Here’s a Great Upper Body Workout for Beginners

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Shawn Akers

Of course, crunch situps will improve the strength of your abs.

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he is tried, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12, MEV).

I’m going to call the attention of all beginners to the following workout.

It was designed by my trainer and good friend/adopted big brother, Michael Prince, for my very first book, Miss University, and it was also my first foray into fitness. It’s a terrific upper body workout that should take you no more than 45 minutes to an hour.

After you complete it, do 15-20 minutes of any kind of cardio, but keep your heart rate between 115 and 130. (In other words, you shouldn’t be able to sing along to Rihanna or talk to your girl friend about the attractive trainer across the gym!)

Also, it’s important to warm up before you start any weight routine. Michael advises his clients to warm up for 6-10 minutes at a speed or intensity that elevates your core temperature.

Okay, are y’all ready?! You’re going to do 2-3 sets and 12-15 repetitions of each exercise. The asterisk (*) means you should choose a weight at which the last 2-3 reps are really tough.

Rest 30-60 seconds between sets.

Side delt raises (5-8 lb. dumbbells) – Works middle muscle of your shoulders

  • Starting position: arms at the side, elbows slightly bent, palms facing hips. Feet close together, knees slightly bent, back straight.
  • Raise arms laterally without bending elbows until the elbows are level with shoulders.
  • Return to starting position and repeat.

Inclined push-ups (body weight) – Works chest, triceps and abs

  • Place hands wider than shoulder-distance apart.
  • Adjust feet so that when you lower your upper body toward the bench (or bar), the mid-line of your chest touches the bench or bar that you’re leaning against.
  • Keep elbows in line with wrists.

Dumbbell rows (*) – Works back and biceps

  • Place non-working hand and knee on the bench for support.
  • Hold dumbbell with palm facing in.
  • Maintain a stable position with upper body (no rocking or twisting!)
  • Inhale as you pull the dumbbell toward waist, concentrating on getting the elbow behind the body.
  • NOTE: I know this sounds funny, but concentrate on pulling with your elbow. This helps you get a better contraction in the targeted muscles in the back.

Overhead dumbbell presses (*) – Works shoulders and triceps

  • Sit on utility bench.
  • Lift dumbbells with palms facing forward, level with your ears.
  • Keeping elbows in line beneath the wrist, press dumbbells overhead, bringing them together at the top of the range of motion.
  • As you bring them back down, stop at either ear level, or at a 90-degree angle at the elbow.
  • NOTE: This movement can also be performed with palms facing inward. This hits more of the front of your shoulder.

Close reverse pull-downs (*) – Works biceps, upper back and shoulders

  • Sit in machine with upper thigh wedged under pad to hold your body in place.
  • Your grip is 4-6 inches apart with palms facing you on the bar.
  • Inhale as you pull toward collarbone.
  • Lean back slightly, keeping the elbows in line with your wrists.
  • Exhale as you extend arms upward, allowing your back muscles to stretch at the top of the motion.

Crunches (body weight) – Works abs

  • Lie flat on your back. Knees are bent, feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart.
  • Tilt your tailbone up toward the ceiling; this pushes your lower back into the floor. (This is called a pelvic tilt.)
  • Inhale and tighten abs by pulling the bellybutton toward the spine.

As you exhale, lift head, neck and shoulders until you feel resistance, leading with the chest (keep shoulder blades drawn together).

NOTE: Abs should be engaged throughout the ENTIRE movement. Do not release your contraction until the completion of the set. {eoa}

Diana Anderson-Tyler is the author of Creation House’s Fit for Faith: A Christian Woman’s Guide to Total FitnessPerfect Fit: Weekly Wisdom and Workouts for Women of Faith and Fitness, and her latest book, Immeasurable: Diving into the Depths of God’s Love. Her popular website can be found at and she is the owner and a coach at CrossFit 925.

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