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How to train for the ultimate upper body

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When I first started working out, and in particular lifting weights, I really loathed training my upper body. Legs, no problem, abs I'd train any day and every day if I could, but shoulders, triceps and back, I would literally have to force myself to go to the gym and lift weights.

As women, our hormones aren't naturally in our favour for helping develop the upper body, so strengthening and sculpting these areas can be quite a challenge. However, this doesn't mean we should neglect training them — far from it. Just because something's hard to achieve doesn't mean it's not worth pursuing, right? Like with most other exercise, be consistent, be patient, challenge yourself appropriately and you'll create an enviable upper body that not only looks great, but is functionally strong too.

These are my favourite upper body moves. Give each of them a go for four sets of 15 reps.

Make sure you always lift with correct form and a controlled tempo. Also, choose a weight that you can lift comfortably for the first eight to ten reps but is a struggle for the last three to six.

Lateral Shoulder Raises — shoulders

Holding a dumbbell in each hand, start by keeping your arms relaxed at the side of your body. With a slight bend in your elbows, lift your arms directly to the side until they are parallel to the floor. Slowly lower the arms down to the starting position.

Bent Over Dumbell Rows — back and biceps

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your core really tight and bend your torso forward to about a 45 degree angle, allowing your arms to reach towards the floor. As you exhale, drive your elbows up, allowing them to glide past the side of your body, squeeze your shoulder blades tightly together at the top of the move, before slowly lowering your arms back down to the starting position.

Triceps Skull Crusher — triceps

Skull crushers are great because they can really isolate the back of the arm — bye jiggle! Lying on a bench, make sure your head is supported.

Holding a barbell with a narrow grip, extend the arms straight up above your chest. Bending at the elbow, lower the weight towards your forehead with control, ensuring the elbows remain pointing upwards.

Once the bar is about two inches from your forehead, push the bar back to the starting position.

Pull-ups — arms and back

Pull-ups are wonderful for hitting all the major muscles in your upper body.

They're very hard to develop for a lot of women though, so assisted pull-ups are a good option.

If you are at this stage, please make sure you use an assisted pull-up machine.

Using an overhand grip, grip onto a pull-up bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Allowing your body to just hang, apply tension to your arms, exhale and pull yourself up until your chin is in line with the bar.

Slowly descend to full hanging position again.

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Published April 22, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated April 21, 2015 at 11:25 pm)

How to train for the ultimate upper body

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