Fitness Tip Of The Week: Increase Upper Body Strength With This One Move

Most people don’t use the muscles in their arms, chest and back nearly as much as they should.

If you go for a brisk walk or a quick run that’s great for your heart and will help keep the legs strong, but these common workouts only use the muscle groups in one half of your body.

Unless you’re doing specific strength exercises to prevent muscle loss, the upper body gets weak.  The muscles begin to atrophy and day-to-day activities become more of a challenge.  Eventually you’ll find that you look more frail and aren’t able to stand up as straight as you’d like.  This is the result of both muscle and bone loss.

Push-Up

Basic Push-Up (Flickr photo by mewall82)

You can turn that upper body muscle and bone loss around with one simple exercise. The push-up. When you do a push-up you’re working your shoulders, chest, triceps, biceps, and core.

How To Do A Basic Push-Up 

There are a number of ways to execute a push-up (we’ll talk more about that in a minute) but the same, basic rules apply to all of them.

1. Get down on the floor on your hands and toes. Position the arms so that they are wider than your shoulders.

2.  Slowly lower your upper body down to the floor. Make sure you keep your back flat and your core muscles tight. It’s important that the body stays in a straight line throughout the exercise.  If you’re able to check out your form in a mirror, that’s a good way to make sure you’re doing it right.

3.  Once your nose is almost down to the floor, slowly push back up to starting position.

4.  Try to be aware of your breathing so that you’re inhaling on the way down to the floor, and exhaling on the way up.

Push-Up Tips

If you haven’t done push-ups for a while just one will get you started.  Rest and then do one more.  Do as many as you can each day and don’t get discouraged if you can’t do many at one time.

You get the same benefits if you break up your sets and do them at different times of the day. For example, rather than trying to do 20 push-ups at a time, do 10 in the morning and 10 in the afternoon.  Make it a goal to increase the number of push-ups that you do each week.

As you progress you can add some variety to your push-ups by placing your hands in a staggered position on the floor, decrease or increase the distance between your hands, or put your feet on a box or bench that is slight higher than your hands for a decline push-up (pictured below).

Decline Push Up

Decline push up (flickr photo by shawnbrowntraining)

At first push-ups might seem hard  but in no time your upper body strength will increase and you’ll be able to handle the workload without resting.

The increase in muscle mass that you’ll gain from doing push-ups and squats every day is crucial to maintaining precious muscle and bone mass and will help keep those extra pounds away.  Plus adding muscle to your frame will improve your body composition so you’ll look and feel better.

Still Need Convincing?

New research from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that people that have more muscle mass live longer. One of the doctors associated with the project said that instead of worrying about weight or body mass index we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.

What’s your favorite upper body strengthening exercise?

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