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Challenge One: Tone and Strengthen Your Upper Body!

Upper Body Workout

The first workout videos in our 30 Day Fitness Challenge focus on toning and strengthening your upper body for nice, well-shaped arms and a strong, defined core. This workout is made up of three exercises – a forearm plank, a push-up, and an up/down plank. Chosen for their simplicity and efficiency, these exercises engage all the major muscle groups in your upper body, including your chest, abdominals and your arms. You’ll be using your own body weight for resistance, so no special equipment is needed – just some floor space and a mat. This circuit was created for individuals of moderate to high fitness levels with no injuries or musculoskeletal problems. Consult with your physician or other healthcare provider before beginning this or any exercise program.

We start with the forearm plank as a quick, dynamic warmup to increase your core temperature, activate the stabilizing muscles, and prepare your body for the exercise session.

Things to remember when performing a plank are:

  • Keep your elbows under shoulders
  • Keep your legs together with only your toes on the floor
  • When you raise your body, create a straight line from your head to your tailbone and keep your glutes tucked under
  • Hold the plank for 15-30 seconds. If you feel strong and your fitness level is high, you can try for about a minute.

Then, we move on to a fitness classic – the push-up.

Things to remember when performing a push-up are:

  • Keep your hands underneath your shoulders
  • Keep your abs and glutes tight so you create a straight line with your body
  • Slowly lower your body to a position where your elbows are flexed approximately 90 degrees
  • Think about breathing in on the way down, and out on the way up. The breath will support your movement and make your sets stronger and easier, so don’t forget about it!
  • If you need to modify this exercise, you can come down to your knees.
  • This exercise can be repeated about 10 times.

The last exercise is an up/down plank.

This exercise begins with the same form as the forearm plank:

  • Keep your elbows under shoulders
  • Keep your legs together with only your toes on the floor
  • Create a straight line from your head to your tailbone and keep your glutes tucked under
  • Bring your right arm up and place your palm flat on the mat, immediately followed by your left arm. Then place your left forearm back down on the mat, immediately followed by your right arm. Check out the video below to see this in action!
  • As you perform this exercise, really focus on keeping your abs tight and your body in one straight line as you raise yourself up and down – try not to sway from side to side
  • Perform 5 repetitions starting with your right arm, and then 5 repetitions starting with your left, for a total of 10 repetitions.

Depending on your fitness level, this entire circuit can be performed about 3 times. Remember to move at your own pace and take rests if you need to – listen to your body. As with any such program, if at any point during your workout you begin to have pain, feel faint, or experience significant physical discomfort of any kind, you should stop immediately and consult a physician.

Jamie Osmak, strength and conditioning specialist

Jamie Osmak is a certified strength and conditioning specialist at the Tisch Performance Center. Jamie is a USA Track and Field Level 1 coach and corrective exercise specialist with a degree in Exercise Science from Rutgers University.

Topics: Performance
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.