Monday, May 12, 2014

My favorite exercises (Upper Body)

Last week I posted my favorite lower body exercises, but I would be remiss to not show some love to the upper body as well. Here are some of my favorite upper body exercises

Band resisted pushup

A little anterior tilt but atleast he didn't hurt himself with the band

I could have simply inserted pushups here but I promised to make these posts cover exercises that are underutilized or rare in most gym settings. The pushup has tons of benefits that you don't get from most loaded chest pressing movements. Trunk stability requirements, free movement of the scapula, tons of options for variations etc.

A lot of gym goers feel that they have progressed past the point of getting benefit from the pushup; I would disagree. For one, most people do the pushup wrong. Even guys with a big bench (maybe even especially guys with a big bench) allow way too much arch in the lower back. Regardless of how much external load you can press there is always benefit to training the pushup for shoulder health and trunk stability but it may not present sufficient challenge to develop strength.

This is where the band resisted pushup becomes useful. By looping a resistance band or powerband around the shoulders you can apply an extra degree of resistance to the movement. The same can be done by placing a plate on the back but I've always found that to be awkward and uncomfortable and it is difficult to do without a training partner

Half kneeling kettlebell press

This is my go to vertical pressing exercise for anyone that can't maintain neutral spine during traditional overhead pressing. I love overhead pressing but recognize that some people are simply too immobile or weak in certain areas to do it safely and it ends up looking like this:

"Elite" fitness has not been forged here

 In some instances the right cue can get someone out of this spot and into a safer position but many times it's a physical shortcoming that can't be overcome so easily.

Taking the split stance gives some slack to the lats and allows people to get overhead while maintaining a neutral spine. It also puts a mild stretch on the hip flexors which is reinforced with load. There is even an element of rotational stability because of the load only being located on one side of the body.

Front loaded kettlebell farmers walk

Because I currently work in a gym with a very limited dumbbell set I have become quite fond of using kettlebells. When life gives you lemons you do a lot of kettlebell work. I believe that's how the saying goes.

Unfortunately the kettlebell farmers walk is very awkward for me and many other people. Farmers walks train posture, trunk strength, grip strength and lower body strength as well. They work well as a very simple conditioning tool that requires fairly little coordination or mobility and comes with very low risk. However, a strong individual with moderate to large thighs will find the kettlebells banging into their legs and interrupting normal walking gait. For this reason I like to utilize the front loaded carry.

The demand on grip strength is less but it places an additional burden on the anterior core. Also it makes it easier to pair in circuits with other grip intensive exercises like kettlebell swings, pullups or the rowing ergometer.

A good sample upper body workout could look like this (I'm not even going to include reps/sets/rest because that's opening up a whole other can of worms and we're focusing on exercise selection today)

Bench Press
Turkish Getup
Ss/ chinup
½ kneeling kettlebell press
Ss/ Single arm row
TRX fallout progression

Rowing ergometer
Front loaded KB carries
Pushup variation

Give this a try on your next upper body day!

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