Any trainer or strength specialist will tell you how important it is to have total body strength as well as a balance between the different muscle groups in your body. To get through your day-to-day life, not just so you can be proud of how much you can lift. Almost every person has a favorite muscle group to train, and we can all agree that training the upper body isn’t one of those favorites. In order to help you get stronger from head to toe, we asked Kelsey Wells, a NASM-certified trainer who created the PWR programs on the Sweat app, about the most common upper-body strength mistakes people make and how to avoid them.
Strengthening the upper body: mistakes people make
Using incorrect technique is one of the most common mistakes I see people make when it comes to building upper-body strength through weight training, says Wells. Prior to lifting too much, it is so important to make sure that your weight training technique is correct and that you know how to do every movement correctly.
Exercise correctly in order to prevent injury and get the most from your strength workout by ensuring that you lift, and exercise in general, with proper form. Wells says that if you train with small, consistent progressions you have a better chance at long-term success.
Strengthening your upper body: how to train
As you probably guessed, the best way to build upper-body strength is by lifting weights, and more specifically, by hypertrophy-based weight training. Hypertrophy training is your best option since it is designed to increase both your strength and muscle size simultaneously.
This happens because as you lift and experience time under tension (how long you’re Weight-holding and movement-for example, lowering into a squat and holding for three seconds before standing up-creates micro-tears in the muscle, which repair and grow stronger from sleep and recovery, says Wells..
When it comes to specific exercises, Wells recommends doing a combination of compound exercises, like triceps dips, as well as multi-joint exercises that recruit large groups of muscle simultaneously.
Bodyweight workouts for building upper-body strength
Initially, however, lifting weights may not be ideal for everyone, regardless of how beneficial it is. Exercise and strengthening your upper body with bodyweight movements is a great way to get started. It’s not all roses, however. The first is that it will take you longer to build strength, and the second is that as you get stronger, you will need more stimulation to keep building strength.
Furthermore, with just your bodyweight, it can be difficult to target specific muscle groups. “Training your upper body with weights allows you to isolate the muscles involved in your back and shoulders in a way that is difficult to accomplish through bodyweight exercises.”
Strengthen your upper body by training it regularly
Knowing what to do now, you may be wondering how frequently you should train in order to start seeing results. Your workout and strength training will affect this, according to Wells. The majority of workouts for hypertrophy include targeting the arms, upper back, shoulders, chest, and triceps. Hypertrophy programs typically consist of two to five upper-body-specific workouts per week, says Wells. Especially when you do full-body exercises, your results will vary.
Wells recommends dividing your workouts into muscle groups if you’re a beginner or just concerned about overdoing it, in order to make sure that you’re training evenly and safely. You are also able to lift at a higher volume and intensity since you focus on just one or two muscles groups per session. Be sure to allow enough recovery between sessions-one or two days should be sufficient.
Strength gains in the upper body, how long it takes
Last but not least, Wells points out that individual fitness is based on factors such as the type of workout, lifestyle, and nutrition you choose. “Not only are there physical benefits to be gained, but there are also non-physical benefits to be considered.”.
Try Wells’ tips with this 25-minute upper-body and core workout:
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