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3 Moves for a Strong and Toned Upper Body


Working on your upper body can produce many wonderful benefits: feeling confident and strong, looking and being fit, improved performance in sports or fitness activities and more strength to do daily tasks, such as carrying heavy boxes or groceries.

Here are three upper-body exercises you can do anywhere -- all you need is a pair of dumbbells. Be sure to choose weights that challenge you based on your size and current strength levels yet still allow your full range of motion.

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The American College of Sports Medicine recommends one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions when performing resistance-training exercises and resting for two to three minutes in between each set. These guidelines can be adjusted based on your goals and ability levels.

1. Biceps Curls: The first exercise is a biceps curl with both arms while lunging forward on one leg.  

Courtesy Reena Vokoun

Keep your elbows close to your body and curl your arms up, bringing the weights up to shoulder level and back down. Make sure your knees don't come over your toes when you're in the lunge. Your core should be engaged the entire time for balance.

You can work your biceps even more by slowing the movement down -- down for two counts, up for two counts and alternating with each leg on the lunges. This exercise primarily focuses on the biceps, but allows you to work the lower body as well.

2. Triceps Kickbacks: Start by lunging your right leg forward and resting your right hand on your right thigh while holding one dumbbell. Bring your left arm up and back, bending at the elbow, holding the other dumbbell at chest level. Your core is engaged and your left leg is straight back.

Courtesy Reena Vokoun

Using your left elbow as a hinge, press your arm back until straight using your triceps. Then bend your arm at the elbow, bringing the weight back down to the starting position. Want to work your triceps even more? With your arm in the straightened position, turn your palm up toward the ceiling and pulse up and down.

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3. Upright Row: This works your deltoids (shoulder muscles). Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. With your dumbbells, hold your arms long and straight, just in front of your thighs.

Courtesy Passion Fit/Reena Vokoun
Bring the weights up to chin level, leading with your elbows as you raise your arms. Try to keep your shoulders away and down from your ears as you do this. You can also add a simultaneous squat if you want to work the lower body as well. Work your deltoids further by slowing down the movement for two counts and back up for two counts.

Add these exercises to your workout regimen two or three times a week on nonconsecutive days. Want more? Check out this full upper-body workout:

Remember to use weights that will give you the most effective workout, and be sure to check with your doctor before participating, especially if you have any health concerns.


Readers -- What are your favorite exercises for working your upper body? Do you prefer full-body workouts or targeting specific areas? What is your general workout routine? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Reena Vokoun is the founder of Passion Fit, LLC, a certified fitness and dance instructor, blogger, video expert, digital-advertising professional and award-winning ESPN National Aerobics Championships competitor. She's a mom of two boys and happily married. You can visit her website at and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube.


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