There is definitely a trend at the moment, among resistance-based workouts, to focus on building and shaping the lower body, particularly the glutes. While a strong posterior has many benefits, including the aesthetic results, the upper body shouldn't be neglected as part of a balanced exercise programme.
Having well-defined arms and shoulders is a bonus, but there are many other benefits to building and maintaining a strong upper body other than aesthetics. Here's some of the big ones...
1. It can improve your posture
A strong back is essential for good posture. A large percentage of the population live very sedentary lives, either through being hunched over a computer, plonked behind a desk or sat at the wheel of a car all day. As a result, most suffer from posterior imbalances. The chest muscles tighten, the back muscles weaken and the shoulders round forward (a condition known as kyphosis). Strengthening the muscles in the back encourages you to hold your shoulders back. It also improves your core strength, forcing the body to sit up tall.
2. It can give other workouts a boost
Improving your upper-body strength can also help your ability in other workouts. The majority of HIIT workouts and circuit classes contain upper-body exercises, such as planks, press-ups or mountain climbers, which require a good base level of upper-body strength. By strengthening your upper body, you will be able to make the most out of these workouts without having to regress the movements.
Working on your upper body also has benefits if you do endurance-based activities. Strong shoulders are important for cyclists to help position the top half of their body over the handlebars, with arms and shoulders taking a large part of the impact of the ride. It can also benefit swimmers, helping to propel them through the water more efficiently.
3. You will improve your metabolism
A great side effect of strength training is its metabolism-boosting power. Like HIIT training, strength training is an excellent way to get rid of excess body fat when paired with a controlled calorie deficit diet – giving you a leaner, more toned appearance.
Ultimately, the more muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate (and therefore the more calories you burn by just existing). Also, unlike traditional cardio, strength training causes you to continue burning more calories for up to 72 hours after the exercise is over.
4. It's incredibly rewarding
Reaching a new fitness goal feels good physically and mentally. In terms of your upper body, this could be performing an unassisted pull-up, a full-range push-up, or progressing up to a heavier set of weights for an exercise like an overhead press.
5. Everyday tasks become easier
Many of my clients come to me initially wanting aesthetic changes as their main goal; losing body fat or building muscle. As they start their strength training journey, they soon see those aesthetic goals as an amazing by-product of a much bigger lifestyle change.
Functional strength training can increase your capacity to go about your daily life – whether that's picking things up or putting them down or pushing and pulling various objects. It's moving your body with a purpose to improve your strength, balance, coordination and posture. You want a healthy body that not only looks good, but can move freely of injury and last you for many years to come.
As a result of being stronger at life's daily tasks, and a transformation of your body, you may find that your confidence starts to improve, too. This can greatly enhance your relationships, be that at work, with friends or a spouse.
Convinced yet? Try Bethany's 15-minute lunchtime workout in the player below, which includes exercises targeting the upper body.
Bethany Duckworth's 15-Minute HIIT Workout
Try this real-time HIIT workout by PT Bethany Duckworth to improve your fitness and core strength.
Be sure to download the free Red Bull TV app: Get the app here.