Extra.ie Fit For Christmas Week 4: Upper Body Blast


newsWeek 4: The fourth challenge will be the ‘Upper Body Blast’.

Having focused a lot on our lower body in the last couple of weeks, it’s now time to turn our attention to strengthening our upper body!

This workout will have a combination of exercises that target your chest, back, arms, shoulders and core.

Pic: Shutterstock

Each routine will be an isolated exercise (single movement) that targets more than one specific muscle group.

This challenge will primarily focus on building lean muscle mass and our second objective of targeting fat loss.

These exercises are easy to perform and suitable for beginners and intermediates.

Pic: Shutterstock

Isolated exercises allow you to push a muscle group to its best ability when doing resistance training!

This allows you to perform more repetitions at a heavier weight range. Today’s workout will also keep you moving, strengthen your core, and keep your heart rate elevated. Keeping you in the target zone for burning more calories as we look to get lean for Christmas.

For today’s workout you will need the following close to home:
• A Small Outdoor Bench

You will need the following equipment:

• Exercise Mat
• Lighter Pair Of Dumbbells (2-6kg) or (3-8kg) See Below
• Pair Of Dumbbells (5-10kg) or (8-15kg) See Below

1. Standing Dumbbell Back Row

Why This Exercise

The ‘Standing Dumbbell Row’ is a very functional exercise for targeting your back and shoulder muscles while also building core strength simultaneously. Given its “bent over row” position, your body is forced to maintain balance while demonstrating good form on each repetition. This increases the work rate of your legs and abdominal muscles to hold the position, especially when holding heavier dumbbells. While the workout is great for building your upper back, it also recruits your lats, biceps, lower back, and deltoids as secondary muscles during the lift. Contracting all these muscles together contributes to burning a lot of calories when performing this exercise. A great routine for weight loss and firming up!

How To Do

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. In each hand, hold a dumbbell in neutral grip position for the duration of the workout. Bending the knees slightly, hinge your torso forward until it passes 45 degrees and is almost parallel to the ground. Keep your core engaged and shoulder blades slightly retracted to maintain a straight back at all times. Before each repetition, make sure your arms are fully extended towards the floor. As you begin to lift, bend your elbows and pull the dumbbells directly upwards. Push until your elbows at both sides surpass your body (or midline), bringing your shoulder blades towards each other. This stage is important for allowing your back muscles to contract. Pause for a second in this position before lowering yourself back down to the starting point. This is one repetition completed.

How Much

Beginners: Perform 10-15 Standing Back Rows | 2 Sets | Rest 1 Minute
Intermediates: Perform 15-20 Standing Back Rows | 3 Sets | Rest 1 Minute

Beginners can use Dumbbells (5-10kg)
Intermediates can use Dumbbells (8-15kg)

2. Lateral Raises

Why This Exercise

The “Lateral Raise” is one of the best and easiest exercises for targeting the deltoid muscles. A popular choice for people looking to achieve that defined rounded shoulder look. It’s side movement is unique as it isolates the lateral head of the deltoid muscle as a primary lever. That’s why you encounter a rapid burn when performing this exercise, even with light dumbbells! Although the lateral head is primarily targeted, the anterior and posterior deltoid are still being worked. Making this exercise great for overall shoulder strength. The lateral deltoid is quite hard to target from other exercises, making “lateral raises” a great inclusion for our upper body workout challenge.

How To Do

Start by standing with both feet together and looking straight ahead. Hold both dumbbells in neutral grip in each hand. Keep your torso upright and you brace with your core. The arms can be straight or slightly bent while performing each repetition. Lift both arms in an upward and lateral direction simultaneously. During the movement, try not to sway your back and keep it still. Lift your arms until they are positioned at shoulder height (90 degrees and parallel to the floor). Bring the dumbbells back to your sides by lowering your arms slowly. This is one repetition completed.

