Most women, myself included, struggle with their upper body strength. Let’s face it, we were dealt that card by nature… doesn’t mean we have to keep it. Here’s a couple ways to aid you in trading in your “weak” upper body card for a strong one.
First off, stop thinking you’re weak. You aren’t; you just have to wake up the strength that is sleeping. Remember what I said in the pull up post I wrote a while ago? You have to stop thinking you can’t do a pull up in order to be able to do one. So, stop thinking you’re “weak” up top. Also, remember that “heavy” is a relative term. The weight should be a challenge but not something that you could do for 10 reps or more.
Aside from the standard pullups/chinups and pushups (which should be a staple in your training program if you want to build upper body strength) here are a couple that I utilize in building my upper body to Jedi strength standards.
Single-arm overhead press
Why: Because women typically struggle with overhead strength and therefore we need to work on it. As I’ve mentioned before, overhead pressing is awesome because you are pressing something heavy over your head and the muscles betwixt your hand and you feet (i.e. all of them) are called upon. The bonus of the single-arm version is that it challenges the core musculature to stabilize against the off-set load.
1. Brace your abs and butt (be a tall pillar) and press straight up so your upper arm finishes alongside your ear. (Not glued to it, the shoulder should be down. The shoulder isn’t on speaking terms with your ear during a press.)
2. Don’t think about pushing the weight up so much as pressing yourself into the floor (as if you’re standing in mud and you want to push yourself deeper).
3. If you’re having a pinching pain in your shoulder or you can’t get your upper arm next to your ear without wriggling the rest of your body all over the place, work on your shoulder mobility for a few weeks and then come back to OH pressing.
Half-kneeling landmine press
Why: Great for those with not-so-great shoulder mobility. The midsection is forced to remain tight throughout (to prevent the wobbles) and the glutes have to fire like crazy in order to provide a solid base to press from. For you fitness know-hows, this challenges core stability via anti-extension and resisting rotation (due to the off-set load). With this, as well as the single-arm press previously mentioned, it works on thoracic mobility and scapular stability (both important to maintain healthy shoulders).
1. Brace your back foot against the floor and push hard, squeezing your glutes as you do so. Brace your abs as if you’re going to get punched.
2. Press straight out from your body (don’t crossover).
3. Don’t let your elbow wing out laterally and don’t let it come back to far on the way back down. Speaking of back down, pull the barbell back to your shoulder.
Single-arm bent over landmine row
Why: Works on the upper back (which we all need more of) and challenges the midsection to stabilize against the rotational forces (seeing a pattern here? Completely coincidental.) It also challenges the good ol’ biceps and who doesn’t want better guns?
1. Maintain a neutral spine; no Quasimodos or rainbow-esque backs that will make my eyes start bleeding if I see them. You do this by…
2. Brace the heck out of your midsection. You’re only have two points of stability (your feet) and the barbell is going to do it’s best to tip you over. Don’t let it.
3. Think about driving your elbow into the wall behind you and shoving your shoulder blade into your back pockets. Don’t shrug the weight up to your ears. You shoulder should be far, far away from your ear. You can’t see it too well in this video thanks to my black, oversized shirt but my shoulder blade is retracted.
Swings with a heavy bell
Why: Because I said so. Everyone should swing. A lot. Seriously though, heavy swings (that’s a 28K (62 lb) bell in the video. ) are extremely challenging to the upper back musculature. The rhomboids, lats mid- and lower traps have to work over time to maintain a neutral spine and protect the it. Not to mention the work the biceps (isometrically) and forearms have to do just to hold onto the bell throughout the swing set. I’ve been doing a lot of swings on a weekly basis now for a few months and my upper body strength has increased noticeably (especially in regards to my pull up and rows… thank you swings!)
1. Read this.
2. Read this too.
3. Crack the walnut and REALLY pull your chest through to the ceiling throughout the swing.
That should do it for today! These should help build upper body strength. It makes wielding your sword easier.