Editor’s note: We know that upper-body strength affords tangible athletic advantage in many, perhaps most, sports-even auto racing, strangely enough. This is of special importance to female athletes, who too often haven’t been sufficiently encouraged and instructed in this mode of conditioning. Today’s guest post by experienced bodybuilder and weightlifter Elle Nash aims to change that. I hope you find it useful.-Rob
Upper-body strength, an overview
Upper-body strength comes from mainly three areas: chest, back and core. There are other secondary muscles like the triceps, biceps and shoulders, but they really don’t provide the power that comes along with strength. The core is really the power spot because it will balance out your upper body and allow your other muscles to fully exert their strength. The core makes up your abdominal muscles, as well as the muscles in your lower back.
Exercises for upper-body strength
There are many different exercises that achieve this. There are things that you can do around the home, but the long term results are very limited. Pushups and pull ups work great, but there is a point where you’ll plateau. If you’re serious about getting more strength than you should be looking toward a gym membership or gym equipment.
Bench Press: You can do both barbell and dumbbell exercises of this. I like to mix it up week to week when I do this particular exercise. I find that the barbell bench press provides the most strength for the chest area. The dumbbells help work your stabilizer muscles and eventually help you get over plateaus.
Deadlifts: This is by far the best core exercise that you can do. I don’t even do sit ups or crunches anymore because they’re useless in my opinion. Lifting a barbell of weight off the floor requires an enormous amount of strength and really develops the core muscles, especially the lower back.
Bent Over Rows: You will also have the choice of using barbells and dumbbells for this one. I find value in both of them, so I switch it up week to week. This is going to develop strength in your upper back.
The exercises above are the main focus of your training for upper-body strength. They hit the biggest muscles in the upper body and they also work the secondary muscles in an indirect way. If you ever feel that your strength training is hitting a plateau than you should work your secondary muscles. This would include exercises like military press, triceps curls, biceps curls, seated rows, etc.
Diet for upper-body strength
As important as weight lifting is to developing strength, you also need to eat properly for the development of your muscles. The proper diet isn’t as complicated as most people assume. The hard part is just following it.
Since muscle tissue doesn’t build instantly, you have to constantly feed your system with protein. This is so your muscles always have nutrients available to them throughout the day. That doesn’t mean you have to eat all the time. The magic number is 4 hours. You should be getting a meal into you every 4 hours that contains protein. You’re not going to have big meals though. The idea here is to eat about 5-6 times a day instead of the usual 3.
With your body getting the necessary nutrition all the time, you’ll have the potential to repair muscle tissue properly and gain the upper-body strength you desire.
Most of the repairs done to your body will occur while you’re asleep, and if you’re not getting enough sleep they just won’t happen. This is why it is extremely important to get a full night of sleep, every night. If you’re someone that normally gets 5-6 hours a night than you’re going to have to bump it up to 8-9 hours a night.
I wish that strength training was all done in the gym, but you have to get the rest you need for your body to repair itself. After you start lifting heavy weights you’ll want to sleep more at a night.
This is everything you need to know on how to build upper-body strength as a female. Remember that results aren’t instant or fast. It takes time, so be patient and just keep working at it.
About the author: Elle Nash has been an amateur female bodybuilder for nearly 10 years. She has participated in many bodybuilding competitions around Canada. You can visit her website and blog on women’s bodybuilding.