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Upper-body strength through the arms, shoulders, back, chest and traps is crucial for athletes. Large muscle groups like the pecs, lats and delts are powerful arm movers, while smaller muscles—such as the four rotator cuff muscles—provide stability to the shoulder.
For the best results, upper-body strength training should incorporate functional multi-joint exercises— such as Bench Presses and Bent-Over Rows—to simultaneously engage multiple muscle groups. Limit isolation exercises like Bicep Curls in favor of more functional movements, like the Dumbbell Bicep Curl and Press.
Balance upper-body training by performing one to two pulling exercises, like Pull-Ups and Inverted Rows, for every pushing exercise.
Athletes should develop their upper-body strength with two or three strength workouts per week, progressing from bodyweight exercises to advanced movements like Olympic Lifts or Kettlebell Swings. TRX straps, physioballs, and resistance bands are effective for developing joint stabilizing muscles; but wait until you’ve built a base level of strength before incorporating such tools. Make sure to vary your exercise choices to continue making progress in the gym.
Start Your Upper-Body Strength Training
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The STACK Guide to Getting Stronger
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: Bodyweight Exercises
Part 3: Strength Workouts
Part 4: Core Strength Training
Part 5: Lower-Body Strength Training