Toning and strengthening the upper body muscles is important to not only look good, but to keep you strong and make everyday activities much simpler. A toned and shapely upper body is the perfect complement to a well-defined lower body. Below are five basic upper body exercises that should be a part of everyone’s weight training regimen.
Chest / Bench Press
The chest (or bench) press is an excellent upper body exercise that strengthens the chest muscles, biceps, triceps and front shoulder (deltoid) muscles. It really is an all-encompassing work-out. This can be performed with two dumbbells, one barbell, with rubber exercise bands, or on a chest press machine.
Begin by laying flat on your back, preferably on a work-out bench. If you are using dumbbells, start with each dumbbell at either shoulder. Slowly bring them together in front of you as you straighten your arms. If you are using a barbell, simply start with the barbell resting gently on your chest, then slowly extend your arms in order to push the weight away from you. Slowly bring your arms and weights back to starting position. Perform between 8-12 repetitions, for three sets.
Performing push-ups is an activity that basically mimics the mechanics of the chest press. Instead of using weights, you use your body weight for resistance. Instead of facing up, you would be facing the floor. The muscles worked are virtually the same.
Military / Shoulder Press
The shoulder (or military) press works the front and side deltoids (shoulders) and the triceps. You can perform this exercise with two dumbbells, one barbell, or an exercise band as well. Begin by standing upright, with your arms bent and your barbell at chest level (or dumbbells at shoulder level). Slowly raise the weight above your head until your arms are straight (remember not to lock your elbows), then slowly bring the weight back to starting position. Perform 8-10 reps, for three sets.
This activity builds the bicep muscles. Begin by holding dumbbells in each hand (or a barbell in both hands) with your arms almost straight and the weights at thigh level. Slowly raise the weights by bending at the elbow until the weight is almost at chest level. Slowly lower back to starting position. Perform three sets of 8-10 reps.
This exercise works the tricep muscles behind the arms. Begin by holding one dumbbell with both hands over your head with straight arms. Try to keep your elbows in, as close to your head as possible. Slowly lower the weight behind your head by bending your elbows until the weight is about at your neck level. Slowly bring the weight back above your head to starting position. Perform 8-10 reps, for three sets.
This exercise works the upper back, biceps, forearms and rear deltoids (shoulders). Begin by resting your left knee, shin and hand on an exercise bench, while your right foot is planted on the floor. Hold a dumbbell with your right hand, hanging down. Slowly raise the weight until it is at armpit level, keeping your elbow close to your body. Slowly lower the weight back to starting position. Perform 8-10 reps, for three sets.
Alternatively, you can perform these rows by standing upright, and hook a rubber exercise band around a post. This way, both arms can work at the same time by pulling the bands in towards your body.
All the above exercises are very basic upper body workouts that are sure to get you results. Not only will they tone and develop lean muscle tissue, they will also help you develop important upper body strength.