Upper Body Burn For The Amateur Athlete

Welcome back to training for the amateur athlete! This month, we will be focusing on upper body movements.

6 min read

Health & Wellness

Upper Body Burn For The Amateur Athlete

Welcome back to training for the amateur athlete! This month, we will be focusing on upper body movements. These exercises require minimal equipment, so for this series, you will only need a towel, a chair, and an optional mat for comfort. You can also add in some light weights for an additional challenge. I will break down each movement and then put them together to create a comprehensive workout you can do right from your home! This will also include an upper and lower body workout using the exercises we learned in part one of this blog series.


Coach Sofee’s Top 10 Upper Body Exercise for Amateur Athletes

1. Chair Dips

Woman demonstrating Chair Dips exercise

Sit on the floor with your back to the chair. Place your palms on the edge of the chair seat, and then lift your lower body off the ground with bent knees (straight legs to make it more challenging) and straighten your arms behind you. Bend your elbows, keeping them close to your body not flared out to the sides, and then straighten then back up. Your body will move as your arms bend and straighten, but do not just move your lower body down and up. This exercise focuses on the triceps, or back of the arms, so that is where the movement should come from. Try to count to 3 as you slowly bend your arms and then straighten them back up quickly. 3 to 1 is the ideal ratio for this exercise.


2. Standing Pec Squeezes

Lift your arms out to your sides like goal posts, with a 90-degree bend at the elbow and your palm facing forward. Slowly bring your palms together at chest level making sure not to drop your elbows below 90 degrees. Hold it for a few seconds, and then slowly return to your starting position. This is similar to a chest fly performed with dumbbells or other resistance. Make sure to take both parts of this movement very slowly and really squeeze as you bring your arms together and then stretch your chest back out as you pull your arms apart.


3. Towel Front Raises

Using a hand towel, grab both ends and pull apart slightly until you feel tension. Starting at your thighs, slowly lift your arms straight up over your head, keeping the tension the entire time, and pause at the top for a count of 3. Then slowly lower your arms back to the starting position while keeping the tension the entire time. Release the tension at the bottom of the rep if needed, and then reset and repeat. Focus on engaging all parts of your shoulders – front, medial and rear.


4. Close Grip Floor Triceps Extensions

Start in quadruped position with your knees on the floor under your hips shoulder width apart and your arms under your shoulders. Walk your arms forward a few inches, with your palms on the floor, so that your elbows are below your shoulders. Slowly lower your elbows to the floor, keeping your lower body still, and then push back up until your arms are straight. This movement can be performed at a slightly faster tempo.


5. Standing Punches

Man demonstrating Standing Punches exercise

This is a great movement to start without weights and then easily add in light dumbbells when you feel ready. Try all different punches – jabs, hooks, uppercuts, etc – and play around with the tempo as well. You can also add a bounce in your legs to get your heart rate elevated.


6. High Plank Shoulder Taps

Woman demonstrating High Plank Shoulder Taps exercise

From a standing position, reach down for your toes, place your hands on the floor, and then walk your way out to a high plank position. From here, widen your feet to create more stability. As you flex your core to keep your body from shifting side to side, lift one hand off the ground and tap the opposite shoulder. Return to start and perform the same movement on the other side. Continue to alternate left and right. This movement might feel more advanced, so you can modify by putting your knees on the ground instead.


7. Renegade Rows

Man demonstrating Renegade Rows exercise

This movement begins from the same position as the shoulder taps. From the high plank position (or from your knees if you are modifying), lift one hand off the ground and pull it in to your hip, squeezing your lat. Be careful not to open your hip up to the side—keep your hips squared forward the entire time. Return to start and then repeat on the other side. Take the eccentric and concentric (lifting and lowering) part of this movement slowly, counting to 3 on the way up and on the way back down. This is also a great exercise to start with bodyweight and then progress by adding in a dumbbell.


8. Inchworm to Toe Touch to Push Up

Woman demonstrating Inchworm to Toe Touch to Push Up exercise

Starting from a standing position, reach down to your toes, place your hands on the floor, and then walk your way out to a high plank position, just as in the above movement. From your high plank, reach back and touch your hand to your opposite toe, shin, knee or thigh, depending on your flexibility and comfort. Return to your high plank and perform a push up. If you are not ready for a push up from this position, drop your knees to the ground, do your push up, and then return to the high plank when it is complete. Then, reach back on the opposite side to the same place as you did on the first side. Return to high plank and then slowly inch your way back to your toes. From here, you can walk back out to plank and start your next rep, or you can stand all the way for a big stretch and a quick break before your next rep.


9. Standing Arm Circles

Man demonstrating Standing Arm Circles to Push Up exercise

This is one of those moves that looks super simple, but it is actually quite challenging and effective. Make a fist with both hands, lift your arms out to the side so that your body looks like the letter “T” and then start making quick, small circles in one direction. Count your reps, and when you feel fatigued, switch directions and match the number of reps. Then bring your arms straight out in front of your body shoulder height and repeat, matching reps in both directions. Finally, lift your arms straight above your shoulders so that your body looks like the letter “I” and, you guessed it, make your circles counterclockwise and clockwise to failure. Your goal is to get through all three positions before dropping your arms to rest. Add in light weights to make it even more challenging.


10. Towel Biceps Curls

Grab both ends of the towel with your arms outside of your legs by your hips and pull both ends to create tension. Keeping the tension, roll your shoulders back, chest high and curl your arms up slowly toward your shoulders and then slowly return to the starting position. Try not to release the tension you have from pulling the towel apart until you complete all your reps.


Create a Workout

Time for the fun part! Combine these exercises together to make a great upper body workout for those of you who are just starting or returning to exercise.


Workout Option 1: Upper Body

40 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest for 4 rounds of:

  1. Towel Front Raises
  2. Standing Punches
  3. Renegade Rows

Rest 2 minutes. Then 40 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest for 4 rounds of:

  1. High Plank Shoulder Taps
  2. Standing Pec Squeezes
  3. Chair Dips


Workout Option 2: Upper and Lower Body Combo

Using the exercises from last week, try this upper and lower body combo workout

  1. Inchworm to Toe Touch to Push Up
  2. Side Lying Leg Raises - Left
  3. Side Lying Leg Raises – Right
  4. Standing Arm Circles (20 seconds at each position. Move in the same direction the entire 20 seconds. Switch directions for round 2.)
  5. Narrow to Wide Squats
  6. Towel Biceps Curls
  7. Prisoner Squat to Chair

For each exercise, do as many reps as you can in 60 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds before the next exercise. Perform 1-2 full rounds. You have now completed a full body workout, and in a short period of time, you will be progressing from an amateur athlete to a well-seasoned pro. Be proud of all your hard work!


Upper Body Burn Infographic
Upper Body Burn Infographic


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