Weak upper body? Train chest!

The ability to push, to push yourself up off of the bed, the floor, to hold yourself with good posture and to maintain good mobility are foundational reasons to train your chest. Women have a love/hate relationship with their chest. They want them bigger or smaller or perkier. Honestly, training your chest has little to do with the your breast tissue real or implants. Breast tissues are made up of glands and ducts for milk production and fat cells. Training the muscle lying underneath will make you stronger.  What can affect the breast size is the fat loss as you lose body fat, and that can come from cardio, diet and any weightloss efforts, but chest strength will never steer you wrong.

Take for example the 2014 quote from 77 year old female lifter, Willy Murphy, “”I can shovel my own snow. And I can push my car if it gets stuck in the snow… I’m almost 80 years old and I am still living life.” That kind of upper body strength comes from training chest not arms. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/01/willie-murphy-body-builder-77_n_6250258.html

Weight training should incorporate all of the major muscle groups to prevent or improve imbalances, and help your posture. Training chest for females may not be the first muscle group you train for the week, but it should be seriously included in your weekly exercise plan. Typically to start your week, it is advisable to train your primary focus, most strenuous heavy lifting day, or your weakest areas. For many lifters this can be chest, for women we tend to focus on legs and glutes. That is not a bad thing, but our chest is a source of strength. It is literally the foundation used to push with our hands, arms and upper body! Understand that to do a pushup or to push yourself up from a chair requires chest strength! http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/why-women-cant-afford-to-avoid-chest-training.html

Training chest strength does not require a vast array of exercises. There are two or three primary moves, with several variations that can be incorporated for variety.

First is a press. The number one version of this move is a bench press. The variations are equipment and position. Equipment can be barbell, dumbbells, machines or even bands. Position can be flat bench, incline or decline bench, or seated at a machine station. These exercises all feature a pushing away from the body type of move. Pushups will also fall into this category. Incorporate at least two of these types of exercises. If a pushup is a difficult exercise for you incorporate it at the start of your workout when you are fresh. Do at least 3 sets of attempts, start on toes, move to knees, and if needed to get 8-12 reps finish with wall pushups.  However, if pushups are easier for you, you can incorporate as a warmup, or as an awesome finisher! Three styles of press featured in sets of photos below. Plus a slide show of pushup variations.

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Second is called a “fly” There are dumbbell versions, angled versions, and various machine versions including butterflies and cable crossovers.


Cable crossover

A basic fly movement is like wrapping your arms around a tree. You will start out holding a weight or resistance equipment, with your arms extended out straight from your sides with slightly bent elbows. Without changing the bend at the elbow, wrap your arms around from out to the side to around to the front as if you were wrapping  your arms around for a hug and squeeze. Your hands come near to touching, then control the weight back out until your arms are straight out from the sides again.

A third but less common maneuver is a pullover. A pullover incorporates multiple helper muscles and is a more advanced movement. If you have shoulder problems this is not a move for you. Start with your back lying on a bench feet planted to the side of a bench.  This can be done on the bench or across the bench. Make sure the shoulders, upper back, neck, and head are supported, but with the top of your head off of the bench. With one weight in both hands, bring the weight from a starting position of straight over your body and back to straight above your head. Control the weight down, and when bringing it back over your head to straight above your chest squeeze the chest muscles and feel the pull through your chest as you move over it.  There are two common versions of this in addition to bench support placement, but also arm angles. A straight arm and bent arm are both options. Either one, the arm angles at the elbows stay consistent through the movement.

A good chest workout could be as simple as four separate exercises done each for 8-12 reps and four sets each: A push, a fly, pullovers, and pushups! Add the option of an extra exercise (also with some volume, 3 or 4 sets of 8 to 12 for each exercise) with an additional angle or style variation and you have a stellar chest plan!