How to build upper body strength


Upper body strength is about more than just looking good. It's also about being strong enough to take care of yourself as you age. Here's Dr. Pamela Peeke to challenge you to build strength in your upper body.

How to build upper body strength

Cardiovascular exercise AND strength straining (lifting weights) are the keys to lifelong fitness. And strength training is especially important as we age so that we can remain independent and fend for ourselves -- getting in and out of chairs (or cars!), maintaining our balance, or being able to get up should we stumble and fall to the ground.

And strength training does NOT require a gym, nor will it make you look big and bulky. In fact, lifting weights is a good way to help lose weight!

The Bent Knee Pushup

This one exercise builds all four of the muscle groups that you need to develop and keep strong: the biceps, triceps, deltoids (the shoulder muscle) and the pecs (the chest muscle.)

  1. Kneel on the ground
  2. Place your arms on the ground in front of you, spread apart at about shoulder width, and wrists under your shoulders.
  3. Extend your legs backwards so that your arms are bearing most of the weight of your upper body and your body is at an angle from your knees to your shoulders.
  4. Bend your elbows until your chest just about touches the floor.
  5. Push your body back up to the starting position.
  6. Do as many as you can until you can do 3 sets of 10 repetitions (reps) in each set, with a short break in between sets. Note: You may only be able to do one movement in the downward direction when you first start.
  7. Keep doing the exercise until you can push yourself back up, and then keep adding repetitions and sets. It may take up to six weeks before you'll be able to do three sets of 10 reps.

Hi, I’m Dr. Pam Peeke. I’m the author of Fit to Live. Well, for all of you that think that lifting weights is a waste of time you’re wrong. You have to lift weight to lose weight. That’s correct. Well, gosh, that means cardio is not good? Well that means you have to do both.

So, why is it so important to lift weights? Well, first of all, you could do all of this gym-free. That’s right. And in addition it’s not just about looking all bulky, you won’t look like that, instead you’ll be strong enough to be able to fend for yourself and do things like, well gosh, get out of a chair without any assistance. Can you do this? Come on, how many times can you do this? You’re basically squatting your own weight. Can you do this? Uh-huh, struggling? Looking for that little armrest? Wrong. You have to be able to do that all on your lonesome. Why? Because that means that your legs are strong. Strong enough to run; strong enough to sprint when you need them. Speaking of which, what happens if you fall? All right now I’ve just fallen down. I gotta get up. What if I’m all by myself and I have no one to assist me? I better be strong. Let’s see now, what do I need to be able to do this well? I need upper body strength. Hmm, this is a problem especially as you get older.

So here’s a quick easy solution. Can you do just a simple bent-knee push-up? This takes care of the four muscles that are going to help save your life one day when you need to be able to get up all by your lonesome. What are they? Well it’s the biceps, the triceps, the deltoid of the shoulder, and the pecs, which is the chest. Let’s see, can you do this? Down we go and up we go. See how simple that is? All right, all you have to do is just keep it nice and simple. Strong. Now if you say to yourself, my gosh, all I can do is one. Here we go and… plunk. That’s okay. I got no problems with that because it’s a beginning. Where do you want to end up on this? Well how about being able to do three sets of ten? [Gasps] You’re sweating already. Come on, this is a training effect. Six weeks and you’ll be able to nail those little suckers. And, in addition, one day when you fall you’ll be able to lift yourself up. 

meet theexpert
  • Dr. Pamela Peeke

    Dr. Pamela Peeke Fitness Expert and Author Dr. Pamela Peeke is author of best-selling books, "Fight Fat After Forty" and "Body-for-LIFE for Women." Dr. Peeke is Chief Medical Correspondent for Discovery Health TV and a member of Oprah Winfrey’s O Team of Medical Experts. more about this expert »

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