Happy Monday y’all! I hope you are as excited about upper body exercises as I am! Building muscle is the key to burning fat all day. So to accelerate fat burning, we need to build muscle, not just perform cardio. An added bonus, broader shoulders gives the illusion that our waist appears smaller (so does standing up straight – so straighten up)! Did I mention how nice it is to get complements on the definition in your arms and knowing you look good in those sleeveless dresses and shirts? The benefits to building and toning muscles in the upper body are endless.
This post is the start to my Monday Beginners Workout Series and is going to have detailed break downs of each movement for beginners. That does not mean that this is just a workout for beginners, so everyone go get your resistance bands and lets get to work!
I hope you had a good weekend – I spent my weekend with Dave and these two gorgeous girls! We (Dave and I) had pancakes both mornings and indulged in our sweet tooth a bit to much (I had 2 of our Chocolate Protein Cookies with Peanut Butter Frosting for my breakfast – I think I’m addicted). How can you resist chocolate and peanut butter frosting. Ugh I should have made more! Ok enough about cookies!
Before I continue with this post lets just put this public service announcement out there. Lifting weights and using resistance bands will not give you huge arms or a bulky body. I can tell you from personal experience it takes so much effort to grow muscle. It takes YEARS and YEARS for the bodybuilding women you see in magazines to achieve those large arms. These ladies also eat massive amounts of food to build those muscles and are often taking supplements that you would never come in contact with. So PLEASE trust me when I say you won’t get big. You know what you might get – SEXY AS HELL! Just saying 🙂
When I started exercising, I have to admit, the weight room was just way too scary for me. There was a nice stretching area in the gym that had a ton of resistance bands where I felt comfortable enough to attempt some of the moves I saw people doing out on the weight room floor. I probably had terrible form and looked confused considering I had no formal training. Luckily I found group exercise classes, I did both Body Pump and Group Power. Hi to all my instructors!!!!! – thanks for helping me feel confident in the weight room – I owe you ladies all a big hug!
I often had to swallow my pride and be open to corrections in order to learn the correct form. Some of my favorite teachers would call me out “Hey Sam, your form is off, lower your weight and get back to basics!” I try to live by that motto now, even years later. If my form isn’t right, I reduce the weight.
I think resistance bands are a great way to learn form. There is no fear of dropping the weights and you can easily move from band to band if you think the resistance level is off (either to much or too little). An added bonus, they are versatile and they can go anywhere – I always take a set on vacation with me! You can easily do these moves at home while watching your favorite show or while the kids are in bed.
Amazon has a great variety of bands and light weight dumbbells to get you started (affiliate link)!
This workout is going to focus on the upper body: shoulders, biceps, triceps and upper back. I taught boot camp for a few years and would always have a variety of students in my classes, where we would use both weight and resistance bands for muscle building. I will try to give some of the same pointers I remember giving to beginners in those classes.
Overhead Shoulder Press
Overhead Shoulder Press works the shoulders by resisting the band as you push hands upward toward the sky. Start with palms facing out, hands wrapped around band handles, standing on the band with both feet hip distance apart. Make sure the band is centered below you. Press hands directly above you, keeping them at shoulder distance the entire way. Lower back to starting position. Continue for 10-15 reps. Note that the picture above is a squat to a shoulder press. You can certainly add the squat to make it a squat to shoulder press movement or just stay in standing position and press – remember the focus today is upper body!
Bicep curls work the bicep muscle in the upper arm. Holding one side of the band in each hand, step on the band with one foot keeping the it centered below you. Hold the band so that your palms are facing your face, and start with hands at waist level. From straight arms, bend elbows and bring arms up to shoulder level, squeezing those bicep muscles. Slowly lower and repeat 10-15 reps.
Tricep Overhead Press
Tricep overhead press is a great tricep exercise. Hold one side of the band in both hands above your head. Stand on the other side of the band (you may have to stand on the middle of the band for this – use trial and error and see picture). KEEPING ELBOWS GLUED TO YOUR EARS, raise your hands together so they straighten overhead. Slowly bend elbows back to starting position, keeping elbows glued to your ears. Flaring your elbows out will eventually lead to elbow injury – it’s not smart and it’s definitely not cute!
Straight Arm Shoulder Raise
Straight arm shoulder raise work your shoulders by moving the band from the waist to the shoulders in an upward arcing motion. Start standing on the band, feet shoulder width apart, and the band centered below you. With the bands in your hands and palms facing in, at waist level, slowly raise your arms in an arcing motion. Keep arms straight for the entire movement until hands are parallel with shoulders. Slowly lower and repeat 10-15 reps.
Rows work your back and shoulders and are what help you look sexy in that strapless dress – so we can’t skip rows! Stand with feet together on band centered underneath you. Hold the handles in each hand facing each other (see picture). Bend over at the hips not the waist, and bend your knees a bit. Slowly raise your bent arms out to the side until they are parallel with your shoulders. The elbow should never change the angle it is in when performing this move. The focus is on the back so squeeze like you are trying to break an egg with your shoulder blades. Lower arms back to starting and repeat 10-15.
On a step or a chair at home sit on the edge with hands directly next to your hips, holding the edge. Move forward enough that you are hovering your butt over in front of the step/chair. Keep your hands in starting position and bend your arms behind you, keeping the booty close to the step or chair for the entire exercise. Keep booty close to step as you lift back up, straightening arms, do not sit back on chair, instead continue with 10 dips before resting. If using a chair just be careful to distribute your weight – you might want to put something heavy on the back of the chair so it doesn’t come forward with you.
Beginner Series: Upper Body Workout
Walk, jog, run, elliptical, or stair machine for 10 minutes to get heart rate up.
Overhead Shoulder Press
Overhead Tricep Extension
Straight Arm Shoulder Raise
- Do each move for 10 – 15 reps. Note how you feel, if the resistance band is too little or too much.
- Continue through each move with little to no break. Break 30 seconds after the entire circuit is complete.
- Continue through the circuit 1 – 2 additional times (so total of 2 or 3 rounds).
Walk, jog, run, dance, elliptical or stairs for an additional 10 minutes to round out cardio for the day.
- Alternatively, cardio can all be done at one time with 20 minutes of steady state (aka walking, running, ellipital – all at one steady pace). Additionally, try these cardio or tabata selections.
It is important to stretch after this workout! A gently yoga video or stretching video would be a great way to end this workout!
Let me know your favorite upper body strength move!