No one would claim that it’s effortless to shape and firm your thighs and hips, but at least those areas can be monitored by a full-length mirror. However, unless you sandwich yourself between a couple of mirrors, your upper back and rear shoulders – areas that can be seen by others, especially in the warm months – are difficult or impossible to be seen by you. Sometimes that translates into an “out of sight, out of mind” position when it comes to planning your exercise routine. If this describes you, then your upper back and shoulders may be somewhat neglected, a little weaker, and have less shape than you want.
If you want to look your best in your sleeveless and backless tops that are begging you to wear them this spring and summer, you may want to spend a little time training those “out of sight” muscles. Incline dumbbell raises are excellent for targeting those hard-to-see places of the posterior part of the shoulder, and some of the upper-back muscles.
The posterior fibers of the deltoid muscle, the rhomboids major and minor muscles, and the trapezius muscle are all strongly activated by incline dumbbell raises. The deltoid muscle originates from three different bony regions on the shoulder. The anterior part of the deltoid flexes the shoulder (i.e., raises the arm forward). The medial deltoid raises the arm laterally to the side of the body (abduction of the arm at the shoulder joint). The posterior (rear) deltoid extends the arm at the shoulder, pulling the arm backward.
Incline dumbbell raises preferentially activate the posterior part of the deltoid muscle. The posterior fibers of the deltoid attach along the spine of the scapula (shoulder blade), a bony ridge located on its upper and posterior side. They anchor on the lateral side of the humerus bone, about one-third of the way from the shoulder toward the elbow. These fibers produce a strong extension, which brings the humerus bone to a posterior position, and this is the primary function of inclined dumbbell lateral raises.
The posterior fibers also contribute to lateral rotation of the humerus at the shoulder joint. Lateral rotation turns the medial side of the arm out and away from the body (i.e., counterclockwise rotation of your right arm).
The rhomboids major and minor muscles are deep muscles of the upper back that lie just medial to the scapula, and they are also activated by incline dumbbell raises. When they are strengthened, they will add firmness to your upper back and help improve your posture. The fibers of both the rhomboid minor and major muscles extend along the midline of the back at the thoracic vertebrae, and attach on the medial border of the scapula (the side closest to the vertebrae). The larger rhomboid major muscle sits just below the smaller rhomboid minor muscle. Both muscles adduct the scapula (squeeze the shoulder blades together) and rotate the scapula upward – like when you raise your arms over your shoulders. The medial part of the large trapezius muscle attaches to the vertebrae medially and to the scapula laterally. These muscle fibers assist the rhomboid major and minor during scapular adduction during the pull backward in the incline dumbbell raise.
Incline Reverse Flye Dumbbell Raises
Incline dumbbell raises provide an excellent means for isolating the posterior fibers of the deltoid, rhomboids and medial trapezius muscles.
1. Select an incline bench that has no more than a 45º angle. Take a dumbbell in each hand and lie facedown on the bench. Your arms will be hanging toward the floor with your thumbs adjacent to each other at the beginning of the lift.
2. Your knees should remain slightly bent to reduce any lower back strain. Bend your elbows just slightly, then raise the dumbbells out to the side of the body and as high as possible. The trajectory of the dumbbells should fall slightly inferior (behind) the shoulder joint, but the dumbbells should be raised to the same level of your shoulders (or higher if possible).
3. Rotate your shoulders (not your wrists) as the dumbbells approach the very top position. The lateral side of the hand (the side with the thumb) should be turned toward the ceiling at the top position.
4. Hold the top position for a count of one or two, then slowly reverse the movement to the starting position.
5. Do not pause at the bottom or between repetitions, but immediately continue upward. The posterior shoulder should be under constant tension from the beginning to the end of the exercise.
6. Be sure that you lift the dumbbells as high as possible. At a minimum, your arms should be parallel to the floor at the top position. Hold this for a count of two, because this will ensure the greatest muscle contraction and activation of all of the fibers in the posterior deltoid and upper-back muscles.
