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Dynamic Upper Body Strength Workout for Beginners

While most people think of the upper body as just the “show” muscles, those that look good in a tank top or short sleeved shirt (Ha!), the truth is those upper body muscles are essential for some of the most fundamental daily movement patterns. These movement patterns include pulling or pushing vertically above your head or pulling and pushing horizontally, towards or way from your body.

If you stop and think about it, you perform these movements all the time, whether it’s putting the groceries away on the top shelf, pulling a door closed, or putting down a laundry basket. Your ‘Push’ muscles are your chest, shoulders, and triceps. While your ‘Pull’ muscles are your back and biceps muscles. When grouped together they are called complimentary muscles and work in concert to create motion. So, it’s important to do upper body strength workouts that help optimize how we perform these movements and make our everyday activities more efficient.

Upper Body Workout Considerations

Here are a few things to keep in mind before getting started:

  • BUT FIRST, STRETCH: Always warm up the muscles you are planning to engage in your workout with some dynamic stretches. These are stretches that limber up the body by moving you muscles and joints to their fullest range of motion to increase blood flow and oxygen throughout the body.
    • Some great example of effective dynamic stretches are:
      • Shoulder Circles – For shoulder activation
      • Chest Openers – For chest and anterior delt activation
      • Trunk Rotations – For obliques and lower lumbar activation
      • Bend & Reaches – For posterior chain activation and increasing your heart rate
  • LIFT THE RIGHT WEIGHTS FOR YOU: Start with light weights so you can focus on your form and technique, while performing the exercise at a controlled pace. As you feel more comfortable with your form and mechanics, you can increase weight to add a little challenge. Remember, there is no hurry, so go at your own pace and just do you!
  • (Pro-tip: If you don’t have dumbbells handy, use anything that adds a load to the muscle, like water bottles, a milk jug, or even a set of canned goods. It targets the muscle just the same)
  • Question about exercises?  If you want to make sure you are performing each exercise correctly, we have short tutorials for all featured exercises right in our FREE PF App – just download it at xxx

 

Now that you are properly warmed up, have chosen a nice light weight to use, let’s get this upper body strength workout started! (or click here to get this easy to follow workout started)

 

8 Sensational Upper Body Strength Workouts

  1. Standing Shoulder Press (Push Muscle Group)

Benefit: Our shoulder joint is one of the most mobile joints in our body and is essential to many actions we perform in our daily activities. Strengthening the shoulders properly can also help to improve posture.

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How to:

  • Stand in an upright position with feet about hip width apart and a slight bend in the knee
  • Hold your dumbbells out to the side at shoulder height, with your palms facing outward, and elbows a little less than 90 degrees
  • Begin by raising the dumbbells upward above your head until they are ere fully extended and the weight is directly above the shoulders (elbows should not lock out)
  • Return the weight slowly to starting position and repeat

How many:

  • Perform 3 sets for 12-15 repetitions

 

  1. Biceps Curl (Pull Muscle Group)

Benefit: Our biceps are one of the most dynamic muscles in the arm. They are involved with grip strength and can help stabilize your elbow to prevent possible injury. Just think of how many more grocery bags you can tote by increasing your biceps strength! 😊

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How to:

  • Stand in an upright position with your feet about hip width apart and your knees slightly flexed
  • Hold your dumbbells down to your side with your palms facing outward and your elbows slightly bent
  • Keeping your in a fixed position, raise the weight upward until you reach your peak range of motion and squeeze the bicep
  • Slowly release and allow the weight to come back to the starting position
    • (Pro-Tip: To increase the tension on the muscle and add a challenge to the exercise, slow down the pace of the movement up and down)

How many:

  • Perform 3 sets for 12-15 repetitions

 

  1. Triceps Extension (Push Muscle Group)

Benefit: The triceps muscle is small yet mighty! It helps with flexion of the elbow, stabilizes the shoulder, and improves our ability to press things away from our body. It evens helps with performing some of our favorite past-times like swimming, tennis, and basketball.

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How to:

  • Stand with your feet about hip width apart, with your heels flat and knees slightly bent
  • Hold just one of your dumbbells with both hands clasping the inside of the top weight plate
  • Raise the weight above your head and slowly allow your elbows to flex so that the weight drops down tracing the line of your spine
  • Once you’ve reached your fullest range of motion, slowly press the weight straight up until your arm is fully extended without locking your elbows.
  • Hold it for a beat at the peak of the motion and then slowly return the weight to starting position and repeat
    • (Pro-Tip: If you want to work both arms independently, you can perform this same exercise with two lighter weights using the same mechanics )

How many:

  • Perform 3 sets for 12-15 repetitions

 

  1. Bent Row (Pull Muscle Group)

Benefit: The back is one of the most essential muscle groups in the entire body because it is primarily responsible for keeping us upright. Having a strong back with help improve posture while making movement less taxing and more efficient.

