Today, we’re diving into a topic that might just send a shiver down your spine: the seven most dreaded upper body workouts. Yep, I’m talking about those exercises that make your arms feel like jelly, your shoulders scream for mercy, and your chest pleads for a break. But you know what? As tough as they are, these exercises are the game changers we all need in our routine.
Why, you might ask? Because they challenge us, shape us, and make us stronger in every sense. Trust me, I’ve been there, gritting my teeth through pull-ups and pushing through the pain of dips. And guess what? I’ve never felt more empowered. So, buckle up whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or just starting on this wild fitness journey. We’re about to explore why these ‘dreaded’ exercises might just become your new best friends in the gym. Let’s conquer the fear together, and remember; we’ve got this! 🏋️♀️💪
The Dread: Pull-ups are the classic nemesis for many of us. Hoisting your body weight up to a bar? That’s some superhero stuff right there! Just mentioning them can make even the most seasoned gym-goer wince a little. Let’s face it; pull-ups can be intimidating. Sometimes the mental hurdle is as challenging as the physical one. The first time I faced the pull-up bar, I was equally excited and terrified. Pull-ups require you to lift your entire body weight, a significant challenge for many of us. It’s a true test of your strength relative to your body size, something only a few exercises demand.
Why You Should Do Them: But here’s the thing: the very reasons that make pull-ups so challenging are what makes them so rewarding. It’s an accomplishment that signifies physical strength, determination, perseverance, and personal growth. Pull-ups target multiple muscles, including your back, shoulders, and arms. They improve functional strength and give you that sleek, toned upper body look. Plus, nothing beats the feeling of conquering a pull-up. Trust me, you’ll feel like a superhero.
Check out Coach Vic from Barbell Beauties’ step-by-step instructions on performing a pull-up: a guide for beginners written just for women. The good news is that going to the gym is optional for you to see results. You can start training by installing a pull-up bar in your own home.
The Dread: Ah, the humble push-up. Simple to describe but challenging to master, push-ups have earned their reputation as one of the toughest exercises. It can feel like torture if you’re not used to them.
Why You Should Do Them: Push-ups are incredibly versatile. They aren’t just about the arms and chest. They engage your shoulders, triceps, core, and even your legs. Achieving that perfect form requires the entire body to work in unison. It sounds simple, but it’s a full-body challenge! You can do them anywhere, anytime; they’re fantastic for building foundational strength.
Perfect push-ups won’t happen overnight. They take proper technique, strength development, and, frankly, practice. But don’t give up!
Check out this article, “How to Master Push-ups and look good doing it“
The Dread: These are not for the faint of heart! If you’ve ever tried flipping upside down and pushing your entire body weight in a handstand position, then you know it’s no walk in the park.
Unlike the regular push-up, a HSPU isn’t just about your arms and shoulders. It demands strength from your core, stability from your lower body, and balance from… well, every inch of you!
Why You Should Do Them: Let’s be real. The idea of being upside down and then attempting to do a push-up can be downright scary. It’s as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one, but Handstand push-ups build shoulder strength, stability, and balance. In the grand world of fitness challenges, the Handstand Push-Up stands (or shall we say, balances) in a league of its own. But here’s the silver lining: mastering it is a testament to one’s strength, control, and sheer determination.
Plus, they’re a fun way to challenge yourself and take your fitness to the next level.
Struggling with your Handstand Push up? Check out this article “Crossfit Handstand Push Up : How to For YOU
The Dread: I can’t count how many times I’ve approached the dip bars with a mix of excitement and a tad bit of apprehension. While dips might seem straightforward, they’ve secured their spot as one of the most challenging exercises for good reasons. Dips place significant stress on the shoulders, especially if not done with proper form. The angle and depth can be tricky, making it essential to be cautious and well-informed.
Just like pull-ups, with dips, you lift your entire body weight using just your upper body. If you think about it, it’s kind of like doing a reverse push-up in mid-air!
