While it’s important to regularly exercise our entire body to maintain its overall health and control our weight, you shouldn’t just be giving your legs a workout.
Having good upper body strength is equally, if not more, important and its’s easy to build up by following a few simple routines at home every week.
Why do you need to exercise your upper body?
Thought you only needed to exercise your legs and core muscles? Think again. Having good upper body strength can be beneficial for a number of different reasons, not least:1
For building strength
From picking up heavy boxes to carrying shopping bags at the supermarket, having good upper body strength can make a world of difference to how difficult you find certain tasks. This is especially important if you’re older as our muscles naturally weaken as we age2.
To improve your flexibility
Regularly stretching out and building up the muscles in our upper body helps improve our overall flexibility and ensures simple day-to-day tasks are easier to manage.
To improve your posture
When done correctly, upper body exercises should help improve your posture. That’s because many routines require you to keep your back straight and stretch out areas which are sometimes tight from improper use3.
To lower the risk of osteoporosis
Particularly when it comes to women (who are naturally more prone), keeping your upper body strong and toned may help lower the risk of developing osteoporosis in the future4.
Can I do an upper body workout at home?
While many like to tone and strengthen their upper body at the gym using weights, it’s possible to exercise those muscles without using any equipment at all.
Here are a handful of great upper body workouts you can easily do at home:5
1. Push ups
Push ups are brilliant at building up strength in your arms, shoulders and upper back. If you’re a beginner to push ups, make them a little less intense by leaning your knees on the floor.
How to do a push up:
- Lie flat on your front, lift your upper body up and support it on your hands. Your arms should be straight and shoulder width apart and your palms flats.
- Lift your heels up and curl your toes under, making sure you keep your back straight. (You can also do a push up from your knees)
- Slowly lower your upper body down, bending your elbows out to the sides.
- Push yourself back up and repeat.
2. Bicycle crunches
These great variations of the standard abdominal crunch work your core muscles and get your heart rate pumping. To make it easier, bend your knees before you begin.
How to do a bicycle crunch:
- Lie down on your back and put your hands behind your head with your elbows out to the sides.
- Using your abdominal muscles to lift your upper body up, crunch upwards. Meanwhile, bend your right knee towards you and touch it with your left elbow. Your left leg should remain flat on the floor.
- Release the crunch and then repeat on the other side, touching your right elbow to your left knee.
3. Tricep dips
As well as working upper body muscles like your abdominals and triceps, these should also give your hamstrings and glutes a little workout, too. You’ll want to find a sturdy table or chair that’s not likely to move as you dip.
How to do a tricep dip:
- Stand up straight in front of a chair, table or low wall and reach your hands behind you so your palms are resting on the edge.
- Bend your elbows and use the strength of your arms to support your body as you bend your knees until they’re parallel to the floor.
- Making sure your feet are still flat on the ground, lower your bum down towards the floor.
- Use your arms to push yourself back up and repeat.
Signs that you’re overdoing your upper body exercises
Exercise may be an essential part of keeping your whole body healthy and in shape, however, it’s possible to over-do it.
If you’ve noticed the following things after you work out, you may want to tone down your repetitions, increase your warm up and stretching times or even have a break for a couple of days.6
- Severe muscle ache after your workout
- Feeling intensely tired after you exercise
- Having to take longer rest breaks between moves
- Taking much longer to fall asleep at night
- Getting frequent minor injuries
Before beginning any form of exercise routine, make sure it’s suitable for your needs, fitness level and age. If in doubt, consult a professional or your GP for advice on which upper body exercises are suitable for you.
Want to give yourself a little boost before or after a workout? Check out our range of exercise support protein powders, energy bars and supplements.
Last updated: 27 April 2020