Whether you work at a desk all day or are constantly using your body for your job, you know the upper body, from your arms to your back to your core, plays a massive role in how strong you feel. And unfortunately for most people, you also know how easy it can be to find flab in exactly those parts of your body.
"We all have those areas of our body that our weight tends to gravitate to," says Lance Barrett of Elite Performance Fitness in Vancouver. "While you can’t necessarily perform ‘spot treatment’ to flatten your belly or tighten your arms, you can perform certain exercises that will target those parts that need it most."
If you want to decrease body fat and increase lean muscle in your upper body, he suggests incorporating these exercises into your regular workout routine or do them together as a full-circuit program.
Check out these 5 exercises for upper body toning (bonus: some also hit your glutes, too), and click through the slideshow for more specific workouts:
Targets: Back (lats)
Reps: 12-15, 4 sets each
Description: Grab the pull-up bar with palms facing your torso, gripping shoulder-width apart. Keep your torso as straight as possible while creating a curvature on your lower back by sticking your chest out. As you breathe out, use your biceps and lat muscles to pull yourself up, as if you’re pushing the elbows down as you lift. Slowly lower your torso back to the starting position until your arms are fully extended.
Easier Version: Use an assisted chin-up machine or a bench under your feet to perform this move.
Targets: chest and arms
Rep: 12-15 each side, 4 sets
Description: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and place the collar in your right hand, hovering just over your right shoulder. From the squat position, press up with your heels until you are up on your toes and your arm is fully extended. Slowly lower back down into a squat position.
Easier Version: Use two hands or remove the weights.
Targets: back, arms, and glutes
Rep: 12 to 15 reps each side, 4 sets
Description: Stand a foot away from a flat bench. Bend your torso forward from the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor and place your right hand on the bench for support. With a dumbbell in your left hand and your palm facing your torso, keep your lower back straight. Pull the dumbbell straight up to the side of your chest using your back muscles. Your elbow should be flared out to the side, palm facing backward to emphasize the use of the upper back and shoulder blade muscles. Lower the resistance straight down to the starting position.
Targets: chest, arms, core
Reps: 15, 4 sets
Description: Lie on the floor and position your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Raise up onto your hands and toes, keeping equal weight between each foot and rolling your shoulders away from your ears. Keeping the core engaged, lower your elbows to 90-degree angles, bringing your entire body down in one straight line. Push back up until arms extended.
Easier Version: Drop your knees.
Targets: Full upper body and core, including arms, chest, and back. This is also an anaerobic conditioner and works to elevate your heart rate for maximum caloric burn.
Reps: Do each of these motions 15 seconds, total one minute
Description: Stand with one rope in each hand, feet shoulder width apart, core engaged. Slam both ropes down at the same time, repeating as quickly as possible. Switch arm movement so arms move counter clockwise, making small circles with each rope. Switch to alternating each arm, lifting up and down. Finally take both arms together and sway left to right.
If doing these exercises as a full-circuit, rest one minute between sets.
Photos: Elite Performance Trainer Kim McMullen