How frequently should we do upper body exercises?
As we age, our muscle mass and bone density reduce. The Centre for Disease Control recommends strength training (training with weights, medicine balls, and kettlebells) at least twice a week as part of your workout. Strength training is more important in your early 30s and 40s to prevent muscle loss and ensue back pain due to a weak spine.
Upper body exercises must be done in 10-15 repetitions for one set, in one to two sets, and about one to two times a day. However, if this is too stressful for you, you can do as many reps as you can handle comfortably.
Upper body workouts can be done with or without weights. It is a good idea to include resistance bands, dumbbells, aerobic moves, and medicine balls in your workout regime to mix up things to prevent boredom.
It is more important to focus on good technique and form. Poor technique stresses your joints and spine causing shoulder and back injuries and pain. If you focus on proper form, you can get better results with fewer reps.
The intensity of required exercises differs from person to person with respect to age, body type, gender, and purpose of a workout (regular workout vs professional workout). Listen to your body and make sure you are hydrated and have a healthy snack post workout. There is no point exerting beyond your capabilities. If you are a beginner, you must perform the exercises under the guidance of a skilled physical trainer or instructor.
Here are a few recommendations for a good upper body workout:
- Pushups: The oldest exercise known, the pushups, remains one of the best exercises, building your chest, triceps, and shoulders and shaping your core. They straighten your back. Do not sag at the hip or lift at the hips. Your head and toes should be a straight line. Keep the toes and heels together. Now tighten your abs by pulling your belly button toward your spine. Keep a tight core as you inhale slowly. Bend your elbows and lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90° angle. Exhale as you begin contracting your chest muscles and pushing back up through your hands to the start position. Don't lock out the elbows; keep them slightly bent.
- Tricep dips: You can use your couch, bench, or table for this. Place your palms on the table with your fingers gripping the edge of the surface of your couch, bench, or table. Slowly lower your body until your arms are at a right angle and then push through your palms to rise back up to your original position. Knees can be bent or straight.
- Lateral raises: This one needs dumbbells. Start with a 1.5 lbs dumbbell and increase gradually. Keep your arms to the side with the dumbbell in each hand. Now with elbows slightly flexed, lift both arms out to about 90° to the side. Your hands must form almost a T shape with your trunk. Now come back to starting position. Repeat.
- Wall Pushups: Start by placing your palms open against a wall, push your body toward the wall till you are close to the surface, and then push to rise back up to your original position.
- Shoulder shrugs: Stand with the arms hanging down by your side, elevate both your shoulders as high as possible. This can be done by carrying dumbbells in your hands for more effectiveness.
- Single-arm dumbbell rows: Rows are one of the most effective moves to build the upper body. The single-arm dumbbell row lets you work with heavyweight, and you get a great stretch on the upper back muscles. Focusing on more reps with heavy weights will help you build a strong, powerful back. Put your left knee on a chair or bench and grab the far side with your left hand. Bend over so your upper body is parallel with the ground. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with a neutral grip (palm facing you), then hold it with your arm extended, keeping your back straight. Bring the dumbbell up to your chest keeping your chest still as you lift. At the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder and back muscles. Lower the dumbbell slowly until your arm is fully extended again. Repeat and then do the same with the right side.
- Trapezius strengthening exercises:
- Lower trapezius strengthening: In a prone position, lie face down with your arms overhead. Now raise your arms upward toward the ceiling and bring them down. Repeat.
- Mid trapezius strengthening – Prone: Lie face down. Hold your elbows straight and your arms out to the side. Slowly raise your arms toward the roof. Pinch your shoulder blades together as you raise your arms. Repeat.