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The At-Home Upper Body Workout

By Natasha Vani, MSc., ATCP

Feeling guilty because you didnít make it to the gym for your regular workout? Try this simple upper body routine that requires absolutely no equipment, little space and is just as effective as hitting the gym. All you needÖa favorite room in the house that either has a rug, a carpet or a mat for comfort.

Exercise # 1
Yes, the good old pushup
óeasy for some, hard for others and hated by many. This exercise is one of the most efficient upper body exercises out there. The problem is most of us find pushups difficult to perform. To overcome this, all you need is the right variation. The pushup comes in many forms and I guarantee an option exists for everyone; you want to choose a variation that allows you to perform roughly 20 challenging repetitions. Listed in order from least to most difficult, consider the following options.

The wall pushup: Stand facing a wall with hands shoulder width apart and your arms parallel to the floor. Your feet should be together, roughly two feet away from the wall. Similar to a regular pushup, simply bend at the elbows and bring your chest toward the wall instead of the floor. For a greater challenge, move your feet slightly farther away from the wall or perform the exercise one arm at a time.

Modified pushup: This pushup is performed in the traditional method, except your knees act as the pivot point instead of your toes. Place your hands shoulder width apart and bend your arms at the elbow as you lower your chest to the floor. Tip: tighten those abs, donít let your stomach sag and keep your buttocks from pointing up in the air. 

Traditional pushup: This variation is similar to the modified pushup above, but uses your feet as the pivot point. Donít forget to exhale as you push upward and inhale as you lower your body. If this pushup is too easy, try to clap your hands between repetitions, try a one-handed pushup or place your feet on a chair so your body is in a decline position. For a real challenge, try performing the pushup on your fingertips or on closed fists.

Exercise # 2
Tone the triceps with some dips.
Use a chair, the couch, the side of a table or any other sturdy object in the room. Place your hands, palms down, on the surface of the object. Your fingers should point toward your heels. Your body should be facing away from the object and your arms should be supporting your body weight. Your feet are simply acting as a pivot point. Lower your body toward the floor, and then lift yourself back up using your arms. If this motion is too difficult, perform the same motion but begin with the knees bent to 90 degrees and placed closer to your chair. If you find the movement too easy, simply place your feet on another chair so your legs are parallel to the floor. Aim for 20 repetitions and feel the burn.

Exercise # 3
Build a strong upper back.
Have you ever wondered how to work your back with no equipment? Well here you have it. Get in the same position as the traditional pushup, but place your entire forearms on the ground with your fingers touching, forming a triangle with your elbows. Your feet will act as a pivot and your buttocks should be up in the air so your body forms an upside down V. Slowly lower your chest toward your hands by bending at the elbows. Again aim for 20 repetitions or until fatigue sets in.


 

Exercise # 4
Work the abs!
This is one muscle group we all know how to work. The key once again is to perform 20 to 30 slow repetitions of a specific variation that challenges you yet allows for proper technique. Here are some choices:

If these movements are too difficult, perform the crunch with both of your hands placed around your thighs to help you lift yourself toward your chest. As you get stronger, reduce the amount of help your arms provide. If these movements are too easy, try the reverse crunch with the legs bent, or straight for a greater challenge

Exercise # 5
Never neglect the lower back.
We always tend to focus on exercise that we think will improve our looks. Guys love working their chest and shoulders, and ladies love the thighs and triceps. However, balance is everything. When you work your abs you cannot forget about your lower back. Simply lie face down on your rug or carpet and try this common back extension exercise.

Keep the lower body stationary and slowly raise your chest off the ground as you breathe out. Pause for a moment and return to the starting position. If this movement is too difficult, try raising one hand and the opposite leg slightly off the ground. Again, pause for a moment, lower and then raise the opposite arm and leg. Another option is to keep the upper body stationary and only raise the lower body off the ground. Again aim for 20!

Now that you have five solid exercises, complete the first set of exercise number 1, followed by the first set of exercise number 2, followed by the first set of exercise number 3, etc. until all five exercises have been completed once. Then begin the cycle again and repeat two or three more times.

What you have just completed is an example of circuit training. Because you are never really resting the body, only the specific muscle groups, circuit training also gives you an aerobic benefit. After the first couple of movements you should feel your body warming up and a light sweat beginning. Getting a solid workout simply depends on you and your ability to push yourself through the exercises with limited rest in between.

Click here for the at-home lower body workout.

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