There are three basic methods you can use to increase your upper-body strength: weightlifting, using resistance bands and performing bodyweight exercises. If you have access to weights or a weight machine, you’ll be able to perform exercises with the maximum weight you can lift. With bands and bodyweight exercises, you can still build muscles with the right loads, volumes and techniques. However you choose to build your upper-body muscles, perform a complete workout each time for the best results.
Before you begin any strength-training workout, take a few minutes to get blood flowing to your muscles and gently stretch them. Don’t perform static stretching, holding muscles for 20 seconds or longer. Save those for after workouts because they temporarily decrease your power as your muscles recover. Jog in place, do butt kicks or jumping jacks or skip rope for several minutes at a moderate intensity.
A complete upper-body workout will work your chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps and forearms. Good choices using equipment include chest presses, biceps curls, triceps extensions and kickbacks, arm raises, rows and kettlebell snatches. Effective bodyweight exercises include pushups, chinups, pullups, bench dips and chair dips.
Chinups are performed with your palms facing you. Reverse your palms for pullups. To work your chest and biceps during chair dips, place your hands in front of your hips on the chair tops. Place you hands behind your hips to work your back and triceps. If you can’t do many pushups, start on your knees until you build enough strength to do them in the full plank position. Even if you can’t do a pullup or chinup, keep trying. The effort will build muscle just the same as if you are able to do several or more. Keep trying until you can do one or two each workout.
Watch one of the many free videos available on the Internet to learn the correct technique for each to maximize your benefit and avoid injury. You can learn different variations of each exercise to add variety to your workouts.
You can use the maximum resistance or weight when you do an exercise, performing fewer reps each set, or you can use less resistance and perform more reps. If you choose to lift very heavy weights, perform five reps of each exercise before taking a one-minute break, then start another set. Do three sets of one exercise before changing exercises.
If you want to use less weight, try about 50 percent of the maximum you can lift to perform 10 to 12 reps of an exercise. Take a break and repeat the exercise, performing three to five sets total. Another option is to change exercises each set, but come back to each one at least three times.
Perform your reps slowly each time to maximize the benefit you get. Don’t let your weights or your body drop after you lift - - use muscular effort to lower a weight or your body each time.
Don’t head to the showers straight from a strength workout. Always take several minutes to walk around, shake your arms and lower your heart rate. After you’ve cooled down, perform a thorough static stretch to help remove lactic acid from your muscles and improve your flexibility.