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Strength Training: Upper Body Exercises

Talk to your healthcare provider or physical therapist about which exercises will best help you and how to do them correctly and safely.

  • Bench press: Lie down on a flat weight bench with your head under the barbell. Grab the barbell with your palms facing away from you. Your hands should be placed about 3 inches (8 centimeters) wider than your shoulder width on each side. Place your feet firmly on the ground. Push your buttocks and back flat into the bench. Lower the barbell down to your chest. Push the barbell up, away from your chest, and slightly towards your head. Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. This can also be done holding dumbbells.
  • Lat pull-down: Select the appropriate weight in the weight stack. Grab the lat bar with your hands placed 2 to 3 inches wider than shoulder width. Sit on the seat and face the machine. Look ahead and slightly upwards. Pull the lat bar down. Pull it in front of your face until it touches the top of your chest. Pause for one second. Slowly let the lat bar rise up until your arms are straight. Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • Seated military press: Sit on a weight bench or chair with your feet flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height by bending your elbows and keeping them by your sides. Tighten your abdominal muscles and breathe in as you slowly straighten your arms until the dumbbells are directly over your head. Breathe out as you slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • Pull-up: Grab the lat bar with a grip 2 to 3 inches wider than your shoulder width. Start with your arms straight. Pull your body up until your chin is over the bar. Pause for one second. Slowly lower your body back until your arms are straight. Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • Triceps extension: Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Lie down on a flat bench. Push the dumbbells up so that your arms are straight. Slowly bend your elbows and lower the dumbbells toward your head until they are next to your ears and your elbows are fully bent. Now fully straighten your elbows so your arms are back in their starting position. Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • Dip: Use a set of parallel bars at the dip station. Place one hand on each bar with your palms facing the floor. Start with your elbows locked and your arms straight. Look straight ahead. Slowly lower your body. Stop when your elbows are at or a little past 90 degrees. Pause for 1 second. Push your body up until your arms are straight once again. Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
  • Biceps curl: Sit on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Grip the dumbbell so that your palms face up. Keep your back straight and look forward. Bend your right elbow to raise the dumbbell. Raise the dumbbell until your right elbow is fully bent. Slowly lower the dumbbell back down until your right arm is straight. Now do the same motion with your left arm. Do 2 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-09
Last reviewed: 2014-01-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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