Hillsboro: (503) 615-5969 I Banks: (971) 713-3960 kimt@impactpthillsboro.com

If you have ever gone to a gym, you most likely have seen “that guy” or “that gal” in the weight room section. “That person” typically has improper form and is challenging themselves with too much weight or complexity of the exercise.

Some of us have been in this situation and injured ourselves, leaving us feeling embarrassed and afraid to go back to the gym. But not to worry.

A few simple concepts can help you safely improve your upper body strength. Many of our patients at Impact learn these proper exercise techniques while receiving physical therapy. We want to share some common tips with you to improve your exercise form at home or to help boost your confidence as you return to your local fitness center.

See below some variations of common upper body strengthening exercises depending on your available equipment and space.

Bench Press

Do:

  • Keep the weight directly over your chest
  • Keep your back flat against the bench and feet flat on the floor
  • Use a slow, controlled pace as you lower the weight towards your chest

Don’t:

  • Allow your elbows to bend past 90 degrees
  • Don’t hold your breath – inhale as you raise the weight and exhale as you lower

Alternatives:

  • Chest press with a resistance band or loop while seated or standing
  • Incline chest press from a chair

Lat Pulldown

Do:

  • Lean slightly back while sitting on the bench, keep knees and hips bent at 90° with feet flat on the ground
  • Pull the bar down toward your chest, bending the elbows to 90°
  • Slowly return the bar to the overhead starting position

Don’t:

  • Do not pull the bar behind your neck – this places excessive compression on the neck
  • Do not let the bar lift you up from your seat as you return to the start position

Alternatives:

  • Pull down with resistance band or loop while seated or standing 
  • Shoulder extension with weight in prone

Push Up

Do:

  • Space your hands so they are shoulder-width apart with feet together
  • Lower your body until your elbows make a 90 degree angle
  • For more triceps muscle activation, keep your elbows in towards your sides
  • For more chest muscle activation, allow your elbows to point outward at a 45 degree angle from your body
  • Keep your core tight so your shoulders and hips stay level

Don’t:

  • Do not start from the floor when first learning how to perform a push up
  • Do not let your arms collapse as you lower your body toward the ground.
  • Do not let your hips go above or below your shoulders

Alternatives:

  • Wall or counter push ups
  • Push ups on yoga ball

Biceps Curl

Do:

  • Engage your core by tightening your tummy muscle
  • Pinch your shoulder blades down toward your hip pockets and together
  • Lift the weight slow and controlled; lower even slower.

Don’t:

  • Lean back or arch your back as you bend your elbows
  • Do not let the weights drop quickly during the lowering phase

Alternatives:

  • Use a resistance band or loop while seated or standing
  • Use a milk jug, heavy book, or even a cinder block if you don’t have traditional resistance weights

Tricep Press

Do:

  • Pinch your shoulder blades down toward your hip pockets and together
  • Isolate the movement to only straightening and bending at your elbows

Don’t:

  • Let your shoulders move along with your elbows
  • Over-use your wrists; keep them in a neutral position

Alternatives:

  • Bent over triceps press with hand weight
  • Triceps press with resistance loop or band
  • Triceps press on your back with arms at chest height

If you have any questions or concerns incorporating any of these exercises into your workout, please Contact Us.

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