women doing exercise

Resistance training, also known as strength training, is an essential component of any fitness routine, especially for your upper body exercises. And, despite what some people may tell you, it won’t give you huge, oversized, bulging muscles.

In fact, regularly working out muscles in your arms, back, chest, and shoulders is vital to keeping your upper body strong and giving your muscles definition. If you’re a woman, the benefits of strength training extend far beyond toned, defined muscles.

According to Rebekah Miller, MS, CSCS, NASM-CPT, founder of Iron Fit Performance, building strength in your upper body not only makes daily tasks easier to perform, but it also helps to ward off osteoporosis and improves posture.

And the best part? You can perform resistance training exercises in the comfort of your own home. To help you get started on toning your upper body, we’ve rounded up some of the best exercises you can do anywhere, anytime, with just basic equipment.

The equipment you need includes:

  • an exercise mat
  • a few resistance bands of different strengths
  • two or three sets of dumbbells that are different weights

Warm up first

The easiest and most effective way to prepare your body for a workout is to warm up first by doing exercises that increase your circulation and target the muscles you’ll be working.

For an upper body workout, this could mean doing arm circles, windmills, arm swings, and spinal rotations. Also, performing light cardio movements such as walking or jogging in place can boost your heart rate and get your blood flowing.

According to the American Council on Exercise, it takes an average of 8 to 12 minutes to fully warm up.

Once you’ve warmed up, you can start focusing on specific exercises for your arms, back, chest, and shoulders.

1. Dumbbell curls

Targets: biceps

  1. Stand or sit with a dumbbell in each hand, arms at your side, feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your elbows close to your torso and rotate the dumbbells so the palms of your hands are facing your body. This is your starting position.
  3. Take a deep breath and when you exhale, curl the weights upward while contracting your biceps.
    Pause at the top of the curl, then lower to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 to 15 times. Perform 2 to 3 sets.

2. Triceps kickback

Targets: triceps

  1. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in toward each other. Keep your knees slightly bent.
  2. Keeping your spine straight, hinge forward at your waist so your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Engage your core.
  3. Keep your head in line with your spine, upper arms close to your body, and your forearms bent forward.
    As you exhale, hold your upper arms still while you straighten your elbows by pushing your forearms backward and engaging your triceps.
  4. Pause then inhale and return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 10 to 15 times. Perform 2 to 3 sets.

3. Triceps dip

Targets: triceps and shoulders

  1. Sit on a sturdy chair. Place your arms at your sides and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your palms facing down beside your hips and grip the front of the seat.
  3. Move your body off the chair while gripping the seat. Knees should be slightly bent and your glutes should hover over the floor. Your arms should be fully extended, supporting your weight.
  4. Inhale and lower your body until your elbows form a 90-degree angle.
  5. Pause at the bottom, exhale, then push your body up to the starting position, squeezing your triceps at the top.
  6. Repeat 10 to 15 times. Perform 2 to 3 sets.

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