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Building Upper Body Strength
Building Upper Body Strength
Having a strong healthy body isn't just about looking good; it's about taking care of the one body you will have for the rest of your life. It's important not only to develop your cardiovascular system and stay at a healthy weight, but also to build muscle strength all over the body to help support the skeleton. Upper body strength is key because of all the everyday tasks and demands we place on our arms, shoulders, and back. When your muscles are weak, you are more prone to aches and pains as well as potential injuries. The best way to protect your body from injury as well as diseases like osteoporosis is to strengthen the muscles and bones. Fortunately it's easy to do that and with regular workouts you can see results in just a few weeks. Take the initiative to care for your body and it will thank you by developing a strong healthy system.
When you are considering beginning a training schedule for upper body strength, you should consider a few factors such as your age, health, and current strength level. If you are new to exercising and haven't really done any strength training before, it's best to start out at the lightest weight that's comfortable to you and work up from there. More experienced exercises can better assess their own strength and decide what works. If you are older than 60 years of age, you may want to consult with your doctor to determine the best fitness program for bone and muscle health with the least amount of risk.
If you belong to a gym, ask a trainer to show you around the weight room and identify each machine and its use. Using weight machines can be a wonderful way to work your upper body but it's important to understand how they work first. Weight machines can be difficult at times, especially if you need to change the weights and have never done so. If you need to use a machine that you don't understand, ask a trainer or friendly nearby guest to give you a quick run-down. You may also want to consider arranging a private session with a trainer to help you get off on the right foot with your workout program. Trainers can also give you a general plan to follow to build strength over several months and that can be invaluable if you plan to go it alone at the gym.
For home exercises, you will need to invest in a set of weights that ranges from 3-10 lbs. You may require heavier weights later down the road, but this is the perfect set for beginners because of the range. Many discount stores sell a full set of weight with storage rack for $25 or less, so this shouldn't be terribly expensive. Set up your weights in the room that you plan to use for working out. Keeping them in the same place is important so that you get into a habit of using them, but don't put them somewhere that you rarely go. Out of sight, out of mind, is the rule for home weight lifting. If you don't see the weights, you're not going to think about using them. Many people ask about weight benches and barbells. Those are great accessories and can be very useful in a home gym, but for beginning weight lifters there's really no need unless you simply want to buy them. Once you have bought and set up your weights, it's time to plan your schedule. Locate a calendar and using the schedule below, mark down the days you will work out in a brightly colored ink to make it stand out. Writing down your workouts seal the day in your mind so that even if you don't see the calendar that day, you still remember you're supposed to be doing something.
The following schedule is a sample one-week program for the beginner level. Rest days are scheduled in to allow muscles adequate recovery time. Warm up muscles by walking briskly in place for two minutes while swinging arms gently. Rest no more than two minutes between sets.
Set 1, Bicep Curls: With arms at sides and elbows held firmly against body, hold weight comfortably in hand and raise for 5 counts; lower for 5 counts. Repeat for 2 sets of 15 repetitions.
Set 2, Lateral raise: With weights in hands, hold arms at 90-degree angle with weights in front. Slowly raise the elbow directly upward; then lower. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
Set 3, Overhead press: Hold weights in hands and rise to shoulder height. Slowly press weights overhead until arms are not quite fully extended; slowly lower. Repeat for 2 sets of 15 repetitions.
Set 4, Lateral fly: Hold weights in hands; raise arms up and open to the side. Bring weights together in front of the body; slowly open and bring back to sides. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
Day 2 – Rest & Recovery Day
Set 1, Forward press: Hold weights in hands and bring up to chest height. Slowly push weights forward for count of 5; bring back for count of 5. Repeat for 2 sets of 12 repetitions.
Set 2, Tricep raise: With weight in right hand, lift straight overhead and then slowly lower backward until the elbow is at right angle. Lift to original position; repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions. Repeat on left side.
Set 3, Shoulder fly: Hold weights in hands at sides; with palms down, slowly lift up until just below shoulder-height; slowly lower. Repeat for 2 sets of 15 repetitions.
Set 4, Hammer curls: With weights in hands, turn palms facing each other. Lift weight up almost to arm; slowly lower. Repeat for 2 sets of 12 repetitions.
Day 4 – Rest & Recovery Day
Set 1, Backward lift: Hold weights in hands and turn palms facing behind you. Lift arms behind you as far as possible, hold for count of 5, then slowly release. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
Set 2, Alternating punches: Hold weights in hands and raise to shoulder height. Beginning with right hand, press weight straight forward and slowly bring back; then repeat with left hand. Repeat for 2 sets of 10 repetitions for each side (20 total).
Set 3, Upward row: Hold weights in hands; step forward with one foot and lean forward. Extend arms downward, keeping the back straight; lift weights slowly as though starting a lawnmower in slow motion. Repeat for 2 sets of 12 repetitions.
Set 4, Angled Bicep curls: Hold weights in hands with elbows tucked against body. Angle arms slightly out to the sides; slowly raise and lower the weights. Repeat for 2 sets of 12 repetitions.
Days 6-7 – Rest & Recovery Day