Sarah Shore-Beck by Sarah Shore-Beck

While you might be tempted to focus on cardio to help get rid of those extra holiday pounds, don’t skip your strength-training workouts. In addition to great exercises like squats and lunges, be sure to focus on strengthening your upper body as well. If you’re new to exercise, or if it’s been some time since you performed resistance-training exercise, here is a quick review of some basic—but very effective—upper-body exercises. And if you’ve already mastered the basics, options are given to increase the challenge.

Modified Push-ups

modified push-up

Lie on your stomach and place your hands directly under your shoulders. Engage your core and bend your knees so your feet are pointed up toward the sky. As you get ready to push yourself to the top position of the push-up, make sure there is a straight line from the top of the head to the knee. Do not allow your back to sway or your hips to bend. Slowly bend the elbows to 90 degrees, pause, and then press back up to the starting position.

Note: If wrist pain is a problem, hold a dumbbell in each hand. This will help neutralize your wrist position.

Advanced: Perform the push-up from your feet instead of your knees. You can also place a resistance band beneath both hands. When you reach the top of the push-up, lift one elbow up to the sky in a rowing movement. Drop the hand back to the floor and repeat with the other arm; complete another push-up and repeat.

Front Press

front press

Stand with feet a little wider than hip-distance apart; hold a dumbbell in each hand. Elbows should be bent and hands with the dumbbells should be directly under your chin. Wrist should be in neutral alignment with your palms facing one another. Keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears press the dumbbells over but not behind your head. Keep the core and glutes engaged to help prevent excessive arching of the lower back.

Advanced: Increase the challenge of this exercise by standing on one leg. As you press, twist your torso toward the leg you are standing on and come back to the starting position; repeat with the other leg.

Biceps Curl

Biceps Curl

Stand with legs a little wider than hip-distance apart; hold dumbbells by your sides. Pull your shoulders down and away from your ears; keep your core tight and maintain a straight line from the top of your head to your feet. With palms facing forward, bend the elbows and lift the dumbbells toward your shoulders. Keep your elbows close to the sides of your body throughout the movement

Advanced: Perform the biceps curl while doing an alternating reverse lunge. 

Bent-over Row

Bent Over Row

Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-distance apart; keep a slight bend in your knees and hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other. With the core engaged and torso in a straight line from the top of the head to the hips, hinge at the hips. Bend your elbows and slowly pull the dumbbells toward your torso until they touch your abdomen; slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

Advanced: To increase the challenge, perform the row while standing on one leg. Bend forward until torso is parallel with the floor and the back leg is raised in the air. Repeat on the other leg.

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