Sunday 30 April 2017

Siobhan Byrne: The benefits of a strong upper body

Getting in good shape is about symmetry and balance

Siobhan Byrne: 'A strong upper body can have many benefits'
Siobhan Byrne: 'A strong upper body can have many benefits'
Cross-over push-up 1
Cross-over push-up 2
Cross-over push-up 3
Plank jacks 1
Plank jacks 2
Push-up 1
Push-up 2
Uni box push-up 1
Uni box push-up 2

Welcome to the third week of our four-week back to basics series. Our focus this time is on the upper body, an area that can get neglected until you begin to notice sagging and excess skin as you move past your 30s.

As a trainer, the arms and back are one of the main areas of concern I hear about from female clients looking to develop a more toned look. A strong upper body can have many benefits apart from the obvious one of appearance, including better posture, help with back pain and preventing the body generally looking collapsed.

Female readers may be thinking that working their upper body is not top of their agenda and other body parts, like legs, hips, glutes etc, may need more work. But it is important to remember the golden rule - getting in good shape is all about symmetry and balance and if you neglect one muscle group it will throw off your balanced look.

If you are still not convinced, then remember that there is no point in overworking other muscle groups to try and achieve a better look, it just doesn't work that way. I always refer back to the analogy of a tennis player who doesn't just have one well toned arm. If you need further evidence, then browse through your favourite Hollywood A-lister magazine for the proof. Look for the lean upper bodies and the toned arms and back, with perfect posture. It's amazing what a bit of bodyweight training can do, so why not give it a try yourself.

There are many brilliant exercises when it comes to the upper body but I always revert back to some old reliables, whether I'm training myself or any of my clients. Ensuring that you have perfect form with a full range of movement will help sculpt that upper body in no time. Here are some of my all-time favourite bodyweight upper body exercises to try.

Do each exercise 12 times before moving on to the next one. When you have completed each exercise, that is one set. Catch your breath before moving on to the next set, and do three to four sets, three to four times a week.

Back to basics: Part 3

Push ups

1/ Start on your knees or toes with your hands under the chest and back flat in plank position.

2/ Lower yourself to the ground and then back to start position. Keep the back flat throughout.

Uni box push-up

1/ Support your body on your knees or toes (depending on ability) and hands, with elbows bent and chest nearly touching the floor.

2/ Push up to a straight arm position.

3/ Move one hand across the other, crossing at the wrists. Move the other hand out and away, opening your hands again to be shoulder-width apart. Then lower your chest back towards the floor, while bending at the elbows.

Cross-over push-up

1/ Start by supporting your body on your toes with one hand on a low step box, a step is ideal if you are at home, and the other on the floor, elbows bent and your chest nearly touching the floor.

2/ Then push up to straight arm position and lower yourself back down to the ground keeping your back flat throughout the exercise. Repeat all reps on one side before alternating to the other side.

Plank jacks

1/ Start on your toes and hands with your arms straight, back flat and your feet together.

2/ Then jump your feet out to the sides without moving hand position. Immediately jump back to the middle and repeat. Keep your back flat throughout.

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