I Also Do Healthy Things: Upper Body

Honestly, a lot of my exercising is aimed at increasing upper body muscle mass. With the amount of time I’m on my feet at work and out walking my dog, my willingness to engage in cardio is nonexistent. Also, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body is burning at a standstill, so it’s easier to keep my belly fat at bay.

Granted, I do a decent amount of upper body work at work and when I’m playing with my dog. Throwing around 161.5 pound kegs (thank you Wikipedia) and an 80 pound Doberman on a daily basis can get your whole body moving in ways I never even considered, and my many pulled muscles will attest to that. But, like I said in my last Healthy Things entry, there’s no way I could keep that up without dedicating a fair amount of my free time to increasing my strength (maybe three or four times a week).

Here’s what I do three times over about 30 minutes:
8 to 12 rotating bicep curls (fists start flush with body and wrap up as I curl) holding the shoulder strap of my weight vest (hand not in use at the small of my back to ensure that I’m isolating my biceps and not using my back muscles to hoist the shit up to my chest)
15 to 20 overhead tricep extensions holding the vest with both hands (hold over head while standing, clench abs to maintain posture, keep elbows tucked in close to your ears)
30 to 40 push-ups with the Perfect Push-up rotatey things

Here’s the why:
I start with 8 repetitions at whatever my new weight is (right now it’s at 35lbs), then once that gets easy enough where it doesn’t burn, I’ll up it to 10, then again to 12 before I move myself up 5lbs. This allows my body to adjust to the weight, and ensures continuous improvement without sacrificing form, which is important to maintain so that I don’t screw my body up too badly. The weight I’ve chosen is representative of the weight I feel comfortable with while still pushing myself – I want to barely be able to eek out those last few reps, but I also want them done right.

I feel like this is common knowledge at this point, but just for the sake of saying it:
Lower Reps + Heavier Weight = bulkier muscles (better at lifting heavy shit)
Higher Reps + Lighter Weight = leaner muscles (better at increasing endurance)
Both are important, and both build muscle, but I tend to prefer the lower reps version because I’m going for bulk. So why do I have my tricep reps so high? Because I’m lazy and don’t want to add weights to my vest in between sets, so I just increase the reps. Improvise and adapt or whatever.

I’m using a weight vest for a few reasons. 1) It’s what I have and weights are fucking expensive. 2) It’s adjustable. I can keep adding 2.5lb weights to it up to a total of 60lbs. 3) It’s flexible. That’s important because its shapelessness forces me to engage more of my stabilizer muscles. Also, if it’s flopping all over the place because my form sucks, I have pretty immediate feedback. Similarly, I use the rotating Perfect Push-ups things because it engages a more comprehensive set of my muscles.

This is the most recent iteration of an ever-evolving set of upper body activities I do. What’s important is that I can do it, I can do it quickly, and I feel like I’m pushing myself every time. Kinesiology is finding out new and exciting ways to get jacked all the time, and it’s fun to change it up, but if you’re bogged down by life like I am, it’s nice to have something you can do quickly that engages as many muscles as possible.

This is also worth saying again: the only reason I can do this and work and play with my dog with any consistency is because I stretch. In all exercises, you’re tensing your muscles to perform whatever motion, and if you don’t stretch, they’ll just stay tensed, which can lead to injury and/or looking like an idiot. As jacked as you might be, I’ll be the first to point and laugh at anybody who can’t scratch the small of their back because they don’t stretch enough.

So. Don’t be an idiot. Push yourself. Have fun with it. Stretch. Cheers.

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