What Exactly Is The Upper Body?
The upper body refers to all parts of the body above the waist. Increasing upper body strength involves performing some heavy weighted workouts targeted at muscles that make up the upper body.
The upper body is used in performing everyday activities so, improving its strength should be an essential part of your workout. Before we look at the various exercises to perform for increasing upper body strength, below are the different parts of the upper body and the muscles they contain:
The chest houses some of the largest muscles in the body and is an essential part of bodybuilding. A well-developed chest improves your physique, keeps the body strong, and adds weight to your upper body.
The pectorals are the muscles found in the chest. They include the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor also called pecs. These muscles are large, flat, run across the chest and are responsible for arm movements, ie, lateral, vertical or rotational. Working the pecs will increase chest size in men and support/lift the bust in women.
The shoulders contain muscles that form the outer shape of the shoulder and forearm. They work with and assist the back and chest muscles in aiding movements and maintaining the shoulder joint.
Working the shoulder will strengthen soft tissues, keep the shoulder strong, coordinated and flexible, helps in proper functioning of the shoulder joint and prevents joint injuries. A strong and well-developed shoulder adds weight to the upper body.
The muscles found in the shoulder include:
- Deltoids: Gives the shoulder a rounded-off shape, stretches from the top of the shoulder to the back; this large muscle is responsible for movements
- Rotator Cuff: Consisting of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis keeps the arm in place and stabilizes the shoulder
The back is a significant part of the upper body and very important area to work on during bodybuilding. It is the most complex major muscular structure in the body and combines different muscles which work together during physical activities.
The muscles present in the back are:
- The rhomboid: Located in the upper back, they hold the shoulders back, strengthen the scapulae and facilitates all back movements
- Trapezius: Large triangular shaped muscle runs across the shoulder and neck from the center of the back. This muscle controls the shoulder blade and plays an important role in neck and shoulder movements. The trapezius is also called traps
- Latissimus Dorsi: Also called the lats or wings, this large flat muscle in the back is partly covered by the trapezius. It stretches to the sides, behind the arms and is useful for various physical activities that involve pulling. This muscle is also used during swimming or overhead arm movements
- Teres: Lies underneath the lats and works hand in hand with the lats and rotator cuffs
- Erector spinae: Also called spinal erectors, these muscles are deep, help to straighten and rotate back and are very important for posture
The arm is a complex part of the upper body and contains various muscles that facilitate movement.
The muscles are grouped into upper arm muscles and forearm muscles.
- Biceps and triceps: Located in front and behind the upper arm, these muscles help to control, stabilize, strengthen the shoulder and elbow joints. They play vital roles in arm movements. They also give shape to and define the upper arm
- Forearm muscles: These are several muscles contained in the area between the elbow and the wrist. They aid movement in the forearm
Increasing Upper Body Strength
A well defined upper body requires performing workouts targeted at the various muscles in the upper region. These workouts can be performed with dumbbells, stability balls, and weight plates. However, some exercises can help you sculpt a strong upper body but do not require any weights.
During workouts, incorporating compound exercises into your routine will prove very useful in increasing upper body strength. Compound exercises work different muscles at the same time and will include activities performed with weights, barbells, dumbbells, machines and those performed with your body weight and some resistance bands.
The following exercises will target and strengthen the muscles in the back, arms, shoulders, and chest. They will increase strength, tone and define the upper body, improve speed, overall balance, posture, improve your core strength, flexibility, reduce risk to injuries, keep you healthy and fit and improve your physical appearance.
Upper Body Exercises
Target: Chest, shoulders, triceps.
- Place your hands apart on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Extend your legs behind you, either shoulder width apart or with feet touching.
- Engage your core muscle and clench your butt. Keep your elbows at your side
- Gently lower yourself until your chest is very close to the ground
- Return to the first position after two seconds
- Perform four sets of 20 reps with 2 minutes rest in between sets.
2. CHEST PRESSES
Target: Chest, pectoral muscles.
