Strengthening your upper body can give you that often desired V-taper that can make your midsection look smaller. In addition to enhancing your appearance, a strong upper body can also prevent injuries, and improve your posture and athletic performance. When working out in the gym, there are many exercises you can do to target your chest, back, shoulders and arms, so you can develop your upper body.
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Include Chest Exercises
Chest exercises are an essential part of an upper body workout. They can give you a shapely, well-defined chest, which is often perceived as the ultimate sign of masculinity or femininity. Exercises can include bench presses and flyes, which mainly target your pectoralis major. Both exercises are done while lying face up on a bench. During bench presses you press a barbell up above your chest, and during flyes you open and close your arms in a hugging motion while holding dumbbells in your hands. Use a spotter, especially when using challenging weights, and slowly work your way up to finishing two to three sets of eight to 12 reps.
Strengthen Your Upper Back
When you work your chest, your must also work your back, to balance out your upper body. Neglecting to do this can result in a hunched forward posture. In the gym, you can use an overhead bar to do pull-ups, which targets your lattisimus dorsi. If you're not strong enough to pull your body weight up, use an assisted pull-up machine, which helps you complete the range of motion. Alternatively, do seated lat pull-downs to develop back strength, by pulling a weighted bar down to chest level. To target your other back muscles -- the trapezius and rhomboids -- perform bent-over rows with dumbbells, or use a rowing apparatus. Complete eight to 12 reps, and two to three sets.
Sculpt Your Shoulders
Shoulder exercises can be done with dumbbells. Front raises, lateral raises, and overhead presses, for instance, can effectively work your deltoids. During front and lateral raises you hold dumbbells in your hands with your arms extended. You then raise them forward, or out to your sides, to shoulder height. During overhead presses, you extend your arms up to push the dumbbells straight up in the air. Many gyms have machines that mimic these exercises and offer extra stability, because they help support the weight, making it easier to maintain proper form. Perform eight to 12 reps, and two to three sets of each exercise.
Target Your Bis and Tris
Well-defined biceps and triceps can be the finishing touch to a strong upper body. During your workout, it might be tempting to focus solely on the more visible biceps at the front of the upper arms. However, to create an even muscular balance, working your triceps at the back of your upper arms is essential. In addition to hammer curls and biceps curls, also include triceps pull-downs and triceps extensions in your workout. During pull-downs you use a high cable pulley with a bar attachment. Your elbows stay tucked next to your sides as you pull the bar down toward your upper thighs by straightening your arms. During triceps extensions, you're bent forward, leaning on a bench -- bend and extend your elbow while holding a dumbbell in your hand. Many gyms have machines that allow you to do this exercise while seated on a bench. Aim to do eight to 12 reps, and two to three sets per exercise.
Scheduling Your Workouts
When you work your muscles against resistance, you create small tears in the muscle tissue. This can trigger soreness, and temporarily reduce the strength of your muscles. They need time to repair themselves. This is why it's essential to schedule your upper body workouts on nonconsecutive days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests doing at least two strength-training sessions a week. You can, for instance, do strength training on Mondays and Wednesdays. If you want to exercise on more days, ensure you don't work the same muscles on consecutive days. For instance, work your lower body on Mondays and Wednesdays, and your upper body on Tuesdays and Thursdays.