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TOPIC: Building upper body strength

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June 3, 2012 6:34 AM
I have lost 32lb since the end of February with dietary changes and cardio exercise. I have around 50lb to go till my goal weight, though I'm more focused on body size than weight.

In the last 3 weeks I have introduced some weight training, but my upper body strength is non existent. I struggle with 2 kilo dumbells for bicep curls and tricep kickbacks. For barbell squats I use a 10kilo barbell, because it is the lightest one available, but I can't manage more than 2 sets of 10 reps.

I'm really keen to have defined arms and I also want strong chest muscles to improve the appearance of my breasts when I lose most of my body fat (I have breast-fed 6 children so they have seen better days!) but am worried that these light weights aren't going to help.

I can do a modified (on knees) plank for 30 seconds, but I can't do even 1 modified push up.

What can I do to increase my upper body strength?

Many thanks.
Edited by FlittyGetsFit On June 3, 2012 7:04 AM
June 3, 2012 6:47 AM
Continue doing what you're doing now and just increase your weights every several weeks. You will eventually get stronger. Do you do pushups as well?
June 3, 2012 7:02 AM
Just keep going the course and eventually you will get stronger.

Soon enough those weights will seem easy and then you can move on to heavier ones... Almost everyone here started small and worked up to bigger weights. No one started off with 20 pound dumbbells and 100 pound barbells.. you need to work up to those weights.
June 3, 2012 7:19 AM
To build strength you need to be using a weight that you can lift from about 6-12 times. Don't use weights that are too heavy as you risk injuring yourself. As your strength increases, you will be able to do more reps with the weights you're using, then when you can do more than 12 reps of an exercise, move to a heavier weight. Also be sure that your form is good as poor form can lead to injury and stop your muscles getting the benefit of the exercise. Lifting lighter weights with better form will do more for you than lifting heavier weights with poor form. Don't feel bad that you're starting off with light weights, as your strength increases, you will progress to heavier weights.

You can get strength gains while eating at a deficit (i.e. eating less than you burn off) but you may make better progress at increasing strength if you have days when you eat at your TDEE or maybe 100 cals above TDEE and combine that with a really good strength training workout. The extra calories then go into building your muscles. However if you want to lose fat then you don't want to do this every day. Having one or two TDEE days a week will help you to gain strength and also speed up your metabolism, then other days you eat at a deficit and lose fat. You lose fat at a slightly slower rate, but IME it helps to keep your metabolism fast, and if you want to gain strength, you need to be feeding your muscles.

Also within 45 mins of doing strength training it's a good idea to have a small meal or big snack containing protein and carbohydrate. What you eat during this time period after exercising generally goes into your muscles.
June 3, 2012 7:23 AM
To modify even more, try bringing your arms closer in while you do pushup. The closer your arms are to your body, the more "strength" you have to do a push up.
Consistent repetition (by consistently working out) will increase your strength as you progress.

A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer/Group Fitness Instructor
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Been in fitness for 28+ years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition
June 3, 2012 9:19 AM
All of the above sounds like great advice. I will be incorporation the tips into my strength training workout.
Thanks for posting this topic.
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