Four Basic Exercises to Strengthen Your Upper Body


Exercise 1.  Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown is a great exercise for strengthening and developing the upper back muscles that are critical for good posture.  People whose shoulders are slumped forward most likely have underdeveloped upper back muscles.

First, sit down and adjust the thigh pad to a position that firmly fits over your thighs.  Then select a resistance with which the last three repetitions are difficult to complete.  If this is your first time doing this exercise, it may take experimenting at several weights before you find the right resistance.  Next, grip the bar a little wider than shoulder width, sit down on the seat and place your knees firmly under the pad.  Start with your arms fully extended and your chest held high.  This is your start position. Now, pull the bar slowly down to the base of your neck while squeezing your shoulder blades back and together.   Slowly return the bar to the starting position.  (It should take about three seconds to pull the bar down and about two seconds to return the bar to its starting position). Proper breathing is very important, so remember to exhale as you pull the bar down and inhale as you return the bar to the starting position.

Exercise # 2 – The Seated Row

The seated row is also an exercise that targets the muscles of the upper back.  I like to incorporate two movements for the upper back because these muscles are often neglected and weak in most clients that I see.  Weak upper back muscles not only lead to posture problems, they also lead to neck and shoulder problems.

Place the pin in a resistance with which the last three repetitions are difficult to complete, again you may have to experiment to find the appropriate weight for you.  Sit on the bench, and place your feet on the foot rest.  Lean forward, and grab the attachment.  Slide back until your legs are almost fully extended and hold the attachment waist height with your arms fully extended.  This is your start position.  Lift your chest high, and slowly pull your hands to your naval, while rolling your shoulders back and pinching your shoulder blades together.  Then, slowly return to the starting position.  Your breathing pattern for this exercise is to exhale when you are pulling in and inhale when you are returning to the starting position.

Exercise # 3 – The Dumbbell Chest Press

The dumbbell chest press is one of the best exercises for developing and strengthening your chest, and the front of your shoulders.  Again, you will have to experiment to select the proper weight to use.  Pick-up a dumbbell in each hand, and sit on the end of a bench.  Place the dumbbells end-up on your knees, then lay back on the bench and position the dumbbells chest height at your sides.  This is your start position.  Press the dumbbells up over your chest until your arms are fully extended, being careful not to lock your elbows.  Slowly return the dumbbells to the start position.  Your breathing pattern is to exhale as you press up and inhale as you return to the starting position.

Exercise # 4 – Lateral Dumbbell Raises








The lateral dumbbell raise develops and strengthens your shoulders.  Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of you.  Position your feet shoulder width apart, slightly bend your knees, and hold your chest high.  This is your starting position.  Bend your elbows slightly and raise your hands out to your sides about shoulder height (with your palms facing down).  Then return to your starting position.  Be careful to keep your forearm and your elbow at the same level at the finish of this movement.  Your breathing pattern is to exhale as you raise your arms up and inhale as you return to start.