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How to:

How many:

  • Perform 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions

 

  1. Svend Press (Push Muscle Group)

Benefit: Some of the best types of upper body strength exercises are compound exercises because they engage multiple muscle groups at the same time. The Svend Press is a perfect example of that because it targets the chest, shoulder, and triceps in one motion. Therefore, benefiting and pushing movement and increasing circulation through the upper extremities.

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How to:

  • Stand with your feet about hip width apart, heels firmly planted into the ground and slight flexion in the knees
  • Grab one dumbbell and turn it so that the weight is parallel to the ground
  • Squeeze the plate with both hands on either side of the plate and palms open
  • Start with the weight close to your chest and your elbows flexed and pointing directly behind you
  • While keeping constant pressure on both side of the weight by squeezing it with your palms, press the weight outward horizontally and at a slight upward incline
  • Once you’ve reached full extension without locking your elbows, pause and then slowly return to starting position
    • (Pro-Tip: To engage different parts of the chest muscle, once you’ve reached your peak range of motion, tilt the weight 90 degrees right and left before returning to the starting position)

How many:

  • Perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions

 

  1. Reverse Fly (Pull Muscle Group)

Benefit: Whenever we sit or stand for extended periods of time, our shoulders can tend to roll forward and cause improper posture and strain on the upper back area. Reverse flies are a great way to intentionally pull the shoulders back to correct that postural flaw and engage the rear delt muscle
 

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How to:

  • Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and your knees flexed slightly more than what we’ve done in the previous exercises
  • Hinge at the hip by pushing your rear back and lower your chest to the floor while keeping a nice flat back
  • From this position, lower your weights down with your palms facing inward and the weights beneath your shoulders (This is your starting position)
  • While keeping slight flexion in the elbow, raise the weights out to the side by squeezing the shoulder blades together. Think pulling the weights apart as if you were ripping open a bag
  • Once you’ve reached the peak of the motion, slowly return to the starting position and repeat

How many:

  • Perform 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions

 

  1. Lying Chest Fly (Push Muscle Group)

Benefits: The chest fly exercise is a great movement to open your chest and increase range of motion through the front of the shoulders. Doing this will help decrease stress and strain on the upper back, while also reducing tightness in the upper body

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How to:

  • Start by picking a safe and comfortable spot on the ground and using a mat if you’d prefer
  • Safely lower yourself to the ground and lye on your back so that your back and buttocks are flat against the floor
  • Bend your knees so that your feet can also be flush against the floor or mat
  • Extend your arms straight out to your side with your weights in both hands and your elbows slightly flexed
  • Slowly raise the weights as if you are hugging a big oak tree and allow the weights to meet in the middle right above the center of your chest (Be sure to squeeze the pectoral or chest muscles at the peak of the motion)
  • Then slowly allow them to return back to the starting position and repeat
    • (Pro-Tip: Be sure to engage your core throughout the movement by squeezing your navel to your spine. This will help your stabilization throughout the exercise)

How many:

  • Perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions

 

  1. Lying Super Mans (Pull Muscle Group) – Non-weighted

Benefits: Superman isn’t just a hero in the comic books and movie screens, the exercise that bears his namesake is one of the best total body exercises anyone can do. It is essentially a pulling motion that helps strengthen all the back muscles, but also engages the glutes and hamstrings as well. Making this a great exercise for posture, functional movement, and core strength.

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How to:

  • Start by picking a safe and comfortable spot on the ground and using a mat if you’d prefer
  • Safely lower yourself to the ground and lye on your stomach with both arms and legs extended
  • From this starting position, raise both arms and both legs at the same time with the aim of elevating the top part of our chest and the lower part of your thighs
  • Once you’ve reached your peak range of motion, squeeze your glutes and lower back muscles, hold for a beat and then slowly return to the starting position and repeat
    • (Pro-Tip: If doing both arms and legs together is a bit too challenging, you can do left arm and right leg together and alternate sides with each repetition)

How many:

  • Perform 3 sets for 10-12 repetitions