Friday, October 9, 2009

Home Workouts - Upper body

Following the warm-up, many exercises can be done at home, without the need for any equipments or dumbbells and barbells! A few examples would be callisthenics (movements using your own body-weight as resistance), Surya Namaskars, exercises using Swiss Balls, Exer-tubes and an Aerobics Step, all of which will be discussed one-by-one.
Here are some Upper body exercises –

Wall Push-ups
Choose a plain wall or even your Kitchen platform. Stand about one or two feet away from the wall, and incline forward, placing your palms on the wall, with your elbows bent. Now push your body back to starting position using your hands with your heels raised. Exhale while your exert.

Floor Push-ups (Normal or modified)
Lie chest-down with your hands at shoulder level, palms flat and fixed on the floor and slightly more than shoulder-width apart, your feet together and parallel to each other. Straighten your arms as you push your body up off the floor. Try not to bend or arch your upper or lower back as you push up. Exhale as your arms straighten out. Modified pushups are done the same way, except that your legs are folded at the knee and the knees touch the floor.

Bottle Chest Press
Take two 1-litre bottles filled with water and then perform the bench press that you do at the gym.
Lie down with your leg bent at knees and using a grip broader than shoulder width, hold the bottles above your body, then lower slowly to the middle of your chest. Return to the starting position along the same path.

Bottle Flyes
Take two 1-litre bottles filled with water and then perform the Chect Flyes (lying down) that you do at the gym.

Just one word of caution – make sure your hands are dry so that you can hold the bottles in a good grip.

Major upper body muscle groups are – chest, back, shoulders and arms. Some exercises for the chest were discussed last week. This week, we shall discuss Shoulder exercises -

Shoulder Press – Stand/sit erect with your feet shoulder width apart holding the bottles with elbows bent and hands at eye level. Push weight over the head without arching the back until your arms straighten out and lower them back to starting position.

Upright Rows – Stand holding the bottles, hands close together in front and palms facing you. Bend the elbows and pull the weights up until they're at about chest or chin level. At the highest position, your elbows should be slightly above the shoulders and the wrists straight without shrugging as you pull the weights up. Lower the weights back the same way and repeat.

Lateral Raises – Stand with the bottles held at the sides, palms facing you. Keeping a slight bend in the elbow, lift the arms out to the sides, stopping at shoulder level. Lower the weights back to start and repeat.
Front Raises – Same as above however, starting with hands in front and palms facing you. Lift the arms upwards, stopping at shoulder level
Note: Keep the back erect and your abdominal muscles contracted throughout the movement.
Important –
As you progress, you might find that you get used to the weight of the bottles and the exercise seems less challenging. In that case there are 3 options –
a) Start with 2 sets of 12-15 reps and slowly progress onto 3 sets of 15 reps.. Avoid going on to a 4th set! Try the options below.
b) A simpler and more effective option is to vary the speed of your repetitions. So if initially, it needed you 2 secs up – 2 secs down for one repetition, try and vary the speed like 2 secs up – 3 secs down etc. For this, you have to knowingly control the movement. Target the part of the rep when you are releasing a position – eg. Returning from a shoulder press to the start position.
c) Take a slightly bigger bottle (may be 1 ½ litres) or add stones into your 1-litre bottle. You can also replace the water with sand or fine gravel completely!
d) Last option would be to add functional movements / isometrics into your movement. We’ll see that later!

we now move on to the arm muscles – mainly biceps, triceps and muscles like brachio-radialis and brachialis.
Two one-litre bottles held in either hand can provide good resistance for your home-workout routine. Always remember to have a clean, dry hand so as to firmly grip the bottles. Needless to remind that all exercises must be preceded by a warm-up.

Biceps Curls –
Possibly the best biceps exercise! Stand straight with your hands and legs shoulder-width apart beside your side. Hold the bottles down at arm's length beside you, with your arms, shoulders and hands in a straight line. Now, curl the arm up toward your chest keeping your elbows fixed and close to your sides. Bring the weight up as high as you can and squeeze the biceps at the top. Lower the weight slowly to starting position.

Hammer Curls –
As evident from the name, this mimics the movement of a hammer driving a nail. Put your elbows at your side and KEEP them there during the entire movement. Hold the bottles in your hands, with hands facing each other and inline with the elbows at the side, to start with. Pull your arms up until your biceps touch your forearms. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Tricep Extension (Both/Single hand) –
Sit on a bench or stand with feet shoulder width apart and hold a bottle with both hands overlapping one another. Take the weight straight up overhead with the arms next to the ears. Lower the weight behind the head until elbows are at about 90 degree angles. This can also be done with one arm at a time.
Tricep Kickbacks –
Hold the bottle in one hand and bend over until your torso is parallel to the floor (Soften the knees by bending slightly keep the abs engaged to protect the lower back). Begin the movement by bending the arms and pulling the elbows up parallel to the bent body and close to it. Holding that position, straighten the arms out behind you, squeezing the triceps muscles. Return and repeat.
The other advanced biceps exercises are Concentration curls, barbell curls and few more, which need increased focus on your posture, form and strength. And for triceps you can try Bench Dips, Close grip Push ups and more… However, these exercises discussed above are quite perfect to work out your arms effectively.

Here are a few exercises for upper and mid-back muscles (latissimus dorsi, trapezius etc.) –

One-arm Rows
Stand next to a bed sideways and bending forward at the waist, place one knee on the bed and support using the arm on the same side as the knee. Place the other leg at some distance from the bed, on the floor.
Hold a bottle in the other hand which is free and away from the bed, and while maintaining spinal alignment, exhale, retract the shoulder blades and draw your arms up towards the ribcage. Keep the elbows close to your body when performing the motion. Inhale and extend arms back to starting position at a controlled speed. Repeat with the other arm.

Bent-over Rows (One arm/both arms)
Position yourself with your knees slightly bent, buttocks pushed back, core tight to maintain spinal alignment, and bend forward so that your torso is just higher than parallel with the ground.
Hold the bottles (or bags) in both (or one) hands in front of you, palms facing each other. Exhale and retract shoulder blades, pull the bottles up bending arms at elbows, to a position just below your chest. Inhale and at a controlled speed, lower back to the stating position.

Stand straight up with your feet at shoulder width. Hold two bottles/bags with your arms hanging at your sides. To start with, droop shoulders down as far as possible. Raise shoulders up as far as you can go and slowly return to the starting position. You can also rotate your shoulders by going up in a circular motion from front to rear and then back down.

Performing around 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions is sufficient for a good back workout. As mentioned earlier, to increase the challenge, vary the speed of movements.

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