The shoulder is literally held together by its muscle attachments, and therefore, it is never wise to lift the dumbbells quickly or explosively. It is especially important to be in full control of the dumbbells during the lateral rotation part at the top of the movement. Try to go for the best exercise form to activate the muscles, while protecting your shoulder joint from injury.
If you work carefully and with smooth, strict movements, your shoulders will respond by strengthening and firming. In addition, the muscles of your middle back (between the shoulder blades) will be strengthened and toned by this exercise. This will help your posture, and improve the quality of your entire upper body.
After a couple of months of incline dumbbell raises, you will show so much improvement that you will want to show off your new firm and toned shoulders. Your hard work certainly deserves the attention!
Andersen LL, Andersen JL, Suetta C, Kjaer M, Sogaard K and Sjogaard G, 2009. Effect of contrasting physical exercise interventions on rapid force capacity of chronically painful muscles. J Appl Physiol, 107, 1413-1419.
Kibler WB, Sciascia AD, Uhl TL, Tambay N, and Cunningham T, 2008. Electromyographic analysis of specific exercises for scapular control in early phases of shoulder rehabilitation. Am J Sports Med, 36, 1789-1798.
Minning S, Eliot CA, Uhl TL and Malone TR, 2007. EMG analysis of shoulder muscle fatigue during resisted isometric shoulder elevation. J Electromyogr Kinesiol, 17, 153-159.
Moore KL and AF Dalley. Clinically Oriented Anatomy. Fourth Edition. Baltimore, Lippincott Williams & Williams, Kelly PJ, Editor, 1992, pp. 690-698.
Reinold MM, Macrina LC, Wilk KE, Fleisig GS, Dun S, Barrentine SW, Ellerbusch MT and Andrews, JR 2007. Electromyographic analysis of the supraspinatus and deltoid muscles during 3 common rehabilitation exercises. J Athl Train, 42, 464-469.
Uhl TL, Muir TA and Lawson L, 2010. Electromyographical Assessment of Passive, Active Assistive, and Active Shoulder Rehabilitation Exercises. PM & R, 2, 132-141.
Yoshizaki K, Hamada J, Tamai K, Sahara R, Fujiwara T and Fujimoto T, 2009. Analysis of the scapulohumeral rhythm and electromyography of the shoulder muscles during elevation and lowering: comparison of dominant and nondominant shoulders. J Shoulder Elbow Surg, 18, 756-763.
Have you tried this NEW workout plan that everyone is talking about?
In Training, Consistency Is the Key to Your Fitness Goals
Consistency is arguably the most important component when working to accomplish goals, in or out of the gym. Without consistency, programs are unorganized, the body has a harder time adapting, and forming habits may be more challenging.
Build and Follow Workout Programming
Whatever your goals may be, they require a consistent level of training for you to reach them. One way to ensure consistency within the scope of your goals is to build a program. Programs make it much easier to stay on track because you won’t have to think about what you’re going to do at the gym today—it’s already written out. Most programs are designed to be followed for a set amount of time, typically about 4 weeks. Depending on the desired goal, the program will have a different focus—hypertrophy, endurance, strength, and so on. Each day is designed with the goal in mind, while ensuring that you are training in a way that minimizes imbalances within the body. If you aren’t following the program consistently, the chance of it working is reduced.
Theoretically, if you have a program and you don’t follow it, the body is not going to be able to adapt to the program because there isn’t an opportunity for progressive overload, which is when the amount of stress on the body is gradually increased over time, leading to increased strength and performance.
Work Toward Adaptations
Biologically, a lot of things happen in the body during exercise. Over time these reactions change the body to become stronger, grow, or run more efficiently. Different factors affect adaptations in everyone, so it’s impossible to predict when these changes will occur. But being consistent with training will increase the likelihood of seeing adaptations sooner.
