The Strength: Upper Body

Hitting the Weights

Jul 8, 2008
Outside Magazine
Fitness: Twelve Weeks to a Better You

   Photo: Photograph by Mike McGregor; Illustrations by Mckibillo

Proper strength training improves body control, enhances speed, and helps increase resistance to injury. Combined with aerobic activity, two to three strength sessions a week is enough to deliver the benefits. Choose weights that just enable you to complete the prescribed numbers of sets and reps—heavy enough that you're not working, but not so heavy that your form falls apart. Do all the prescribed sets of each exercise before moving on to the next. Approximate time for full workout: 60 minutes.

Do two sets of 20 reps for each exercise. Go in the order listed, and complete each exercise before moving on to the next. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

Dumbbell Bench
Lie on your back on a bench, with a dumbbell in each hand. Without arching your back, press the dumbbells up, keeping them aligned with your pecs. Lower slowly.

Dumbbell Incline Bench
This is performed the same way as the dumbbell bench, but with the bench at an angle of about 30 degrees and the dumbbells aligned with top of pecs/front of shoulders while in motion.

Lat Pulls
Sit at a cable pull-down machine and place your hands as far apart on the bar as comfortably possible. Pull the bar down slowly, keeping your back straight. Touch the bar to your chest on front pulls and your neck on rear pulls. Do two sets on each side.

Shoulder Fly
Sit on a stability ball or stand with your feet shoulder width apart, a dumbbell at each side. With elbows slightly bent and your back straight, raise the dumbbells out away from your body until they are even with your shoulders.

Triceps Push-downs
Sit at a cable pull-down machine and place your hands shoulder width apart on a straight bar. Your hands should be at chest level, with your elbows bent and tucked in at your sides. Slowly bring the bar down until your arms are fully extended. Do not lean forward or swing your arms.

Dumbbell Biceps Curls
Alternate reps between arms. Do not swing your arms or your back or rock on your feet.

Cable Row
Sit at a cable row machine at a distance that forces you to bend forward slightly to reach the bar, with your knees slightly bent. Grab the bar at shoulder width and pull toward your waist. Once your back is perpendicular to the floor, continue pulling with your arms, shoulders, and back muscles, until the bar touches your abdomen. Concentrate on bringing your shoulder blades together.

Dumbbell Pull-over
Lie on your back on a bench, with your head hanging just off the end. Grasp a dumbbell by placing both hands under the plate at one end, and hold it directly above your chest. Reach the dumbbell back over your head until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.