How Much

Beginners: Perform 12-15 Lateral Raises | 2 Sets | Rest 1 Minute
Intermediates: Perform 12-15 Lateral Raises | 3 Sets | Rest 1 Minute

Beginners can use Dumbbells (2-5kg)
Intermediates can use Dumbbells (3-8kg)

3. Standing Reverse Flys

Why This Exercise

If you’re a person that sits at a desk for many hours, then exercises like the “Reverse Fly” should be included in your weekly fitness regiment. The Reverse Fly is great for training the postural muscles of our back and shoulders. It also promotes balance and muscular stability. Providing much of the same benefits as the “standing back row”, this exercise will help counteract the “hunchback” effect from sitting all day, giving that upright frame everyone desires to have. During its reverse upward lateral movement, it targets the rhomboids, traps, and posterior delts together. It’s important to train all these muscles to maintain good posture. Performing this exercise in a standing “bent over row” position, you’ll also strengthen your legs and abdominal muscles. It’s essential to train your posterior chain if training anterior muscles such as your chest and shoulders. This keeps your upper body balanced, healthy and functional.

How To Do

Stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart. Bend your knees slightly as you hinge forward with your torso. Make sure to hinge until your upper body is almost parallel to the floor (between 45-90 degrees). Holding a pair of dumbbells in neutral grip position, extend your arms fully below your shoulders and towards the floor. Slightly bend your elbows and keep your core engaged at all times. Push the dumbbells upwards and away (laterally) from the body in a reverse 180 degree movement. Extend your range until almost squeezing your shoulder blades together. Slowly perform the motion in reverse to return to starting position.

How Much

Beginners: Perform 12-15 Standing Reverse Flys | 2 Sets | Rest 1 Minute
Intermediates: Perform 15-20 Standing Reverse Flys | 3 Sets | Rest 1 Minute

Beginners can use Dumbbells (2-5kg)
Intermediates can use Dumbbells (3-8kg)

4. Overhead Shoulder Press

Why This Exercise

If you’re looking to build stronger, more defined and healthier shoulders, then you need to include the overhead press in your shoulder workout. When performing this exercise in standing position, it works most of the larger muscles in the upper body and further improves your core strength, posture and mobility. When extending the dumbbells overhead, it targets many of the postural muscles in the back and shoulders. This is key for preventing muscular tightness and imbalances in these areas, especially if training your anterior muscles from exercises such as “Push Ups” and “Chest Press” regularly. Your core and lower back are also strongly activated during the overhead movement. These muscles are constantly engaged when maintaining a straight position when extending overhead. The shoulder press is another exercise that contributes to giving that strong square frame. You need to concentrate on correct form during this workout and not rush the movement. Doing this exercise the wrong way can result with injury. So take good care!

How To Do 

Stand upright, keep your core braced and back straight. Hold the dumbbells with a prone (overhand) grip with both palms facing forward. Your forearms should be vertical and elbows bent so that both arms are positioned at a 90 degree angle. To perform a repetition, extend both arms until they are straight overhead. Make sure to have no bent elbows in your finish position. Try to not sway your back during the exercise either. Pause for a second and return to the starting position.

How Much

Beginners: Perform 12-15 Overhead Shoulder Press | 2 Sets | Rest 1 Minute
Intermediates: Perform 15-20 Overhead Shoulder Press | 3 Sets | Rest 1 Minute

Beginners can use Dumbbells (2-5kg)
Intermediates can use Dumbbells (3-8kg)

5. Upright Dumbbell Row

Why This Exercise

Despite being performed in one single movement, the “Upright Dumbbell Row” is a versatile workout that targets numerous muscle groups. When performing one repetition, you work your deltoids (shoulders), upper trapezius (traps) and your biceps. It’s important to execute the form properly when looking to engage all three muscle groups. The movement needs to be steady, controlled, and performed through its full range of motion (extending your arms full distance on the upright lift). This routine compliments the other shoulder exercises in our programme when looking to gain lean muscle mass in our upper body.

How To Do

Stand with your feet close together. Hold a pair of dumbbells in a prone (overhand) position and have them aligned with your thighs. Keep them in a horizontal position for
the duration of the workout with your fists facing the floor. To perform the exercise, lift your arms directly upwards, bend your elbows, and keep the dumbbells close to the body. Lift the dumbbells until positioned just above the clavicle on both sides. Slowly release and return to the starting position.