Different modes of exercise elicit different adaptations. Endurance training will produce different changes than resistance training. While there are far too many adaptations to discuss in this blog, a few examples reported by the CDC include the following:
Improved ability of muscles to use fat as energy Stronger ligaments and tendons Increased VO2 max and lactate threshold Increased number of capillaries in muscles Cardiac muscle hypertrophy Increased force production
Each of these changes is beneficial for different scenarios. The body is either becoming more efficient or stronger, or performance is enhanced. However, these long-term benefits are seen only after consistent training over a period of time.
We are creatures of habit. The more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. We experience this when we learn to walk as babies, when we learn to drive, and when we exercise. It’s normal to feel out of your element when you try something new, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel.
Current research suggests that to make a habit stick it must be performed for 68 consecutive days. The idea of sticking with something brand new for 68 days may feel overwhelming for some people. When taking on a new challenge, focusing on taking it day by day might be a helpful mindset. Yes, we might be aiming to create a lifelong habit; however, thinking about just starting a habit to last for years could seem daunting. Start by doing it for one day, and then two, and then three, and so on.
Once you feel comfortable with one small change, add another small change, and so on. Small changes are more sustainable over the long term and add up to form new habits. There will likely be days that your plan doesn’t work out how it was supposed to, but that doesn’t mean all progress is lost.
Our bodies adapt gradually to exercise. In the end, consistency will help you reach your goals. Without it, you might not have enough structure to allow for growth. Work first on figuring out your goals, determine the best route to achieve them, and get started with one step. If you’re not sure how to get started, the trainers at NIFS can help you set goals and develop programs tailored to those goals.
This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.
13 Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Weightlifting Program
Weightlifting is straightforward in theory (you just, erm…lift weights, right?). But it’s a bit more complicated in practice. As a beginner to weightlifting, it’s confusing (not to mention intimidating) to figure out which muscles to target, how much to lift, and how often to work out. How are you supposed to know where to even begin with finding a good weightlifting program?
Although it might seem daunting at first, the benefits of lifting weights far outweigh any hurdles you might have to getting started. William P. Kelley, C.S.C.S, ATC, says some major benefits of weightlifting include improved strength, bone density, and heart health. Studies even suggest that it can help keep your brain sharp, as well as increase energy levels and decrease stress.
Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody’s senior manager of fitness and nutrition content, notes that lifting weights is also an effective way to lose weight: “Weightlifting can help you lose fat faster than steady state cardio because it keeps your metabolism elevated for longer post workout,” he explains. “The result is that it helps you burn more total calories.”
But before you get to enjoy all the benefits of lifting weights, you first have to get started. The first step? Creating smart goals.
What Are Your Weightlifting Goals?
“Goal-setting is critical to guiding your weightlifting path,” Kelley says. Before you even choose a weightlifting program, consider what you want to get out of it. Are you training for a specific event, for general health, or with aesthetics in mind? Do you want to lose weight, build strength, pack on muscle, or achieve a combination of any or all three of those goals?
“Each objective requires a different strategy, and by identifying your goal or goals, you can identify the most effective training program to achieve it,” Thieme says. The tips below will help you do that.
If you need some extra guidance to help you get started, check out Beachbody On Demand’s weightlifting programs, like Body Beast (which focuses on muscle building) and A Week of Hard Labor (an intense, five-day weightlifting routine). Both programs can help you achieve the lean, muscular physique you’ve always dreamed of building. (See the results for yourself!)
13 Common Questions About Starting a Weightlifting Program
These 13 questions and answers will give you the information you need to start lifting weights, including basic training tips and mistakes to avoid.
1. What equipment do I need for a weightlifting program?
If you’re starting an at-home weightlifting program, dumbbells are a necessity — but having just a single pair may not cut it.
Thieme says you need different weights to effectively challenge different muscle groups. Your legs should be able to handle heavier weights than your triceps, for example. That’s why he recommends investing in a pair of selectorized (AKA adjustable) dumbbells (like this set of Bowflex dumbbells). “A single pair of dumbbells can replace an entire dumbbell rack, saving you hundreds of dollars—not to mention lots of floor space,” he says.
