Ok, I think the name says it all. Don’t ask me the etymology of the word, but the image you’ve conjured up in your mind probably fits the bill. If you’re not familiar with the Burpee, it is a great total body exercise that does not require any equipment, yet leaves you feeling like you’ve just completed a full gym workout. There are a few variations for all fitness levels, which you will find in the video below. Give this one a try, if you dare…
The upper back is one of the most important areas of the body that requires our attention in our exercise routine. Because the bulk of the physical activity we do in our day-to-day life happens in front of us, those muscles (the chest and shoulders especially) become overly tight and unequally strong compared to their counterparts, the muscles of the upper back and rear shoulders. Since muscles keep each other in check, this imbalance can create postural problems and can make one susceptible to future injury. For this reason, we need to keep the muscles of the chest and shoulders flexible, and the muscles of the upper back strong. However, upper back exercises are some of the most difficult to perform on your own without some form of equipment. Short of pull-ups or the modified pull-ups that I featured a few weeks back, you need some implement to assist you. The following exercise can be done in the gym with a cable machine or can be done at home or outside using a very inexpensive tool called resistance tubes. They come in different thicknesses and can be purchased at any sporting goods store. The have handles attached to the ends and usually come with a door anchor for home use. The greater the thickness, the more resistance and the more difficult the exercise. For a couple of dollars, you can add dozens of potential exercises to your routine. One of these is the Standing Tube/Cable High Row. Here’s what you do:
Set the cable machine at its highest height with handles attached, or set the tube anchor at a height at or above your head. Grasp the handles and stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. With arms extended in front of you and up towards the cable/tube attachment, set the shoulders down away from the ears and pull the handles towards the chest. Keep the elbows close to your body and use the muscles of the back and arms to perform the movement. Slowly return the starting position. Avoid using the neck and keep the shoulders down throughout the exercise. Exhale as you pull, and inhale as you return.
Chair Dips x 15 Chair Squats x 15
Prone Cobra x 10
Do all three exercises in the circuit back to back, then rest for 60 seconds, and repeat the circuit one more time. All of the highlighted exercises have been “Featured Exercises” in the past, and have links to instructions. For instructions on any of the others, just leave a comment and I will be sure to explain. Push-ups can be on your feet or kneeling, whichever you need. You can feel free to add weight to the Reverse Lunges and Chair Squats with dumbbells, a medicine ball, or anything that adds weight like water jugs or small children (I have used this one myself). For a greater challenge, increase the repetitions on some of the exercises, or do 3 sets instead of 2. Be safe, and always stay within your level of fitness!
Circuit #1: Dumbbell Squat + Shoulder Press x 10-15 reps Dumbbell Row x 10-15 reps Ab Crunch x 20-30 reps (2-3 sets)
Circuit #2: Dumbbell Chest Press x 10-15 reps Dumbbell Walking Lunges x 20-30 reps Opposite Arm/Hip Extension x 30 sec each side (2-3 sets)
Circuit #3: Cable Tricep Extension x 10-15 reps Cable Arm Curls x 10-15 reps Plank x max time (2-3 sets)
This workout is a great functional strength gym workout. As we’ve been talking about adding some strength training work into your cardio routine, here is one such workout. This one is structured with 3 circuits. Each circuit consists of 3 exercises done back-to-back with minimal rest in between (just enough time to transition between exercises). Repeat each circuit 2-3 times. I would start with 2 sets just to get the feel of things. Find weights that bring you nearly to maximum fatigue in the repetition range described. That will be different for each person, so I have not posted any weights with the exercises. As always, keep the movements controlled and use proper form. Happy Lifting!