweight exercises. Simply put, bodyweight exercises should be the first step in creating a well-rounded physique. Push ups and pull-ups may not look too difficult but don’t take these bodyweight exercises for granted. Other exercises like the inverted row and reverse flyes will hit muscle groups you might have forgotten about in past workouts. Skipping these certain areas of the upper body creates muscular imbalances.
Some areas are more worked than others. I’m referring to the 3 C’s —> Crunches, Chest and Curls. A lot of guys like to focus on these exercises which leaves certain areas missing in workouts. It’s common for men to be imbalanced in the shoulders / back and arm areas. We can fix these imbalances with basic bodyweight exercises. Although we won’t be utilizing the bench press, we can achieve the same strengthening with variations of the push-up.
Men: my list of top 10 upper body exercises (note: core will be a separate topic)
1. Push up: pectorals, triceps and delts. nothing can substitute this basic movement. Include band resistance to increase load on the muscles. But be careful to avoid shoulder strain since resistance is much higher at the top of the movement.
2. Incline push-up: lower pectorals, triceps.
3. Decline pushup: upper pectorals, triceps. The upper pectorals are often hard to target. Get the most out of this exercise by squeezing your chest at the top of the movement.
4. Pull up: traps, lats, biceps, back. There are many ways to do a pullup. Wide grip, close grip, chin up, single arm… The trick is to perform the pullup correctly.
5. Inverted row: back, tris and traps and stabilizers in between – this is an important exercise to help balance out your push up and chest workouts.
6. Pike push-up/ Inverted push-up: targets the shoulders and triceps. This one can be tough, but expect to see huge gains in abdominal, shoulder and lat strength. Also ideal for anyone looking to put on a little size in the upper body.
7. Band flyes/reverse flyes: also known as rear delt pulls, this works the rear delts, shoulders and upper back. The band reverse flyes make a noticeable difference in your back and shoulder strength.
8. Rows: biceps, forearms, shoulders and mid back. This is one of the best exercises to gain mid back, arm and lat strength. Can be performed with band resistance.
9. Dips: triceps, pecs and anterior delts. Don’t underestimate this exercise, it can be a game changer. Add this one to the end of your workouts for a burnout affect. This exercise can be band assisted for increased amount of reps. Dip bars are ideal for this exercise. If you don’t have access to bars you can use two chairs with sturdy backs.
10. Reverse flyes : rear delts . The chest is the most targeted muscle for men. It’s important to include this and the row exercise to balance the anterior/posterior muscle groups to improve posture and avoid injury.
Don’t forget to include core exercises at the end of your workouts. That doesn’t mean doing some crunches and sitting in the Kruncher to get an abdominal workout. I recommend exercises like the plank, side plank, toe/side toe touches, side dips and using the ab roller.
As we get into the summer moths it’s important to look good and feel good about yourself. Sure, everyone wants to look better but who’s willing to put in the work to do that? It takes time and dedication to reach your fitness goals. It also takes a support group and a well designed plan to stay on track with the workouts. Starting April 1st I’ll be hosting a 30 day Crevfit Challenge via Crevfit Club on Facebook. This will include upper body exercises designed to give you a stronger core, defined arms and a body that is ready for beach season. After just three weeks you will see a noticeable difference in appearance and overall sense of wellbeing. Give yourself a head start on everyone else this summer and join us!
Most of the time no one plans on starting this process until May or June, but by then it’s already too late. April is the time to prepare yourself to be swimsuit- ready and confident during the summer. For all the ladies interested, I’m happy to announce that you will also have assistance from Lourdes Fontaine. Lourdes (aka Bonita) is going be an advisor for the challenge and she’s excited to help!
Lourdes Fontaine, Certified Crevfit Coach
Please join by visiting my Facebook page or click here. Join soon because spots will fill up quickly. You won’t find another opportunity to train with an Olympic caliber coach that’s proven to produce results. Spread the invite by sharing this article with friends and family. Challenge them to complete the workouts!
Yours in fitness,
Chris Creveling – founder of Crevfit Online Coaching
Crevfit Online Coaching : Facebook page