A bench is another useful piece of equipment for developing overall strength and power, Kelly says, although you could get by without one if you’re short on space.
2. How much weight should I lift?
“You should always lift the heaviest amount of weight that allows you to complete all of your reps and sets for all of the exercises in your workout,” Thieme says.
If you can’t maintain proper form for the last several reps of an exercise, go lighter. If you can breeze through your reps with the last few feeling as comfortable as the first few, go heavier. The key to achieving muscle growth is to find your sweet spot, which in this case means a weight that challenges you without forcing you to sacrifice good form.
3. How many reps and sets should I do for each weightlifting exercise?
First, consider your weightlifting goals. “If you want increased strength, you should do from two to six reps per set. For hypertrophy [muscle growth] do eight to 12 reps. And for endurance, do 15 to 20 reps,” Kelley says.
As for sets, Thieme says it’s important to do multiple sets of each exercise, no matter your goal. Three sets per exercise is generally a good number, but don’t lock yourself into that. As long as you’re doing at least two and not more than five or six, you’re good. And if you want to increase your strength, build bigger muscles, and improve your muscular endurance, regularly vary the number of reps and sets you do.
“Optimal muscle growth occurs when you target both of the major muscle fiber types—I and II—and the best way achieve that is by lifting across the entire rep spectrum,” says Thieme. “Incorporate both heavy weight/low rep sets and light weight/high rep sets in your training program.”
4. Should I focus on one or two body parts a day, or do full-body workouts every time?
Both are effective strategies for packing on muscle. “The key is to work each body part or muscle group at least twice a week,” says Thieme, who suggests alternating between the two training strategies. “Do split training for two or three months, and then do total body training for two or three months.”
Your schedule is also a determining factor, Kelley notes. “If you can only work out two to three times per week, then a total body lifting program may be more efficient,” he says.
5. How many days per week should I lift weights?
How often you lift weights comes down to your goals and schedule as well, Kelley says. (Doe we sound like a broken record yet?)
“The ratio of exercise to recovery days that maximizes results and minimizes injury and overtraining risks depends largely on your current fitness level and the type, intensity, and duration of your workouts,” Thieme says. He recommends lifting a minimum of two days a week a maximum of six days.
6. Do I need to take rest days during a weightlifting program?
Yes! Giving yourself a day off from training is crucial to your weightlifting success. “Lifting days are where you [purposefully] damage muscle tissue,” Kelley says, while “rest/recovery days are when muscles repair and rebuild.” Both days are needed to become stronger.
If you don’t give yourself sufficient recovery time, you’ll sabotage your workout performance and hinder your results. “Training adaptations don’t happen during workouts, they happen between them, making recovery days just as important as training days,” says Thieme. “What people often forget is that, when it comes to exercise, more isn’t always better. You have to give your body the time it needs to respond to the training stimulus that each workout provides.”
How often you should take a recovery day depends on your fitness level, primary exercise type and intensity, age, and sleep habits, but a good rule of thumb is to take one or two rest/recovery days a week.
If you feel energized on your designated rest days, Kelley recommends active recovery activities, which facilitate blood flow to your muscles without overloading them. Yoga and light cardio (e.g., an easy jog, leisurely bike ride, or short hike) are good options. Also, don’t limit warm-up and cool-down activities to warm-ups and cool-downs. Perform dynamic stretching and foam rolling every day, regardless of whether or not you’re working out.
7. How do I avoid a muscle-building plateau?
There are numerous factors that contribute to muscle growth, but the key to achieving consistent gains is to regularly increase the challenge to your muscles, Kelley says. “By increasing the stress on a muscle through a principle called ‘progressive overload,’ you illicit changes in that muscle, including greater size, greater contraction force, and improved motor recruitment,” he explains.
Lifting progressively heavier weights isn’t the only way to do that. “Other ways to achieve progressive overload include decreasing the rest periods between sets, performing more complex exercise variations, and switching up the exercises you do,” says Thieme. “Even changing up your grip (e.g., from underhand to neutral) can increase the challenge to your muscles and trigger fresh growth.”
