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Master These Three Upper Body Exercises
Part 1 of 2
By: Jackie Wright

These days most fitness professionals focus upon creating and designing exercise programs and prescriptions which are functionally based, mimicking daily lives, to enhance our clientele's quality of life. To that end, the three upper body exercises we will highlight, this and next week, concentrate on strengthening the muscles of the upper body functionally incorporating the core muscles as stabilizers and will require little or no equipment. The first exercise highlighted is the pushup which has been around forever. However, focus has shifted from how many you can "knock out" to slower, more controlled movements concentrating on keeping the core muscles engaged. As always, please consult your physician prior to beginning any exercise program.


Targets the pectorals, triceps and deltoids during the lifting (i.e. concentric) and lowering (i.e. eccentric) phases of the exercise and significant stabilization of the body via the core muscles.

  • Begin kneeling on hands and knees on the floor with the hands directly beneath the shoulders, head/neck in neutral, shoulders rotated back/down, rib cage lifted and the navel pulled toward the spine.
  • Extend the torso from the hips so that the body is a straight, diagonal line from the top of the head to the tail bone.
  • Tuck the toes underneath for leverage and simply lift the knees off of the floor. At this point, your body is a straight, diagonal line from the top of the head to the heels.
  • Always keeping the abdominal/core muscles engaged to protect the spine, engage the pectorals/triceps/deltoids and lower the body toward the floor. The arms should form a 90 degree angle at the lowest point. Imagine a baseball located directly underneath your sternum and touch the ball as you are at your lowest point.
  • Then, press the ground away from you as you push your body back to the beginning position. Make certain to maintain excellent form throughout always keeping your abs/core muscles engaged, your shoulders away from your ears and your head/neck in neutral.
  • Perform one-three sets of 8-12 repetitions, three-four times per week maintaining proper form throughout.

Modified Pushups

  • Option #1 - Instead of lifting the knees off of the floor, keep the knees on the floor and perform the exercise as described above. To ensure effectiveness, make certain the body remains in the "straight, diagonal line" position described from the top of the head to the tailbone.
  • Option #2 - If this proves too difficult, attempt performing the modified pushup from an elevated surface such as a stable coffee table or bench.
  • Option #3 - If options #1 and #2 are still too challenging for you, attempt to perform the classic pushup position from a stable countertop. You will remain on the balls of your feet in this position to permit your body to lower/lift smoothly.

Once you have mastered option #3, you may want to attempt to perform option #2 and then #1. In all three options, perform one-three sets of 8-12 repetitions, three-four times per week maintaining proper form throughout.

Click here to read part two of the Master These Three Upper Body Exercises series.
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