• Share this page:

How Can Women Strengthen Their Upper Body?

Original Posting: 11/27/2000

Q: I am unable to do some of the things that I know I need to do – - things that require upper body strength. Can you give me some specific exercises to strengthen my arms, shoulders and upper back?

A: Typically women do not have strong upper bodies. Unfortunately this lack of strength can lead to injury and loss of ability. Many common movements such as lifting heavy objects or placing items over the head –- require strong upper body muscles.

It is wise to take the time to build up these muscles so that you avoid injury and maintain independence and mobility. Here are some exercises for strengthening your upper body.

At home:

  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups

Home exercises are the most convenient. You can do push-ups with no equipment at all. They may be the oldest exercise in the book, but there is a reason. They work! You get a lot of bang for your buck with push-ups. There is a lot of muscle involved in this simple movement. The same is true with pull-ups. They are tough for many women. But if you can do even an abbreviated version –- just a slight upward pull –- you’re doing a world of good.

At the gym:

  • Seated rows
  • Bent over rows
  • Upright rows
  • Military press
  • Bench press
  • Biceps curls
  • Triceps curl

The gym has the advantage of offering a variety of equipment. You don’t need to do all of the exercises listed above; some of them work the same muscle groups. If you did three different lifts each time you worked out, you would be hitting all the right spots. Of course, if you have weights at home, you can do many of these at home instead.


There are many new gizmos on the market today to enhance your weight lifting program.

  • Resistance tubing: Resistance tubing or elastic bands are stretchy bands that you can use for weight lifting type exercises. Instead of weights, you use the tubing or bands to provide resistance. Since they are light, they are very convenient for traveling -- you can take them with you anywhere. They also provide a lot of variety and a tough workout.

  • Fitness ball: You may have heard about these. They are the big, bouncy balls that you can sit on, roll on or lean on to perform a variety of different exercises. I like the fitness balls because you can use them for resistance. You can also use them to increase your flexibility and balance.
  • Medicine ball: Medicine balls are weighted balls that many athletes use to condition their upper bodies. They are fun for doing drills with another person. My favorite is to stand back-to-back with another person and pass the ball as you twist to your side. Not only are you building upper body strength, but you are also working your

    abdominals and increasing coordination.

Click here for more information on:

Weight Lifting Rules

Weight Lifting Exercises

Home Weight Lifting

Ask a Question

Get answers from our experts and community members.

View all questions (1075) >