8. Can I do my weightlifting program and still do cardio and other workouts?
The short answer: yes. But you need to be strategic about it. “If your focus is weightlifting, then you should use cardio as a form of ‘active recovery,'” says Thieme.
If you do a heavy weightlifting session one day, and then go for an easy run the next, you can actually enhance your recovery (and results) from the weightlifting session by boosting blood flow—and the vital nutrient delivery and waste removal services it provides. “But a heavy weightlifting workout followed by a long, hard run or HIIT session the next day can do more harm than good,” says Thieme.
If you don’t allow your body sufficient time to recover between intense workouts, the only thing you’ll achieve is an increased risk of burnout and injury.
9. Will weightlifting make me bulky?
Lifting weights can cause men to become bulky if they focus solely and intensely on bodybuilding or pure strength training, Thieme explains, but this is rarely the case for women. Why? Genetics.
Men typically have a higher percentage of type II muscle fibers, which are bigger and have a higher growth potential than type I fibers. Plus, men produce more testosterone, which is critical for muscle building. “Women do not produce testosterone at high enough levels naturally to get bulky,” Kelley says, even if they’re lifting heavy amounts of weight. That said, a woman can still increase her muscle size through weightlifting if that’s her goal. “Studies also show that while most women can’t build as much muscle as most men, they can achieve similar increases in strength,” says Thieme.
10. How do I make sure I’m lifting with proper form?
Practicing correct weightlifting form is key to preventing injury and getting the results you want. The best way to guarantee good form? “Utilize a fitness professional [like a trainer] until you feel safe and confident in the staple lifts of your program,” Kelley says.
If you’re working out on Beachbody On Demand, pay attention to the trainers as they explain the correct starting stance, movement pattern, and key form points for each exercise, as well as which muscles to engage during the moves. Having a friend observe you can also help you keep your form on point.
11. How long should I follow a weightlifting program?
In general, Kelley recommends maintaining a specific weightlifting program for three to five weeks before you mix it up. “This gives the muscles time to adapt and grow in the current program; then, just as they acclimate, you tweak the program slightly to keep progressing,” he explains.
Perhaps more important than the timeline, however, is paying attention to the way your routine makes you feel. “If you haven’t increased the weight you’re lifting after a few weeks, or if you’ve noticed a significant drop in your motivation, it’s time to switch things up,” Thieme says.
Of course, if you follow a professionally designed program, like you’ll find on Beachbody On Demand, knowing when to switch things up isn’t even a concern. “Such variation is built into the program, eliminating the stress and guesswork for you,” says Thieme.
12. What should I eat before and after a workout to maximize my performance?
Before a weightlifting workout, focus on carbs, which will help top off your energy stores. The key is to choose something that you can digest before you start exercising. A piece of fruit is a good choice if you have 30 minutes or less until you work out. If your workout is still an hour out, our go-to recommendation is a piece of whole grain toast with nut butter.
Post-workout, the most important factor is protein, which can help facilitate muscle growth and speed recovery, Thieme says. Aim for 20 grams of fast-absorbing protein (like whey) within 30 minutes of exercising. A protein supplement such as Beachbody Performance Recover makes that easy.
13. How do I know if my weightlifting program is working?
To get the most accurate and objective measure of progress, Kelley suggests recording your workouts and tracking the numbers. “If you can increase the weight you lift by
9 Exercises for Your Best Upper-Body Workout
If crafting the perfect upper body were simple, we’d all be walking around with rockstar guns, and performing everyday feats of strength (like getting that couch out of the moving truck) would be a nonissue. But push-ups are hard. And pull-ups are even harder. And that can be discouraging when so many upper-body workout routines include both of those moves. Luckily, they’re not the only upper-body exercises you can do to get defined arms and a built back. By incorporating other upper-body exercises into your routine, you can work even more muscle groups to create the best upper-body workout yet.
