Body Fitness Tips For Men

7 Best Upper Body Strength Exercises

Strength training is very important for any overall fitness program and having a strong upper body has many advantages. Having a high level of overall lean muscle can aid in a long term elevation of your metabolism and the upper body features some very large muscle groups including the pectorals major (chest), rhomboids and latissimus dorsi (back muscles) along with the entire shoulder girdle. Balanced upper body strength also helps develop good posture which can give the look of a lean, slim body. Another advantage is that effective strength training will develop a very athletic and fit body and everyone wants their arms to look good, right?

In terms of upper body training; I approach this as I would any other area. Train your larger muscle groups and movements because that is how the body moves and in doing this you burn more calories, recruit more muscle fibers, and elevate your overall work rate. This should be the staple of your program and then be sure to add in some accessory exercises in order to keep a balanced state around each joint and to prevent injuries.

All of these exercises will recruit large muscle groups which in turn burn more calories during the workout and elevate the metabolism for a long period of time after training.

Here are my top 7 upper body strength exercises and an explanation of technique:

1. Chin Ups
• Muscles targeted: Upper back, biceps, shoulders, abdominals
• Use a close, reverse grip with palms facing you
• Start with arms straight and retract your shoulder blades
• Look up toward the bar and drive your elbows down toward your ribcage as you elevate your chest to the bar
• Squeeze your upper back muscles as you get to the top
• Raise your chest as close to the bar as possible and slowly descend
• Perform as many as you can with good posture and no swinging
• These can be modified by placing a band or a partner’s hand under one knee for support

2. Push Ups
• Muscles targeted: Chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, abdominals, lower back, hip flexors, oblique
• Place your hands shoulder width apart with elbows facing back
• Elevate onto your toes and tighten up your abdominals, hips, and glutes
• Look at the floor and slowly lower your body down, trying to touch the floor with your nose
• Exhale as you forcefully push back up to the starting point
• Can be modified with medicine balls, physio balls, and weight vests for difficulty

3. Bench Press
• Muscles targeted: chest, shoulders, triceps
• Lie on the bench with your feet flat on the floor
• Grip the bar at a shoulder width position
• Squeeze your upper back muscles (lats) to help stabilize your shoulders
• Keep your lats and glutes tight to the bench for stability
• Take the bar off the rack and position it just above your chest, elbows locked out
• Slowly lower the bar to your chest without touching
• Forcefully drive the bar straight back up and exhale

4. Barbell Bent Over Row
• Muscles targeted: Upper back, biceps, shoulders, abdominals, lower back
• Slightly bend your knees, lean forward and push your hips back
• Flatten your lower back and tighten your abdominals
• Tuck your chin and position the weight below your belly button, arms straight
• Retract your shoulder blades
• Row the weight up to your ribcage, pausing at the top to squeeze your back
• Keeping your chin tucked and back flat, lower the weight to starting position and repeat

5. Dumbbell Standing Shoulder Press
• Muscles targeted: Shoulders, triceps, abdominals, lower back, oblique
• Position your feet shoulder width apart
• Hold 2 dumbbells, one at each shoulder
• Looking straight ahead, engage your abdominals
• Press the weight over your head with palms facing forward
• Exhale as you press and fully extend your elbows
• Slowly return weight to starting position and repeat
• Be sure to keep your back tight and straight as you raise the weight

6. Body Weight Dips
• Muscles targeted: Triceps, shoulders
• Position yourself on a dip bar with eyes straight ahead
• Place your hands in the middle of the bar and elbows pointed straight back
• Slowly lower your body down to the range of your shoulder joints
• Keep your elbows pointing back through the entire set
• Exhale and strongly push your body back up, locking out your elbows for maximum benefit

7. Ring Rows
• Muscles targeted: upper back, biceps, shoulders, abdominals
• Rings are rarely found in gym settings but if you can get your hands on these, they are great
• Set up the rings on the top of a squat rack at waist height
• Lie on your back with legs straight and retract your shoulder blades
• Grab rings and pull your body up as high as you can
• Squeeze your upper back and shoulders at the top
• Slowly lower to the bottom, keeping tension on your back
• Make these more difficult by elevating your feet or wearing a weight vest

All seven of these exercises are great for developing a lean and athletic upper body with great posture. Making these exercises the staples of your training program will ensure high levels of strength and calorie burn due to the intense nature of each movement.

Give these movements a try as a replacement to typical gym machines and isolated movements. Use these in conjunction with large lower body movements to develop a full body training plan of 5-7 exercises.

Personal trainer and strength coach Callie Durbrow is well known in the Boston area for developing personal training and small group training programs for fat loss, lean muscle development, and overall fitness. These programs are based around athletic training principles and functional movements.

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