Upper body strength is just as important as having a strong core or strong legs. However, that’s exactly where a number of women seem to be lacking, according to personal trainers. The strength of your shoulders and back is directly related to your ability to function day in and day out, much like having a strong core.
This week, that’s where we focus. Let’s get started on building upper body strength!
Your Upper Body & Why Strength Matters
The answer to the questions of why is simple, really. Upper body strength plays important roles in your ability to properly function every day.
Reaching, pushing, pulling, and lifting are all dependent on your upper body. Your mobility, range of motion, and flexibility are improved by maintaining upper body strength, too. An article on Jillian Michaels’ website even claims that “you are more prone to injuries, disease and diminishes in quality of life if your upper body strength deteriorates” (Source).
What do you think of when you hear “upper body”? The answer for many people is probably the back and shoulders, and while those areas are definitely a part of the upper body, they’re not the only muscle groups.
While the workout this week focuses on your back and shoulders, it’s important to understand the many different muscle groups that make up the upper body.
1. Neck & Shoulders
Your neck is comprised of the splenius and sternocleidomastoid muscles, which are responsible for flexing and extending your neck. Your shoulders contain four muscles (hard to believe, right?), two of which are actual muscle groups. The levator scapulae and upper trapezius are the individual muscles that make your shoulder blades function. The muscle groups are your deltoids (with three muscles) and your rotator cuff (with four muscles), and both are responsible for a variety of movements, such as flexing the shoulder and rotating the arm.
Your chest is made up of one individual muscle and two groups. The pectoralis major and serratus anterior are the muscle groups; the former works to flex your shoulder horizontally, while the latter has the responsibility of abducting and protracting your shoulder blades. The one individual muscles is the pectoralis minor, which also plays a role in moving your shoulder blades.
Yes, we talked about these muscles a bit last week, but it bears repeating, don’t you think? After all, your abdominal muscles are important to everyday functions like sitting and standing. The rectus abdominus is the individual muscle that helps flex your spine, while the obliques (internal and external) flex your spine in a lateral direction.
4. Arms & Back
Your arms, in all of their awesomeness, only contain two individual muscles and two groups. The biceps brachii and triceps brachii are the groups that flex and extend your elbow. The brachialis and brachioradialis help flex your elbow. Your forearms include the wrist flexors (six muscles) and extensors (eight muscles), which are responsible for wrist flexing and extension.
Your back is a little more complicated, with numerous muscles layering over each other. The quadratus and multifidus lumborum and erector spinae are the muscles that laterally flex and extend your spine. The rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius, latissimus dorsi and teres major are the other muscles, and they’re responsible for shoulder blade flexing and movement, as well as your shoulders.
You probably don’t even think twice about it, but all of these muscles play integral roles in your movements every day. Strong, healthy muscles are important to an optimal level of health, too!
If you need a few more reasons why your upper body strength matters, check out the list below:
- A developed upper body is a confidence booster. A strong and healthy upper body not only makes you look and feel good, but it also give you a feeling of capability. Something as small as being able to curl 25 pounds instead of 15 is an awesome feeling.
- Increased muscle mass can lead to a healthier body composition. It’s no secret that a boost in muscle mass can help you burn more calories and maintain a healthier body weight. A healthier weight and continued muscle development can lead to bigger muscles for men, and better definition for women.
- Healthy, developed muscles might help you maintain independence. The aging process brings with it the loss of muscle mass. For some people, this is a scary thing, as it can lead to a loss of independence, function, and power. Maintaining strong muscle mass in the upper body allows you to do things for yourself, even if it’s something as simple as getting something from the top shelf.
This Week’s Workout
This week, we’ve got another great workout from muscleandstrength.com, and the good news is that you only need a set of dumbbells to get started (be sure to choose a weight you’re comfortable with). There’a also the option of increasing weight, if you’d like to build more strength and add more definition.
How are you taking care of your upper body? We’d love to hear your stories. Please leave us a comment below and let us know how your workouts are going.
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