Five Essential Exercises to Improve Your Upper Body

Five Essential Exercises to Improve Your Upper Body
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Kettlebell Renegade Row

Kettlebell Renegade Row


Getting that toned upper body look is often harder than it might seem. Especially, if you wish to tone your body without adding too much bulk. When it comes to toning your body, there are two areas of absolute importance: the gym and the kitchen.

In this article, we will look at some of the most trainer-recommended exercises you can do at home or at a gym. The exercises we discuss below, all allow you to increase your strength, shape your appearance, without putting on too much muscle weight.

Incline Push-Ups

This is your basic father’s push-ups with a little twist in order to make it a little hard. After all, what is life without a challenge. Unlike a regular push-up, with an inclined push up, you elevate your feet thus moving your center of gravity towards your upper body, allowing for a more targeted exercise.

While keeping your back straight and your hips in line with the rest of your body, place your feet on a bench and your hands on the floor. Do a set of 5 or 10 every 5 or so minutes, be careful not to strain yourself too much. While toning, it is better to do more sets with fewer reps than fewer sets with more reps.

Pull Down Machine

This is a gym specific exercise but it is one of the most effective on this list. The pull down machine is the one you see at the gym with a large metal bar suspended by weights, the user sits down at the bench in front of them and pulls down the bar. Essentially it allows the user to simulate a pull up with the weight of their choice. This machine has been a staple for any gym for years because of its multi-functioning abilities.

It allows the user to do some powerful fat burning while building core and upper body strength. A wider grip on the metal bar, will allow you to direct the exercise to some of your key back muscles, as well as your arms. And always remember, that in order to do a proper rep on this machine, keep your elbows at your sides as you pull down, otherwise you are just cheating your body out of some powerful upper body building exercises.

Cable Row Machine

This is the iconic machine Kevin Spacey uses throughout House of Cards in order to keep that fighting edge over his enemies. It is no accident that the creators of the show chose a cable row machine. It is a simple machine that allows the user to target very many parts of their body, including the upper body.

Not only is this exercise perfect for anybody wishing to work on their biceps and lats, it will also help you improve your posture and reverse some of the effects having a desk job can have on your back.

Kettlebell Renegade Row

This exercise is perfect for those you who wish to burn a lot of calories and build muscle at the same time. To perform this exercise, you will need two kettlebells. Once you have the kettlebells, you need to assume push up position while holding the kettlebells perpendicular to your shoulders.

First, perform a push-up like you would normally. Now after you bring your body back up, shift all your weight to the left side and then, with your right hand, bring the kettlebell up to your shoulder. Now shift your weight to the right hand side, and bring the other kettlebell up with your left hand to your other shoulder. Finally, do another push up and repeat.

The L-Pullup

We saved the hardest exercise for the last one. The L-pull-up incorporates an awesome twist on your regular, old-fashioned pull-up that allows the user to target more of the upper body. To perform the L-pull-up, simply get in pull-up position but instead of letting your legs dangle parallel with your core, move them up so that your body is the shape of an L. With this simple tweak, you are now able to target more your back muscles as well as the rest of your core.

Justin Arndt is the Senior Content Editor at He is also the author of the upcoming book How to Lose Weight Fast: Weight Loss Secrets of Professional Athletes.

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