I am asked often what exercises for the upper body a patient can be doing that are beneficial. Here are three to consider! There are some great beneficial upper body exercises that are sometimes neglected because people do not see the benefits immediately, don’t know the benefits, have pain, or lack range of motion.
The upper back and shoulder girdle could be considered the most neglected areas but are muscles used in almost all upper body movements. Show me a strong person that has a weak back and I’ll show you a powerlifter that loves cardio. Having a strong back means being strong in all movements, great posture, and healthy shoulders (shoulder pain/impingement is probably one of the biggest complaints for not doing certain movements).
Here are some great exercises to help build that strong back and upper body.
- Rows, rows, and more rows – Too many people focus on moving weight overhead or bench press and not focusing on enough rows. Rows of all sorts help create that strong basis, your back, to help support big weight and maintain an overall healthy upper body. Dumbbell rows, barbell rows, seated cable rows, and inverted rows are all great to bring into your exercise regime. If you are feeling a lack of strength in your back or your anterior body (chest) outperforms your posterior, add in rows twice a week with a 3-5 sets by 10-15 repetitions. Change up the type of row you do or the type of grip you have (over, under, neutral).
- Incline Bench Press – A movement that is not too popular because you can’t get as much as on the flat bench! This movement is one of my favorite especially trying to build up the muscles in the upper chest or for those trying to lose some flab in the armpit/chest area. Typically, I keep the weight moderate and really try to stretch the pectoral muscles to get a deep contraction. Make sure to choose a weight that will allow you to make the bar touch your upper chest which will give you that deep pectoral stretch. 3-4 sets with 8-10 repetitions here at least once a week.
- Face Pulls – Under used and underappreciated exercise but has been a staple of many heavy benchers. This can be done on a cable machine with a rope attachment or with a mini band, which I prefer. Have the band or cable right above eye level. You are going to pull the rope or band directly towards your face while flaring your elbows back and out. I always think of it as putting on glasses with the band or rope. This will help build the upper back and create healthy mobilized shoulders. 3-4 sets with 12-20 repetitions at least twice a week – try this as a burnout towards the end of your workout