This is a simple basic upper body strength building plan that is well suited for beginners that don’t know their strength training options or techniques well yet. These exercises will serve athletes at every level but as strength improves some of these motions may be replaced with more advanced body weight techniques.
Frequency: 3 times a week to build strength, twice a week to maintain
Sets and Reps: 2 to three sets per exercise. Find a weight challenging enough that you can only do between 5 and 15 repetitions per set.
Equipment: Dumbbells and optionally cable machine
- Triceps Kickback
- One Arm Row
- Overhead Press
- Strait Arm Dumbbell Pullover
- Dumbbell Bench Press
- Cable Row
Execution: Standing with one dumbbell in each hand and palms facing forward lift the weights to shoulder height and back down trying to limit movement only to the forearm/hands (articulate at only the elbow).
Purpose: Directly strengthen the biceps and improve overall elbow and shoulder stability. Aids all pulling and climbing actions.
2) Triceps Kickback
Execution: Leaning forward on a bench with one knee and one hand on top of it hold a dumbbell in the free hand. Keep the elbow lifted as high as the shoulder and then straighten the arm to lift the weight backwards.
Purpose: Directly strengthen the triceps and improve overall elbow and shoulder stability. Aids in pushing and supporting weight with the arms.
3) One Arm Row
Execution: Leaning forward on a bench with one knee and one hand on top of it hold a dumbbell in the free hand. Let the weight hang as far down as it can with you back straight and then pull it up to the side of your body so that your elbow goes behind you.
Note: Once you’ve learned the form for this technique you should be using heavy weight for it. At least double the amount you would use for curls.
Purpose: Develop ability to recruit the lat muscles and then strengthen them. Also builds core strength, stability and improves confidence in using heavier weights. Aids in pulling and climbing as well as stabilizing the whole body.
4) Overhead Press
Execution: Standing or sitting with a dumbbell in both hands raise it such that your arms are bent and the weight sits comfortably in your palms resting at shoulder or neck height. Press the weight overhead straightening the arms but making sure to look forward the whole time. Do not let the back arch (if you cannot stop the back from arching this indicates deficient core strength).
Purpose: Develop overhead pushing strength and comfort holding weight at full extension. Aids in handstands, handsprings and pressing objects and people up above you.
5) Strait Arm Dumbbell Pullover
Execution: Lying down on a bench hold a single dumbbell with both hands directly over your chest with both arms straight. Without bending at the elbow lower the weight by sending your arms over your head. Do not extend further than feels comfortable to your shoulders.
Purpose: Expose shoulders to high load at full extension and teach the body to recruit the pectorals, lats and shoulder stabilizers simultaneously. Aids in climbing and pulling actions and prevents common shoulder injury from the stresses of hanging.
6) Dumbbell Bench Press
Execution: Lying down on a bench hold dumbbells in each hand. Let the weight rest in your palms with the elbows away from the sides and pulled back so that the weight is at the height of you chest. Press the weights above the chest letting them meet in the middle and lower again. Remember to keep your feet firmly pressed into the ground.
Purpose: Develop pushing strength and stability. Aids in pushing and supporting weight with the arms.
7) Cable Row
Execution: Use Cable attachments for handles such that both arms can pull at once. Sitting on the ground or on a bench facing the cable machine hold both handles. Keep the back straight and vertical as you pull from arms fully outstretched to hands at the belly and back.
Note: If you don’t have access to a setup for this exercise it can eventually be replaced by standing barbell rows BUT that is an advanced exercise. In that case wait until you’ve developed good pulling power from one arm rows before attempting it.
Purpose: Develop pulling power and learn the recruit the full potential of the lat muscles. Aids in pulling and climbing as well as lifting weight from the ground or by rope.