By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
The biceps, triceps, and pectorals (chest muscles) are probably the best known in the body, YET studies show that the upper body suffers the most neglect. Women are especially weak in upper body strength with an additional problem in the back of the upper arm. When you begin to exercise, the weight of your arms may be enough at first. As your arms get stronger, you might try using small weights when you exercise. Try using soup cans or bags of dried beans if you don’t have weights. Also, an exercise band can be used to improve upper body strength. There are several resistance levels; you may want to begin with extra light, then progress to light resistance or medium.
Here are a few simple upper body exercises to try.
Shoulder and Upper Back Range of Motion
For this exercise you will need a towel, scarf or necktie. Sitting in chair, extend arms in front at hip level. Keeping towel taut, gently pull as far to the right and around toward the back as far as comfortable. Return to center. Then repeat exercise pulling to the left. Return to center. Now bend elbows, bringing towel up to touch chest. Extend arms again, this time at shoulder level, and turn to the right. Return to center. Now go to the left, turning far enough to feel the stretch in back and front of shoulder.
Upper Back Strengthener
Straighten arms in front of you at shoulder level. Now pull elbows back, squeezing shoulder blades. Hold for a count of three.
Reach right arm up to ceiling, then place hand on center of upper back, as though reaching for a zipper. With left hand, gently pull right elbow toward the center to your point of comfort. Repeat exercise on other arm.
Using exercise band: Wrap ends of exercise band loosely around hands, shoulder width apart. Place both hands on the right hip. Keep the left hand on the hip and stretch the band by straightening the right elbow. (Be sure to keep the right arm and shoulder from moving during this exercise.) You may need to adjust the band to feel greater resistance.
Horizontal Arm Pull
Using exercise band. Wrap ends of exercise band loosely around hands, shoulder-width apart. Extend arms in front of body at shoulder level. With wrists straight, hold band firmly with right hand and gently pull to side with the left. Return left arm to starting position. Do 5 times progressively increasing the range of movement with each time. Repeat on other side.
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