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Upper Body - Power and Strength

This upper body workout focuses on building both power and strength with traditional and unique exercises for the chest, back, shoulders and arms.  The workout includes power moves involving kettlebells (although you can always substitute a dumbbell if you don't have a kettlebell).  These moves are optional and you should familiarize yourself with the basics of kettlebell training and how to get started with kettlebell training before trying these exercises.  The power moves are designed to involve your entire body followed by weight training moves to focus on strength.  This workout can be completed in about 30-45 minutes depending on your sets, reps and rest periods.


See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses or other conditions and modify any exercise that causes pain or discomfort.

Equipment Needed

A barbell, various weighted kettlebells and/or dumbbells and a bench, step or exercise ball.

How To

  • Warm up for 5-10 minutes with light cardio or warm up sets of the exercises below
  • Perform the exercises in each superset, one after the other with brief rests in between exercises
  • Repeat each superset 2 times, with 30-60 seconds of rest in between
  • For a harder workout, perform 3 sets instead of 2 
  • Modify the workout and exercises to fit your fitness level and goals
Chest Superset
Turkish Get Up (Optional)

Lie down holding a kettlebell in the right hand, arm extended straight over the shoulder with the elbow locked.  Keeping the arm extended and looking up at the weight, raise up onto the left elbow as you bend the right knee. Continue pushing up onto the left hand while crossing the left foot under the right knee.  Push up until you're resting on the left knee and right foot, arm still extended straight up over the shoulder. Continue until you're in a standing position, with the arm overhead. Lower back down the same way, arm extended, until you're lying on the floor and repeat 8 times before switching sides.
Kettlebell Pushup

Get into a pushup position and place one hand on the handle of the kettlebell (harder) or on the bell part of the weight (easier). Lower into a pushup, going down as far as you comfortably can.  Push back to start and repeat for 8 reps on the right and 8 reps on the left.
Low and High Flies
Chest Fly Chest Fly
Lie on a bench and hold medium-heavy weights over the chest.  A)  Lower the arms out to shoulder level, elbows slightly bent.  B)  Bring the weights back up, but at a lower angle so that the weights are over the hips.  C) Lower the weights back down in a fly.  D) Then lift them back over the chest.  Continue alternating a regular fly with a low-angle fly for 8 reps (one rep includes both a regular fly and a low-angle fly). 
Y-Chest Press  and Alternating Chest Press
Alternating Chest Press
Lie on a bench and hold medium-heavy weights with elbows bent.  Straighten the arms and press the weights up and out at an angle into a y-shape.  Bring the weights together over the chest, lower back down and repeat for 8 reps.  Complete the exercise with 8 alternating chest presses (one rep includes both the right and left arms).
Chest Circles

Lie on a bench and hold medium-heavy weights over the chest.  Rotate the hands so that the pinkies face each other as you circle the weights down over the hips.  Rotate the hands back as you circle the weights up over the chest (the thumbs should face each other).  Continue the circles, alternating the thumbs facing each other and the pinkies facing each other for 8 reps.
Repeat 1-2 Times with a 30-60 second rest between sets
Back Superset
Power Plank with Row

Get into a plank position, on the hands and toes, keeping the core braced and the body in a straight line. Grab a moderate weight (I'm using a 10-lb kettlebell here) and pull the elbow up to torso level in a rowing motion. Lower the weight, lightly touching the floor, and continue rowing while keeping the plank position. Repeat for 10 reps and then switch sides.
Horizontal and Vertical Rows
Horizontal row