How Much

Beginners: Perform 12-15 Upright Dumbbell Row | 2 Sets | Rest 1 Minute
Intermediates: Perform 12-15 Upright Dumbbell Row | 3 Sets | Rest 1 Minute

Beginners can use Dumbbells (5-10kg)
Intermediates can use Dumbbells (8-15kg)

6. Front Raises

Why This Exercise

“Front Raises” primarily strengthen the anterior shoulders (deltoids) but also target your chest (pectorals), abdominals, and biceps as secondary muscle groups. Recruiting many muscles in the anterior chain, this workout helps define all the frontal muscles of your upper body as they work together as a cohesive unit. The front raise will help you get that lean boulder shoulder look, working the front delts and targeting the sides too. Like the overhead press, this exercise is great for relieving muscle tightness when performed over many repetitions.

How To Do 

Stand with your feet close together. Hold the dumbbells in an overhand position with your palms facing the floor. Your arms should be fully extended towards the floor and resting in line with your thighs. Keep your core braced throughout the exercise. Keeping your arms straight, lift the dumbbells upwards till positioned just below eye level. Your arms should be situated just above 90 degrees to the floor. Pause for a second and return to the starting position.

How Much

Beginners: Perform 12-15 Front Raises | 2 Sets | Rest 1 Minute
Intermediates: Perform 15-20 Front Raises | 3 Sets | Rest 1 Minute

Beginners can use Dumbbells (2-5kg)
Intermediates can use Dumbbells (3-8kg)

7. Bicep Curls

Why This Exercise

To many people, “Bicep Curls” might sound like the most common and basic exercise. However, this is still one of the best exercises for isolating and maximising strength in the biceps brachii. If you’re looking to bulk your arms, or make them leaner and stronger, then you’ll want to include this drill in your upper body workout. Curls also work your forearms and burn an enormous amount of calories. You won’t generate as much power when doing this exercise in standing position, but when doing it in this stance, you’ll recruit more muscles such as your shoulders, abdominals and upper/lower back. This is another exercise that is beneficial for gaining definition on the front of the body. Bicep curls are a versatile routine that can also be done with kettlebells and resistance bands.

How To Do

Stand straight and hip-width apart. Holding the dumbbells at sides of your hips, turn your hand grip so that your palms are facing forward. Before each repetition, relax your arms and fully extend them towards the floor. As you begin to lift, keep your elbows locked by your sides and try not to sway. Push the dumbbells upwards and towards your body until they finish in a position close to your biceps. Slowly release to come back to your starting position.

How Much

Beginners: Perform 12-15 Bicep Curls | 2 Sets | Rest 1 Minute
Intermediates: Perform 12-15 Bicep Curls | 3 Sets | Rest 1 Minute

Beginners can use Dumbbells (3-6kg)
Intermediates can use Dumbbells (5-10kg)

8. Tricep Dips

See Week 1 For Exercise Benefits, Demo and Description

Beginners: Perform 15 Tricep Dips | 2 Sets | Rest for 90 Seconds
Intermediates: Perform 20 Tricep Dips | 3 Sets | Rest for 60 Seconds

9. Bench Push Ups

 

See Week 1 For Exercise Benefits, Demo and Description

Beginners: Perform 15-20 Push Ups | 2 Sets | Rest for 90 Seconds
Intermediates: Perform 25-30 Push Ups | 3 Sets | Rest for 60 Seconds

Alternative Option: On The Mat

Beginners: Perform 12-15 Push Ups | 2 Sets | Rest for 90 Seconds
Intermediates: Perform 15-20 Push Ups | 3 Sets | Rest for 60 Seconds

10. Plank

Why This Exercise

The plank is another infamous exercise and crucial for strengthening and developing our core muscles. When performed correctly, the plank is a full body workout. Apart from primarily targeting your abdominal and oblique muscles, this workout also strengthens your upper and lower back, shoulders, arms and legs. A big recruiter of muscle groups means a big calorie burner. Training opposite muscles in the body, the plank is great for improving posture and keeping muscles healthy and well balanced. Finishing your workout with the plank exercise is never a bad idea.