Why You Should Do Them: Dips are a serious compound movement. They primarily target your triceps but also engage your chest, front shoulders, and even your back. That’s a lot of muscle groups working in tandem, making it both super effective and super challenging.
But hey, just because they’re tough doesn’t mean we should shy away from them. On the contrary, it’s their challenge that makes them so rewarding. Dips are a fantastic way to build upper body strength, tone those triceps, and feel like an absolute champ at the gym.
Bent Over Rows
The Dread: Let’s talk about an exercise that’s got my back… literally! The Bent Over Row. It’s one of those moves that can leave you feeling invincible but also questioning life choices if you have heavy dumbbells or barbells in hand. So, why is it seen as a titan in the world of resistance exercises?
Maintaining a proper bent-over position without straining your lower back is key. And trust me, keeping that back straight and not rounding it while you row? That’s a workout in itself.
Why You Should Do Them: Unlike some exercises that target a single muscle, the bent-over row is a compound movement, meaning it targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously. It primarily works the muscles in the back, including the lats and rhomboids, but also hits the biceps, traps, and even the core!
Now, why should you do them?
- Postural Benefits: In today’s world of hunching over keyboards and screens, strengthening our back muscles is essential for maintaining good posture. The bent-over row can be a lifesaver in this department.
- Functional Fitness: Think about the number of times you pick things up in a day. Strengthening your back through bent-over rows aids in everyday tasks, making life outside the gym smoother.
- Balanced Physique: If you’re working on your push muscles (like the chest) with push-ups or bench presses, you’ll want to balance it out by targeting the pull muscles. Enter the bent-over row!
- Core Activation: Keeping that bent-over position requires a solid core engagement, making this exercise a back burner and a sneaky core workout.
The Dread: If you’ve ever dabbled in the world of functional fitness, you’ve probably met – or at least heard of – the Turkish Get-Up (TGU). It sounds exotic, feels like an intricate dance with weights, and trust me; it’s just as complex as it sounds.
But… Why You Should Absolutely Give Them a Go:
- Functional Fitness Glory: TGUs translate well into real-world actions. Think about getting up from the ground, reaching for items, or even just maintaining balance. It’s a life skill wrapped in an exercise!
- Builds Solid Core Strength: Every phase of the TGU demands core stabilization. Your core isn’t just about those frontal abs; it’s the entire torso, and this exercise ensures it all gets a workout.
- Shoulder Stability: Holding weight overhead throughout the movement helps in building shoulder strength and stability, which is crucial for many daily activities and other exercises.
- Improves Mobility: As you flow through each phase, you’re moving multiple joints through a range of motions. This aids in better flexibility and overall joint health.
- Injury Prevention: By working on balance, stability, and strength in a compound movement, you’re setting yourself up to be more resilient in other activities and less prone to injuries.
The Dread: A minute with battle ropes can feel like an eternity. Your arms, shoulders, and back will be crying for mercy.
Why You Should Do Them: Battle ropes offer a killer cardio and strength workout. They target your upper body while engaging your core, and they’re a fun way to switch up your routine.
Conclusion: Embrace the Challenge
Sure, these exercises are challenging, and they may make you grimace just thinking about them. But remember, growth happens when we step out of our comfort zone and challenge ourselves. These seven dreaded upper body workouts are staples for a reason: They work.
So next time you’re in the gym, don’t shy away from the pull-up bar or battle ropes. Embrace the challenge, push through the burn, and watch as you become stronger, more confident, and more empowered.
Here’s to embracing the dread and building a stronger you. You’ve got this, and I’m here cheering you on every rep of the way! 🏋️♀️💪 and don’t forget to REWARD yourself.
March is the founder and owner of The Barbell Beauties which she started in 2015. She is from the Philippines and currently lives in beautiful Thailand with her American husband and daughter. She is an avid Crossfitter and has just started her journey into Muay Thai (kickboxing).