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The Mad Muscle Challenge: How to Perfect Upper Body Exercises

By Sophia, published on 28/09/2017 Blog > Health and Fitness > Personal Training > Starting your Upper Body Workout

By virtue of reading Fitness Magazine, coupled with watching your favorite action star‘s movies – bare-chested and glistening as he slays yet another foe, you have reasoned that you too can attain that level of fitness.

You may well have the motivation, but the knowledge of how to get fit might not be there yet.

No worries: Superprof is here to educate you, motivate you and cheer you on.

A Short Recap of Upper Body Anatomy

If you work in sports medicine, are a certified personal trainer, a physical education teacher or a champion athlete, please feel free to skip to the next section.

Or, you could read on and offer feedback on what is written. Much appreciated!

This article is meant for the novice trainer: one who doesn’t know the difference between a triceps and a quadriceps (hint: it has nothing to do with three or four.)

Here we target athletic hopefuls who sweat it out to Zumba or Pilates, and those whose gentle aerobics leave them not at all winded. Those who are satisfied with lounging by the pool, only occasionally diving in and doing a few half-hearted laps.

This article is dedicated to those who have a phobia of raising their heart rate.

Of course, we’re kidding: good on you for getting up and moving; even for staying relatively still and posing – if you are a yoga or tai chi enthusiast.

And, good on you for catching our little joke. With Halloween just around the corner, we had to at least try to trick you.

Now, on with a brief summary of muscles targeted during functional training.

  • Trapezoids – think back to basic geometry. These muscles are shaped like a triangle, located on your upper back. They are integral to the smooth movement of your head, shoulders and arms. They help protect your cervical spine.
    • Your fitness trainer will most likely assign you several exercises to work them, right at the start of your personal training sessions.
  • Dorsals and rhomboids – the deep muscles in your back.
  • Pectorals – the most visible muscles of your upper chest.
    • Swimmers tend to have well-developed pectorals. The very nature of their sport compels them to especially develop this muscle group.
  • Deltoids – the muscles that drape over your shoulders. Any fitness professional would instruct you to strengthen this muscle before toning and shaping your arms.
  • Biceps and triceps are the muscles every superhero – read champion athlete strives to build and maintain. Just ask Louise Grayson!
  • Forearm muscles – often overlooked in the course of fitness training, there are no fewer than twenty muscles, divided into three major sections: anterior, lateral and posterior
    • They are responsible for everything from finger movement to wrist flexing.
  • Abdominals – actually consisting of four striated muscles, your abdominal girdle helps maintain good posture and protects your lumbar region.

Awareness of these muscle groups and how they work – in other words, knowledge of kinesiology, is critical to your fitness education.

Your personal training program should address each of these muscle groups in turn.

You should know basic anatomy before establishing a workout plan Knowledge of fundamental anatomy is helpful when determining your workout plan Source: Pixabay Credit: Gulart

The success of your fitness career lies in its program design.

No matter if you are a beginner athlete or more suited to senior fitness, your personal training program should start with a health and fitness assessment.

From there, your fitness specialist will counsel you on what type of training would be most beneficial to your fitness goals.

S/he might recommend circuit training: a high energy, cardiovascular workout to help you lose weight, or strength training to gain muscle mass… or both. Through it all, you will be sure to build endurance.

One of the most important aspects of personal fitness training is injury prevention.

Your personal fitness trainer would first assign you corrective and conditioning exercises to build up your abdominal girdle.

Only once s/he is assured your abs are properly conditioned – to protect your back, s/he would demonstrate training techniques to further your fitness goals.

Warm Up

Never should you jump right into your workout without first making sure your body is ready for that level of activity.

Warmups should be of the cardiorespiratory variety. It should raise your heart rate and pump rich, oxygenated blood to your muscles.

Hydration is a vital component to working out safely. Don’t neglect your water intake before, during and especially after exercising!

Resistance or Strength Training (or both!)

Using resistance bands, weights and/or various gym machines, work your muscle groups to gain mass and strength.

Rowers, weights, chest press and cable machines all qualify as resistance equipment.

Cool Down

This aspect of working out is often overlooked. In the glow of a successful athletic performance, stretching and winding down is all but forgotten.

Cooling down is as essential a part of your workout as muscle development is.

Let us discuss that development now.

Top Ten Exercises to Develop Muscles

1. Curls

Place a dumbbell or kettlebell in each upturned hand. Keeping your wrist straight, bring the weight to your shoulder slowly and, just as concentrated, roll your arm back down to initial position.

Cultivate the habit of inhaling on the curl and exhaling on the release.

This move will work your biceps and forearm muscles, depending on your grip and what type of weight you use.

You could also curl a barbell, for a different effect.

2. Bench Press

Laying flat on the bench, disengage the barbell from its cradle and lower it to just above your chest. Keeping your forearms perpendicular to your supine form, alternately raise and lower the bar.

NOTE: for safety’s sake, this move should only be done with a spotter – preferably someone who is knowledgeable about exercise science, to help you attain proper form.

You should inhale on the lift and exhale when lowering the bar.

While laying on the bench, you could snag some dumbbells and get some butterfly presses in, to work your pectorals.

Doing push-ups is a good way to work your core The push-up, here adapted to Yoga, is a classic fitness training move Source: Pixabay Credit: StockSnap

3. Push-ups

Time-honored, this move is not likely to ever fade from the fitness scene.

Done in proper form, this move will work everything from your dorsals to your forearms.

To derive the most strength training benefit from this form of exercise, place your feet on a Swiss ball or workout bench.

Once you gain perfect push-up proficiency, why not take it to the next level?

The squat-thrust, also known as the Burpee, will work your legs and glutes – along with everything else.

4. Pull-ups

One of the best moves for your arms and back musculature, you really have to be an advanced athlete to pull this move off successfully.

Of course, you can make use of the chin-up bar even if you are at the outset of your workout program, but we strongly urge you to work with an exercise physiologist, who would make sure your muscles are ready for that level of stress.

5. Dips

This delectable-sounding move has nothing to do with nutrition.


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