Building upper body strength

A number of people have expressed an interest in participating in the upcoming competitions this year… And what has come up with this discussion is how do I make my self more prepared for these competitions…

This post is designed specifically for the people who are interested in increasing their upper body strength and fine tuning movements that they may struggle with (ie. Pushups / strict pullups / ring dips / handstand pushups)

So if anyone is so inclined we’ve compiled the best extra-curricular / homework to help achieve your goals…

Overall comments on the below:
These exercises are best done on separate days (unless specified) (and would be perfect if done say 20min before class)… if you do want to come in a few min early to work on these things please be aware and courteous to the other classes going on as they have the right of way.
Try to do as many of the below exercises as you can each week – I know that there are more listed than number of days in the week, and definitely more than the number of days you are training, but try to get diligent and tackle 1-2 before or after your workokuts.
A number of these exercises are written for people who struggle with the movement, for those of you are already proficient with the movement, follow these same guidelines but add weight…

• Close hand pushups (elbows track downward along body rather than out at a 90 degree angle from body) – 3 sets of max reps (rest 2 min between sets) (while keeping good form – no snaking off of ground – these need to be perfect form, chest touches ground but hips and legs do not touch). If you struggle with the pushup and are only able to do a handful without snaking or doing something to affect your form negatively then you will use a band. You will continue to do the pushups from toes (not knees) – you will string a band around the pull up bar (like if you were doing an assisted pullup) instead of putting your foot through, put your head and arms through and tuck the band above your chest and right under your armpits. Then get down into pushup position and use the band as some assistance to help propel you out of the bottom position… attempt to use the band with the least amount of help possible for your strength level. – Don’t get comfortable at one band, make sure you are evolving to smaller and smaller bands and eventually nothing. – If you are proficient with close hand pushups try adding a plate (and working up to the heaviest plate over time). **try adding a twist to this after a couple weeks try doing ring pushups instead of floor pushups, and also try doing pushups tabata style… 20sec work 10sec rest x 8 rounds

• Ring Dips – no band and no kip (elbows need to track backward as opposed to out from body – keep hands close to body tracking up to armpits) – 3 sets of 5-10 reps (with 1-2 min rest between sets). If you cannot do ring dips unassisted then the assistance to use is very lightly touch the ground with your toes to give the least amount of assistance possible while achieving the movement. – If you are proficient with the movement work on weighted dips (use weight belt with chain & a kettlebell)

• Ring Rows – 3 sets of 5 – 10 reps (with 1-2 min rest between sets) – focus is on full movement – keep tight body and plank position – pull body upward to touch chest to rings. If you have difficulty with this then you move to a more upright angle – this makes the movement easier, and progress to an angle that has you laying flat for more resistance. For advanced people try working on decline ring rows, grab a box and put your feet on the box so that your body is on a decline downward from your feet on the box.

• Ring Pullups (strict – no kip) – 3 sets of 5 -10 reps (with 1-2min rest between sets) – work to do these unbroken without feet touching ground between sets – if necessary drop down and rest for a second to complete the set. If you have difficulty doing a strict pullup – move to the pullup bars and grab the lightest band you are able to, and perform these strict pullups – this exercise is not to be done with a kip, this is to build strength. For advanced people add the weight belt and kettlebells for more of a challenge.

• Overhead Kettlebell Presses & Carry – Press 3 sets of 7-10 reps (do both arms at the same time – rest 1-2 min between sets. You need to clean the kettlebell to the rack position and then press from shoulder to overhead. Avoid doing a push press or jerk to get the KB overhead, work on strict press. After completing the presses – rest 2 minutes and clean 2 KB’s and push them to overhead (lock out) and walk 2 lengths of the gym. (if you have difficulty keeping KB’s in lock out position reduce weight).

• Max hold at top of Ring Dips – 3 sets of 10-20 sec hold per set (1min rest between sets). – get into starting position (top) of ring dip and simply hold yourself there for 10-20sec. Your arms may start to shake, keep working through that. – combine this one with one of the other days. – If this is easy for you add a weight belt and a kettlebell to increase the intensity.

• Close Grip Bench Press – 5 sets of 5 reps go as heavy as possible while maintaining close grip (ensure arms are tracking close to body, as opposed to out at 90 degrees). – this exercise requires equipment and will need to be done on Saturday’s during the 12 – 2pm open gym time. – be sure to ask someone to spot you.

• Close Grip Kettlebell Bench / Floor Press – 3 sets of 7 reps (do both arms at the same time. (rest 2min between sets) – this can be completed on the floor or a bench. (you can do this one instead of the bench press if you aren’t able to do open gym time)

• Wall Walks – 3 sets of 3 reps (1min rest between sets) – start flat on the floor on your stomach with feet up against the wall. Push up to top of push up position and then begin walking your legs up the wall – you want to try to get to completely upside down with stomach and chest touching the wall. Then walk yourself down to ground (do not fall or try to jump out of this move as you are doing yourself a disservice as the control coming out of the move is important.) – combine this one with one of the other days.

• Handstand Negatives – 5 sets of 3-5 second descents. Get a mat or abmat under your head and kick up to a handstand position against the wall (back facing wall). Slowly (3-5 count) lower yourself down to the mat. Then lower your legs to the ground and stand up. This counts as 1 decent. You do not need to kip or push back up – you are working the slow descent. If this is no problem for you try working on deficit handstand negatives.

Note with all of these movements ensure that your form always takes precedent over doing additional reps with poor form. **keep core strong and in line – don’t allow yourself to arch or strain your back position.

If you have any questions about anything listed here please don’t hesitate to ask any of the coaches we would be happy to help you make sure your form is good, and / or show you the proper technique on anything.