Prop the left foot on a step, supporting the body with the left hand on the thigh. Hold a medium-heavy dumbbell in the right hand, arm hanging down and the palm facing the back of the room. Engage the shoulder blades (rhomboids) to pull the arm up to shoulder level, perpendicular to the body. Hold briefly and rotate the elbow so that it's next to the body, as in a regular (or vertical) row.  Lower the arm on a slow count (4 counts down) and repeat for 8 reps before switching sides.  
Alternating Dumbbell Row
Alternating Dumbbell RowAlternating Dumbbell Row
Hold medium-heavy weights and bend over until the back is parallel to the floor, back flat and abs in.  Pull both elbows up in a rowing motion to begin the exercise.  Keeping the left arm in place, lower the right arm towards the floor.  Squeeze the back to pull the arm back up and then lower the left arm.  Continue alternating rows on each arm for 10 reps (one rep includes both the right and left arms). 
Barbell High Row
Hold a medium-heavy barbell with hands wide and tip forward until the back is parallel to the floor, abs engaged and back flat.  Squeeze the upper back to pull the weight towards the chest.  Lower and repeat for 15 reps. Keep the abs tight and bend the knees as needed to support the lower back 
Repeat 1-2 Times with a 30-60 second rest between sets
Shoulder Superset
High Pull (Optional)

Hold a medium kettlebell in both hands, feet hip-width apart.  Squat down, keeping the arms straight, the torso upright and the abs braced.  Thrust the hips up and stand while drawing the kettelbell up and bringing the elbows up and above the shoulders.  Keep the weight close to the body and use the power of your hips to pull the weight up, rather than your arms.  Lower down and repeat for 12 reps.
Negative Overhead Press
tsbridgepullover.JPG (13589 bytes)
Hold a heavy barbell with hands wider than shoulders, elbows bent and bar in front of the chin.  Press the weight overhead, without arching the back, on one count.  Lower the weight down for 4 counts.  Hold briefly and repeat for 10 reps. 
Arnold Press with Alternating Overhead Press
tsrowtwist2.JPG (24988 bytes) 
Sit and hold medium-heavy weights with elbows bent in front of the body, weights facing the chest.  Press the weights up as you rotate the hands out. Hold that position and lower the right arm.  Press the right arm up and then lower the left arm.  Press the left arm up and lower the weights, rotating the hands back to start.  Repeat for 8 reps.
Upright Row
 Upright Row
Hold a medium-heavy weight with hands close together and pull the weight up to mid-chest, leading with the elbows and focusing on the upper back and shoulders.  Lower and repeat for 12 reps.
Repeat 1-2 Times with a 30-60 second rest between sets
Biceps Superset
Hammer Curl with Power Squat
Power Hammer SquatPower Hammer Squat
Hold heavy weights in both hands.  Swing the weights back slightly as you squat, powering the weights forward into a hammer curl while squatting as low as you can.  Stand up as you lower the weights and repeat for 12 reps.  
Negative Barbell Curls

Hold a medium-heavy barbell with hands resting just outside the hips.  Lift the weight into a curl on one count.  Lower the weight back down slowly for 4 counts.  Repeat for 12 reps.
Alternating Dumbbell Curls
Hold heavy weights, palms facing out.  Curl the right arm up, bringing the weight toward the shoulder.  Lower back down and repeat with the left arm.  Continue alternating sides for 12 reps (one rep includes both the right and left arms).
Repeat 1-2 Times with a 30-60 second rest between sets
Triceps Superset
Triceps Pushups
Lie on the ball, positioning it under the mid-upper thighs. Place the hands shoulder-width apart and place them just below the chest. Bend the elbows and keep them close to the body and facing the back of the room as you lower down into a pushup in a see-saw motion (i.e., don't bend at the hips). Push back to start and repeat 15 reps.
Close-Grip Bench Press
Lie on a bench and hold a heavy barbell with hands about shoulder-width apart, palms face out. Bend the elbows, keeping them close to the body, and lower them to just below the torso, bringing the bar to a hover over the ribcage. Contract the triceps to push the weights back up, keeping the weight centered over the torso. Repeat for 12 reps.
One-legged Balance with Tricep Kickback 
honelegtriext2.jpg (12246 bytes) honelegtriext.jpg (12786 bytes)
Stand on right leg taking the left leg straight out behind you, both leg and torso parallel the floor.  Bring the right elbow up next to your torso while holding a weight and, maintaining your balance, extend the elbow until the arm is straight by contracting the triceps.  Maintain this position for 12 kickbacks before switching sides. 
Repeat 1-2 Times with a 30-60 second rest between sets

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