You don’t have to go to the gym and throw around weights to build a strong upper body, you can become strong just by lifting your own body weight at home. If you’re at home right now, try these simple but effective exercise to get into shape right now.
Upper body motions are classified into 3 types of functional movements – push, pull, and core activation. They’re functional because every type of movement activates at least one of these movements. Looking at daily life movements, we see that brushing our teeth is a push/pull motion, opening our fridge is a pull motion, holding anything requires core activation, maintaining corrective posture requires core activation, you get the point.
Here are effective workouts that’ll build your functional strength and muscle. Do these to not only feel strong but to also look good.
Push ups and dips are the best push motions to build a strong upper body, decrease overall effort required to push any object in your daily life, and to develop an aesthetic chest; triceps; and shoulders.
Here are 6 variations of push ups that targets all muscles associated with the push motion – all constituents of your chest, triceps, and shoulders:
Place your hands 7 inches further out from shoulder-width distance and make a straight line across your shoulders.
Standard Grip Push Up:
Place your hands slightly further apart than shoulder-width distance (about 2 inches out) and make a straight line across your shoulders.
Close Grip Push Up:
Inner-Chest and Triceps
Hands are positioned underneath your chest
Incline Push Up:
Place your hands underneath your chest with your preferred grip: wide, standard, or close
Decline Push Up:
Upper Chest and Front Shoulders
Place your hands in a straight line across your shoulders with your preferred grip: grip
Lift Motion for All Push Up Variations
Go down slowly until your chest touches the floor. SLOWLY means it should take you a count of 3 seconds before your chest touches the floor.
Explosively lift yourself up until your arms are straight. Attempt to take less than a second to lift yourself up.
Handstand Push Up:
Upper Chest + Triceps + Core
Slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
Lift Movement: First, find a wall, and while facing towards it stand 2.5 feet away from it. Crouch down and firmly place your palms on the floor. Push your feet off the ground and over your head then land them on the wall. (This might take a couple of tries, don’t give up.) Once you’re in a handstand position, rest your feet on the wall and lift down until your head touches the floor. When it does, that’s your cue to lift yourself back up.
The dip is another great push motion that builds a strong upper body.
Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
Hand Position: Find two objects or handles that is spread shoulder width apart and at a locus in space that’s at least half your height. Grab onto it with your hands and extend your elbows to lift your body in the air.
Bend your elbows and lower your body. Lower your body but prevent going too far down to avoid injury
(your cue of going too far down is when your hands run straight across your chest)
With these movements, you’ll target all components of your chest resulting in a strong chest while you develop your aesthetic triceps and shoulder muscles.
Pull motions develops the muscles on your posterior chain, which is the back part of your body and are the antagonist muscles of muscles associated with push motions. It’s important to have balanced antagonist and agonist muscles for optimal strength. Also, balancing these two antagonist/agonist muscles promotes corrective posture; just imagine a table with stronger legs on one side – the table would collapse, and the same happens with your posture if you don’t have balanced back and chest muscles. Don’t become a hunchback by complementing your push movements with these pull movements.
Pull ups and chins up are the easiest and most effective pull motions that’ll optimally build functional pull strength while developing your back muscles, biceps, and shoulders.
Here are four pull up variations for you to target all muscles associated with the pull motion.
Standard Grip Pull Up:
Hands are positioned shoulder-width apart.
Wide Grip Pull Up:
Although this movement targets the same muscles as standard grip pull ups (lats), this movement is more strenuous than standard grip pull ups causing efficient muscle growth and strength.
Hands are positioned much further than shoulder width apart, roughly 7 inches further apart.
(Recommendation: Transition to wide grip pull ups after you’re able to successfully complete 10 consecutive standard grip pull ups)
Narrow Grip pull ups:
Muscle(s) Targeted: Biceps, Shoulders, and Lats (Less lat muscles are activated than wide/standard grip pull ups as biceps and shoulder muscles activate to take some of the load of lifting your body.)
Hand Position: Hands are positioned narrower than shoulder-width apart.
Lift Motion for All Variations of Pull Up:
Hang from a bar and lift yourself up explosively. With controlled motion, lift your body back to its starting position(down motion should take 3 seconds)
Hands are positioned with palms facing opposing directions while your body stands perpendicularly underneath the bar.
Lift Motion: Hang from the bar and lift yourself explosively to one side of the bar. Alternate lifting your body between both sides of the bar. Bring yourself back to your starting position through controlled movement; aim to take 3 seconds to bring yourself back to your starting position.
Hands are placed on the bar shoulder width apart and your palms should face towards your body.
Lift explosively until your head rises above the bar. Through controlled movement, slowly bring your body down to its starting position; aim to take 3 seconds for the down motion.
Core activation is extremely important because it complements every movement of your life. From walking to lifting any type of object, your core activates to stabilize your body from falling over. Also, it properly holds your spine in its intended location. Not to forget, abdominal muscles are great for aesthetics. It’s important to target all parts of your abdominal muscle: rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, external oblique, and internal oblique.
Rectus Abdominus, which is colloquially coined as ‘six-pack muscles’. These muscles are responsible to maintain the natural curve of your lower spine.
Start position: Lie on the floor with your back touching the floor. Bend your knees and firmly plant your feet on the floor until you create a 10-inch gap between your feet and buttocks. Create an X pattern with your arms and position them on top of your chest.
Lift Motion: Flex your abdominal muscles and lift your upper body up while your buttocks and feet remain planted on the floor. Lift until your arms touches your knees. After, with controlled movement, reposition yourself back into your start position.
Tip: If it takes you at least 2 seconds to reposition yourself, you are indeed doing this with controlled movement.
Transverse Abdominus, which is responsible for maintain the structural integrity of the upper component of your spine and your pelvis.
Start Position/Lift Motion:
Lie down on the floor with your anterior chain touching the floor and hands by your side. Bend your elbows and use the side of your lower arms to elevate your body off the ground. Play a song and hold this position until the song ends.
External oblique and Internal oblique, which are responsible for lateral flexion and rotation of your upper body.
Lie on the floor with your back touching the floor. Bend your knees and firmly plant your feet on the floor until you create a 10-inch gap between your feet and buttocks. Create an X pattern with your arms and position them on top of your chest.
Flex your abdominal muscles and lift your upper body up while your buttocks and feet remain planted on the floor. Lead with your right elbow in the direction of your left legs and do the same with your left elbow/right leg. Alternate for a count of 1 full repetition. Reposition yourself to your starting position with controlled movement; repositioning yourself should take at least a count of 2 seconds.
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