How do you build upper-body strength?
Push-ups and pull-ups are highly functional exercises to help you build upper-body strength, and they certainly can have their place in any upper-body workout routine. But if you’re not very good at them, there are plenty of other exercises that can help you build strength and size. Even if you’re a fan, you should still round out your routine with a variety of upper-body exercises to keep challenging your body.
Plus, if you want to build muscle definition or size, you can’t discount the value of doing an upper-body workout with dumbbells. Although bodyweight exercises are an excellent way to build muscle, adding weight to your routine allows you to challenge your muscles in new ways.
To build bigger, stronger muscles (upper body or otherwise), here are some things you should keep in mind:
Keep challenging your muscles. You can do this by adding more weight, doing more reps, or reducing rest periods between sets. You don’t need to change a lot every single work out — even minor tweaks can help keep your muscles progressing. Do more sets. Instead of going as hard as you can for just one set, research has found that lifters who performed three to five sets saw more strength gains, muscle endurance, and hypertrophy than those who just did one set per exercise. Eat right. Protein is essential when it comes to building muscle. Make sure you’re eating enough and that you’re eating it at the right time (hint: try after you exercise). Beachbody Performance Recover offers 20 grams of high-quality protein to help your muscles grow and repair after a challenging workout.
Get even more tips on how to build muscle in this guide.
9 of the Best Exercises for Your Next Upper-Body Workout
This list of upper-body exercises will help you build the upper body you’ve always wanted. Plus, you can do them from the comfort of your own home — all you need for this upper-body dumbbell workout are dumbbells (or resistance bands) and a bench or stability ball.
1. Bent-over row
Appears in: The 20’s – Rachel – I Do: Strength
Benefits: “No one can ever do enough rows,” says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S, owner of CORE gym in Boston. By offsetting many of the postural issues associated with sitting hunched over a computer all day, rows can help eliminate back pain and correct your posture, giving your entire body a visual lift, he says.
Stand tall, holding a set of dumbbells at your sides, with your palms facing your body. (You can also use a resistance band: Loop the band around each foot. Hold the left handle in your right hand and the right handle in your left hand so that that the band forms an “X.”) Keeping your back flat, core braced, and knees slightly bent, bend at the waist so that your back is just above parallel with the floor. Your arms should hang toward the floor. Row the dumbbells to the sides of your ribs, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement. Pause, then slowly lower your arms back down, and repeat. 2. Arnold press
Appears in: Clean Week – Strength
Benefits: “Arnold Schwarzenegger was smart in the gym, and this exercise remains a weight room favorite after decades,” says Kourtney Thomas, C.S.C.S. Why? Because it hits all three sections of the deltoid muscle at one time: the anterior (front), medial (side), and posterior (rear).
Hold two dumbbells in front of your chest with your palms facing toward your body, keeping your elbows close to your body. This is your starting position. Press the dumbbells up above your head, rotating your palms out so that when you reach the overhead position, they face away from your body. Reverse the motion to lower the dumbbells back down, corkscrewing your hands so your palms end facing your body, and repeat.
Tip: You can perform this exercise seated or standing. “Seated, you’ll be able to press a little more weight,” Thomas says. “Standing, you’ll get more core engagement because you’re being forced to stabilize your entire body throughout the move.”
3. Dumbbell bench press
Appears in: The Master’s Hammer and Chisel – Max Hammer Strength
Benefits: For those who struggle with push-ups, the bench press allows you to train the pecs, triceps, and shoulders in a different way. For push-up masters, the bench press allows you to use more than just your body weight to work these muscles, which is vital to adding significant strength or definition, Gentilcore explains.
Lay with your back on a flat bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand directly above your chest. Raise your arms straight above your chest, palms facing forward. Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Pause, then press up and slightly in so that you end with your arms fully extended, and repeat. 4. Pullover
Appears in: The Master’s Hammer and Chisel – Total Body Chisel
Benefits: This move might look simple, but there’s actually a lot going on — specifically when it comes to building your lats and pecs, Thomas says. Bonus: You’ll feel your core fire up with every rep, too.