How To Do

Come down on to your hands and knees on a mat. Push your leg backwards and transition to supporting your body weight on your toes. You should now be in a push up position. Transition to “forearm plank” position by switching your hand position by coming down to your elbows. Your forearms should now be positioned at 90 degrees and aligned vertically, directly in front of your body. Your elbows should also be aligned directly below the shoulders. Make sure to keep your core engaged and back straight for the duration of the exercise. Try not arch your back up or down and keep your thighs held high to maintain this form. Hold for as long as possible and time your results.

How Much

Beginners: Hold The Plank (Max Time) | 2 Sets | Rest 1 Minute
Intermediates: Hold The Plank (Max Time) | 2 Sets | Rest 1 Minute

Weekly Lifestyle Tips

Get 7-8 Hours Of Sleep A Night

Sleep is just as important for your health as exercise and nutrition. It’s also equally as vital for your physical and mental well being. Your mood is determined by the quality of your rest from the moment you wake up and plays a factor in all your daily decisions. Sleep is also crucial for your body’s ability to recover after working out. After exercising, our muscle fibers need roughly 7-8 hours of sleep and proper nutrition to repair properly. Allowing our muscle tissues to recover efficiently is better for weight loss. Our muscles consume more energy in the process. Power sleep is heavily linked to weight gain and heart disease. Without adequate levels of rest, our appetite and stress levels increase. To help change your sleep patterns, try to switch off from any stressful activity at least an hour before going to bed. Reduce the amount of time you look at screens and don’t work late at night. Try to take on the more challenging tasks earlier in the day and lighter ones in the evening if possible! Read: Can Sleep Help With Your Weight Loss Goals

Try To Limit The Amount Of Sugar You Eat

In an average healthy diet, we already consume enough sugar from natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and other staple staple carbohydrates. Having too much sugar in your bloodstream is linked to many medical conditions such as chronic inflammation, diabetes, and heart failure. It also raises your blood pressure. Read the labels when buying foods and check the sugar content. Limit processed goods such as cakes, muffins, and anything from the cashier of a convenience store. If you need to stabilise and reduce your blood sugar levels, eat foods that contain slow-digesting protein and fibre such as nuts, legumes, seeds, fish, poultry, dairy and whole grains. Make sure to also drink plenty of water and avoid substances that create hypertension such as caffeine.

Misconceptions In Fitness

You Have To Stretch Before You Workout

More than often, you’ll notice somebody stretching at the gym after completing a basic warm up. To give a specific example, someone jogs lightly on the treadmill for 5 minutes and then jumps off to proceed to a series of holding stretches for each muscle group. The issue here is that people believe this form of stretching makes the muscles limber and ready for weight training. When in fact, static stretches held in the same position for 20-30 seconds, tell your body that you’re winding down and finishing your workout. Doing this gives our body the wrong signal and increases the risk of injury by pulling or tearing a muscle. Warming up is all about increasing your circulation. To do this, we need to be constantly moving and sending more blood flow to the extremities of our body. Starting with a basic warm up for 5-6 mins on an average cardio machine is the correct way to begin your workout. However, the next step needed is to advance to a dynamic warm up. These movements keep the body warmed up while continuously moving and circulate more blood to the muscles that are going to be worked. Exercises include alternating high knees and hamstring curls, jumping jacks, side shuffles and other routines each muscle actively moving. When finishing your workout, you’ll want to perform static stretches at the very end.

Using Machines Is Just As Good As Free Weights

Machines are great for beginners or anybody limited to exercise due to injury. They serve a purpose for anyone who is adapting to exercise. However, the truth is that training with free weights is better for your functional health. Machines are designed for a person to fit within its mechanism as free weights are designed to adjust to your body size. This makes the movement more natural, being able to perform every exercise through its full range of motion in the right plane. This activates more muscle fibers, more stabiliser muscles, and reduces the risk of injury. So is training with machines bad? Not exactly. When learning to lift weights this is a safe route. After weeks of adaptation, you’ll eventually want to switch your exercises over to manual lifting. But combining machines with free weights is also a good method of strength training when looking to build lean muscle mass. You just don’t want to leave free weights absent from your fitness regiment!

Looking for more challenging outdoor workouts like this?  Check out the Wellness Blog from Anywhere Fitness.

Alternatively, you can email us at [email protected] if you have any exercise related questions or need more tips.

Stay tuned for Week 5: Lower Body Workout Challenge

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