It only takes a few warmer days for us to start dreaming of summer - the green trees, the heat of the sun, the cool treats and the clothes! Gone are the heavy sweaters and long-sleeved tops - the summer demands we have the right to bare arms. But what if our arms aren't quite ready? Don't worry - we've got a list of six upper body exercises that will get you toned and tightened just in time for when that heat wave hits.
1. The Classic Push-Up
Push-ups are a strength training workout staple - and there's a reason. They’re designed to work out the entire body when properly executed, making them a great efficiency move. And of course, they do wonders for the chest, shoulders and triceps. But do you know how to properly execute one?
First, get into a plank position, raising onto your toes with your feet shoulder-width apart and your shoulders directly above your hands.
Keeping your entire body tight, bend your elbows to slowly, steadily lower your body until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Focus on your core by pulling your belly button inwards and inhaling as you descend.
Exhale as you begin to push back up into your starting position, ensuring your body remains tight and focused.
As a starting point, aim for 3 to 5 sets of however many push ups you can comfortably achieve in 30 seconds. If you need to, start with your knees bent and resting on the ground, and move up to your toes as the push-ups become easier.
2. The Overhead Shoulder Press
The shoulder press works your major upper body muscles, including the deltoids, trapezius and upper pecs.
You'll need two dumbbells in a weight you find challenging, yet comfortable.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent.
Place the dumbbells to the sides of your shoulders, with your elbows bent in to a right angle position, creating the bottom of a 'box’ shape around your face. With your palms facing forward, raise the dumbbells until your arms are extended above your head. Slowly lower, then repeat. Ideally, 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps should be your goal.
3. The Lateral Raise
The lateral raise focuses on your lateral deltoids. Like the shoulder press position, you’ll need to be standing upright with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent, again holding two dumbbells.
Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs with your palms facing one another. Bend your elbows and slowly raise the dumbbells up and outwards until they're parallel to the floor, as if you’re tipping a jug. Pause, slowly lower your arms and repeat. As with the previous position, 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps are an ideal starting point.
The key is perform both of these upper body strength training exercises slowly and controlled in order to get the most work out of your muscles. If you're finding it difficult to control the movement, you're using too much weight. If you're finding it too easy to move quickly, you're using too little.
4. The Seated Pulldown
Many gyms and sports clubs will have this equipment available in the weight room. If you're not sure where it's located, a trainer can point you in the right direction.
Keeping your feet flat and chest high, grab on to the bar and pull your elbows down while squeezing your shoulder blades together in the back. Pause, slowly return to your starting position and repeat. The process can be repeated as many times as you’re comfortable with - just keep in mind the above comment on weight selection. This will tone your back and arms if you find the appropriate amount that challenges you, yet lets you remain in control.
5. The Plank-Up
A hybrid of a push-up and a plank, plank-ups involve your core, shoulders, triceps and chest.
Begin like you would for a push-up, except start by supporting yourself with your forearms and the balls of your feet. Keep your legs straight, your body steady and focused and avoid swaying from side to side as you bring each arm up to the push-up position and then back down to your forearms. Try for 3 to 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps. A rep equals one complete cycle of left and right arms.
6. The Chair Dip
Your triceps will really feel this! Sit on the edge of a chair or bench with your hands down at either side of your bottom.
Slide off the chair but keep your hands there and slowly lower your hips down until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push yourself back up, using the strength of your arms - use your feet and legs as little as possible.
Your knees will be at a right angle at the top of the movement and your feet will be flat on the floor throughout.
Alternate these resistance exercises with cardio and strength training exercises that work other areas like legs, glutes and abs, and you'll be on your way to a summer-ready body. remember to eat clean and stay focused - you will get there if you put in the effort!