The Importance of Upper Body Strength

The Importance of Upper Body Strength

UpFit Training Academy

Jacob O’Connor, Brian Santanelli

 For many people upper body strength is not among their top priorities or goals in regards to their personal training. While this aspect of fitness may not be as focused on as others such as weight loss, it’s importance should not be overlooked. Upper body strength plays an intricate role in everyday activities, the ability to perform exercises, and posture. Improving posture can go a long way in increasing our comfort and standard of living. This specifically applies for many of us in NYC who are stuck sitting and typing for long blocks of the day. Improving upper body strength can even improve one’s self confidence and reduce chances of injury. Our horizontal push progression can be found below.

High and Low Incline Pushup

The incline pushup is a great introduction to upper body strength training. The movement can be made harder by elevating the bar or bringing the feet closer together. The incline pushup should be performed on the balls of the feet and hands should be placed just outside shoulder width. The lower part of the chest should be lowered to the barbell or bench before pushing back up to the starting position. Common mistakes include slouching or arching at the hips and flaring at the elbows. The movement should be performed with shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles in line and with the elbows about 45 degrees from the body. 

Negative Pushup

The negative push up consists only of the lowering portion of the movement. Hands should be placed just outside shoulder width while keeping elbows at 45 degrees or a fists width away from the body. The shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles should be kept in a nice straight line. Participants should slowly lower to the bottom of the pushup for an allotted amount of time. Upon reaching the bottom of the pushup reset and return to the top of the movement to continue the set. Negatives are a great way to build strength while working towards doing the full movement.  


The pushup is a staple in many personal training and small group fitness programs. This movement is also performed with the hands just outside of shoulder width and elbows should be maintained at 45 degrees from the body. The hips and shoulders should move together while keeping the core engaged. Unlike the negative pushup, the participant pushes up back to the starting position. 

Incline Bench and Flat Bench

The dumbbell bench (incline/flat) should be performed with the feet creating a stable foundation on the ground. The hips can be used in order to move the dumbbells into the starting position. Once in the starting position the wrist should be stacked over elbows with conscious effort to keep elbows 45 degrees from the body. Dumbbells should be pressed over the chest to form a “V” like shape before controlling them down to the starting position. The incline variation will target the upper chest more while the flat bench will demand more from the middle of the chest. 

When developing upper body strength it’s important that your personal training or group fitness program has a sense of balance. Too much work in any one area can create imbalances leading to poor posture and discomfort. It’s also an important reminder that throughout these exercises it’s essential to maintain awareness of core activation. Though the chest and triceps are the primary movers in these movements, there is also a key demand of core stability to achieve proper execution. We hope that you find our progression to be useful and helpful in becoming a better stronger you! 


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