Working the chest and back is usually a main concern for men at the gym, but it’s absolutely essential for women, too. So ladies: Don’t shy away from the weight room!
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And don’t worry about building a bulky upper body, either; most women don’t have enough testosterone in to build large muscle, even if they wanted to. Nonetheless, these exercises below are great for toning without adding bulk.
Also Read: The Best Exercises For Overweight Women
Uneven workouts build uneven strength, so focus on combining pulling vs. pushing exercises and make sure you stretch before and after every workout.
1. Chest Fly
The same goes for chest fly as goes chest press: bring your feet up on to the bench to support the lower back if you need to. You can’t brace your core if your back is arched.
- Lie down on a flat bench, dumbbell in each hand, palms facing each other, arms extended but elbows not locked.
- With both elbows slightly bent, hinge outward from the shoulder, lowering your elbows toward the ground into a T, until your feel a stretch through the chest.
- Pause and bring the dumbbells back up to start by squeezing the chest.
- The angle in your elbow should not change; the only movement should be through the shoulder joint.
2. Chest Press
You can do these with the cable machine or dumbbells, but why feed into the stereotype that bench pressing is just for the boys? Just keep in mind that most gym benches are made for men, and therefore women usually have to arch to place their feet on the ground. If this happens to you, bend your knees and bring your feet up onto the bench to prevent your back from arching and causing possible strain.
- Lie back on a flat bench.
- Grip a loaded bar slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Lift the bar from the rack and lock your arms.
- Slowly flex through the elbows to lower the bar to the middle of your chest.
- Elbows should come in by your sides
- Contact with the chest is okay, but don’t bounce the weight or rest the weight on your chest at any time.
- Pause and extend through the elbows to raise the bar to starting position.
It’s always a good idea to have spotter, if possible, especially if you’re lifting heavy weights.
3. Barbell Row
You can do these overhanded as well, but to really get the pulling motion, use an underhand grip (palms up).
- Grasp a barbell shoulder width apart.
- Bend your knees and hinge forward at the waist, keeping your chin up and the shoulder blades drawn back and down.
- Keep your chin up and let the barbell hang directly in front of you, arms perpendicular to the floor.
- Imagine there is a string attached to your elbows, pulling them up to the ceiling.
- Keep the elbows pinched in close, squeezing through the shoulder blades.
- Pause, then slowly release straight back toward the ground until your arms are fully extended.
4. Lat Pulldown
Men usually use a wide hand placement because they want to build a wide back. Women can build the same strength without all that size by using a narrower grip. When you pull down, your hands should hit your shoulders or just a tad wider. Never, ever pull behind your neck; that throws you out of alignment and can rip your rotator cuff.
- Sit down at a pull-down machine adjusting the knee pad to prevent your body from lifting off the seat.
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip, shoulder width apart or wider.
- Angle your back back about 30 degrees and brace your core.
- Flex through the shoulders, pulling through your lats to bring your elbows down and back to your sides, bringing the bar down until it touches your upper chest.
- The forearms are not involved — stop when your elbows are fully flexed.
- Then slowly raise the bar by extending through the elbows until back to starting position.
5. Body Row
You control the intensity of this exercise by controlling the angle: the closer you are to horizontal, the harder it will be. Use a smith machine for easy adjustment.
- Start with a bar around hip height.
- Grip the bar just wider than shoulder width apart and hang beneath it, straight body from head to heel, toes pulled off the ground.
- Retract your scapular and then flex through the elbows to bring the chest up to the bar.
- Pause, and extend through the elbows to lower to start.
6. Back Extensions
The lower back isn’t the focus of most people’s workouts, but it can do wonders for a waistline and your posture. If you don’t have the machine for this, you can just as easily use a stability ball or a BOSU.
- Lie face down on a hyperextension bench, tucking your feet under the footpads.
- Your upper thighs should lie across the pads, leaving enough room to bend freely at the waist.
- Cross your arms in front of you, place them behind your head or hug a weight plate depending on your fitness level.
- Brace the core and the shoulders and bend slowly through the waist as far as you can while still keeping your back flat and you begin to feel a stretch in the hamstrings.
- Pause, then squeeze through the glutes and the lower back to slowly raise your torso back to starting position.
- Do not arch your back past a straight line or swing your body. The movement should always be slow and controlled.