Legs, bums and tums -- the three areas that get all the attention in the world of women's fitness. But what about your upper-body? All too often your pecs, lats, shoulders, biceps and triceps get very little love and attention. Considering they make up half your body, they're pretty important. Pay your upper body the attention it deserves by ramping up your training intensity and choosing the right routine to build upper-body strength and size.
Whole/Upper Body Split
It takes around 48 to 72 hours for your muscles to recover fully following a tough session, so working out more than once every few days could be detrimental. One way to tackle your upper body is to train all of it in each session. Perform two moves each for your chest, shoulders, back, biceps and triceps in every workout. Following this approach, you could, in theory, train every other day, or work your upper body twice a week along with one or two leg sessions.
Movement Patterns Split
You can divide your upper-body exercises into four basic movement patterns to form a routine, according to strength coach Nia Shanks, author of the "Lift Like a Girl Guide." The four movements are horizontal pushes such as bench presses, dumbbell presses or pushups, which work your chest, and vertical pushes, which are any overhead pressing movement that works your shoulders. You also have horizontal and vertical pulls, like pullups and chinups, pulldowns and barbell, dumbbell or cable rows that work your back. With this approach, work your upper body two to three times each week and include one exercise from each category in all your workouts.
Compound and Isolation Split
Compound exercises, like those listed in the four movement patterns, work multiple muscle groups and joints. Isolation moves only hit one muscle or joint and include arm-focused exercises, along with exercises like flyes and lateral raises. Both have a place in your upper-body routine, but compounds give you more bang for your buck, according to personal trainer Rachel Cosgrove. Isolations can aid with muscle sculpting, but come second to your compounds, adds Shanks. As compounds are your strength builders, perform one session each week based around moves such as bench presses, dips, chinups and rows for low reps with five sets of six to eight. Add in one or two isolation sessions each week that include curls, lateral raises, flyes, triceps extensions and other isolation moves for your weaker areas for three sets of 10 to 15. This method is best if you feel you have certain lagging body parts that need more attention.
Reps, Weights and Progress
Regardless of what workout you choose, to build muscle and get stronger you need to be constantly challenge your muscle groups.The last one or two reps of every set should be a real struggle. Each week, aim to lift a little heavier or perform extra reps while maintaining perfect form. If you stall on an exercise two weeks in a row and can't add extra weight or reps, change it for a different one that works the same muscles next time.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.