As much running around as you do in a day, you're asking a lot of your upper body as well as your lower body. Working the upper body provides strength and tone, and a solid base for performing everyday tasks. It also helps prevent injury.
The primary chest muscle is the pectoralis major, or pecs. Though the pecs are a single muscle, exercises are designed to strengthen three sections of the muscle: the upper, middle and lower regions. Incline chest press exercises work the upper section closer to the collarbone. Flat chest press exercises work the main belly of the pecs close to the sternum, and decline presses work the lower portion of the muscles. Chest presses can be performed with a barbell, dumbbells, machines or cable systems. Pushups are a great way to work the entire chest using only your own body weight.
A wealth of exercises work the bicep and tricep. Bicep curls with either dumbbells, a barbell or an EZ curl bar provide a basic platform for bicep strengthening. You can vary the exercise by changing your hand position on the barbell -- a wider grip works the inner portion of the bicep and a narrower grip works the outside of the bicep -- or by working one arm at a time with dumbbells. Taking a hammer grip on dumbbells with the knuckles facing out helps develops overall thickness in the bicep. Close grip flat bench presses allow you to target the triceps with heavier weights, and cable pushdowns force the horseshoe-shaped muscle of the tricep through an isolated burn. The triceps also get a great workout simply assisting with bench presses.
The shapely round cap of the shoulder can be strengthened with compound movements or isolation exercises. Overhead shoulder presses with dumbbells or a barbell target the front and side sections of the shoulder muscle. Upright rows with a barbell or dumbbells place emphasis on the side deltoid as well as the muscles of the trapezius on either side of the neck. You can work each section of the shoulder individually with front deltoid raises, side deltoid raises and reverse flyes for the rear deltoids.
Though you may feel the effects of a long day at work or an adventure in high heels mostly in the lower back, there are exercises to strengthen and condition all parts of the back. Bent over rows work large chunks of your upper back and lower back all in one exercise. Lat pulldowns strengthen the wings at the outer corners of your back just below the armpits, and seated rows force the muscles at the center of the upper back into action. Pullups and chinups are also a great challenge that works all the muscles of the back working with just your body weight.
A strong core is a solid foundation for building muscles in any part of the body. Traditional situps and crunches work the main abdominal muscles, but reverse crunches, ball crunches, plank exercises and hanging leg raises better target the entire core musculature all the way around the body. Simply keeping the belly button pulled in toward the spine when performing any strength training exercise is a great start to getting in touch with strengthening your core.
- Bodybuilding.com: One Move for a Big Chest: Decline Bench Press
- Strength Training Anatomy; Frédéric Dealvier
- The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding; Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Overhead Press (Military Press), Kinesiology of Exercise Information Products; Dr. Michael Yessis
- MuscleMag: Wide-Grip Seated Row vs. Close-Grip Seated Row
Jullie Chung writes regularly for various websites. She is a nationally certified fitness trainer and performance enhancement specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and trains regularly in yoga, flatwater kayaking, boxing and mixed martial arts. An avid outdoor fan, she regularly hikes, climbs and trail runs.