This exercise can be performed with a dumbbell, barbell, or a smith machine.
- Lie flat on the floor or workout bench and hold a dumbbell/ weight plates or barbell in each hand above your chest
- Keep your palms facing forward and your thumbs tight around the handles. Tighten your core muscles, make sure you are in a comfortable position
- With your head and shoulders on the bench, exhale and push the weight upward above your chest. Both weights should almost touch above your chest
- Contract your muscles and lower the weight back to your chest as you inhale and return to the starting position
- Perform three sets of 10 reps with an appropriate weight. Take 2 minutes rest in between sets
3. CHEST FLY
Target: Chest, shoulders, and biceps.
Can be performed on the floor or with a workout bench.
- Lay flat on the floor or on a workout bench. Bend your knees, keep your feet flat and hold a dumbbell in each hand
- Hold the dumbbells straight above your chest, tighten your core and keep your back flat on the ground
- Bend your elbow as you open your arms wide to your side. Contract your chest and bring the weight back to the top of your chest slowly
- Use an appropriate weight and Perform three sets of 10 reps with 2 minutes break between sets
4. BENCH PRESS
Target: Chest and back.
Can be performed on a workout bench, in a smith machine.
- Lay flat on a bench, hold a barbell above your chest. Keep distance slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
- Keep your core tight
- With your feet flat on the ground, inhale and lower the barbell to your chest
- Exhale, and push the barbell back to the starting position
- Use an appropriate weight and Perform eight sets of eight reps and rest for 30 secs between sets
5. CHIN UP
Target: Back and chest
- Hold a chin-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart
- Engage your core and pull yourself up steadily until your chin is above the bar
- With your elbow by your side, lower yourself to the starting position
- Repeat in three sets of six reps and rest for 30 secs in between
6. OVERHEAD PRESS
Target: The deltoids
- Stand with feet flat on the ground and shoulder width apart
- Hold a barbell in front of you and keep hand slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
- With your chest muscle contracted and your core tight, push the barbell over your head till your arms are straight
- Return to the starting position and practice in eight sets of eight reps
- Use an appropriate weight and rest 60 seconds between sets
7. LATERAL RAISE
Target: The deltoids and the traps
- Stand with feet flat and shoulder width apart
- Hold a set of dumbbell, keep your hands at your side and facing inwards
- With your core engaged, slowly Extend your arms out to your side until they are at shoulder level
- Hold for 20 secs and return the weights to the starting point
- Try to keep your arms straight throughout the workout and practice in three sets of 12 reps. Rest for 60 secs between sets
8. STANDING LAT PULLDOWN
Target: The back
- Face the weight stack of a lat pulldown station with your feet placed shoulder-width apart
- Reach out, grasp a lat pulldown bar with an overhand grip. Keep your arms straight and shoulder-width apart
- With your arm extended and parallel to the floor, bend your knees slightly and lower your back into an arc. Breathe in deeply; keep your head straight and lean forward
- Keep your arms straight and pull the bar down towards your thighs in one sweeping motion. Try to use only your lats as you perform this movement
- Breathe out once you get to the midpoint of this movement and contract your lats as the bar touches your thigh
- Go back to the starting position in one swift motion and stop when your arms are parallel to the floor
- Repeat in two sets of 10 reps with 60 seconds rests in between sets
9. PINCH GRIP
Target: The forearm
- Stand straight with feet flat, grab a barbell
- Hold the barbell and keep your palm brushing against your thigh
- With shoulders fixed in one position, move your elbow and raise the barbell until it is very close to your chest
- Relax your hand to the starting position and repeat in two sets of 10 reps with 30 secs rest in between sets
10. WRIST CURL/ REVERSE WRIST CURL
Target: The forearm
This exercise can be performed with a barbell or dumbbell
- Hold the weight and keep your palm facing up or down
- Now begin to rotate your wrist slowly, up and down. Try not to jerk the weight
- Repeat this movement in three sets of 15 reps with 20 secs rests in between