Lay with your back on a flat bench, holding a set of dumbbells. With your feet planted on the ground and your core engaged, extend your arms to the sky, holding the dumbbells together above your chest. With a slight bend in your elbows, slowly lower your arms overhead until your biceps reach your ears. Slowly bring your arms back to above your chest and repeat.
Tip: You might be tempted to drop the dumbbells overhead by arching the back and lifting the ribs, Thomas says. Avoid this by keeping your core engaged throughout the exercise.
5. Dumbbell rear-delt fly
Appears in: Clean Week – Strength
Benefits: Speaking of the delts, the posterior delt (aka rear delt) is sorely undertrained — this is one reason shoulder injuries are so common. If you only train the section of the delts you can see head-on, you’ll alter the shoulder positioning. This limits certain movements and causes the joint to work inefficiently.
Stand tall, holding a set of dumbbells down at your sides. Keeping your back flat, push your hips back to hinge forward and lower your chest until it is almost parallel with the ground. Allow the weights to hang straight down at arm’s length, palms facing each other. Maintaining a slight bend in your elbows and keeping your back flat, lift the dumbbells to the side by squeezing the shoulder blades together. Stop when the dumbbells are in line with your body. Pause, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to start, and repeat.
Tip: Be careful not to use momentum to help you raise the dumbbells. Perform each rep slowly and with control. Imagine squeezing an orange between your shoulder blades each time you lift the bells.
6. Standing bicep curl
Appears in: SHIFT SHOP – Strength: 25
Benefits: Apart from building the biceps — everyone’s favorite vanity muscle — biceps curls are actually excellent for promoting shoulder stability, Gentilcore says. The trick is to focus on keeping your shoulders stationary with very rep.
Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding two dumbbells at your sides, palms facing away from your body. Keeping your back straight and your elbows locked at your sides, slowly curl the weights as close to your shoulders as possible. Slowly lower back to start and repeat.
Tip: Fight the “ego lifting” urge. Choose weights that you can lift by only bending your elbow, not allowing any movement elsewhere in your body. If your shoulders move, elbows flare, or torso leans, or you find yourself bouncing, you need to go down in weights. You can also perform this exercise by holding onto and standing on a resistance band.
7. Skull crusher press
Appears in: INSANITY: The Asylum Vol. 1 – Strength
Benefits: Biceps may get most of the glory when it comes to arm muscles, but the triceps can be equally impressive when you build them up. Not only does this move help you build triceps that will pop, but the press action also activates the shoulders.
Stand holding a single dumbbell with both hands by the weighted ends at shoulder height, with your elbows tucked. Press the weight straight overhead. Without moving your upper arms, lower the weight behind your head. Reverse the movements to return to the starting position, and repeat.
Tip: You might be surprised how light of a weight you need to perform this exercise. Start with lighter weights to maintain proper form, and add weight as you become more experienced with the move.
8. Seated overhead tricep extension
Seated at the end of a bench, hold one end of the dumbbell with both hands behind your head, arms bent at 90 degrees. Keeping your back flat and your elbows tucked, slowly push the weight up, stopping just short of full extension. Pause, and then lower the weight slowly back down, and repeat.
Tip: Keep your torso straight throughout the movement and resist the urge to lean forward. You can also perform this move standing, which will require greater use of your core for added stability.
9. Floor chest fly
Appears in: P90X3 – Incinerator
Benefits: This move targets the chest muscles in ways other exercises like push-ups and bench presses can’t, Thomas says. And you don’t even need a bench — just a set of dumbbells!
Lay with your back on the floor, your knees bent and your feet flat, holding a pair of dumbbells directly over your chest with your palms facing each other. Allow a slight bend in your elbows. Slowly lower the dumbbells out to your sides, creating a wide arc with your arms until your upper arms lightly touch the floor. Pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to the top, and repeat.
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