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The Advanced Upper Body Workout

"These exercises help build endurance, strength, and power, something we all lose as we age."

Moving right along with her exercise series, Dr. Nancy takes it to another level in today’s live where demonstrates her Top 10 Advanced Upper Body Strength Movements, most using just bodyweight. The exercises are intended for those who exercise somewhat regularly or who have been doing the exercises in Dr. Nancy’s Beginner Upper Body Strength program and are ready to be more challenged. Skip the personal trainer and watch this show for FREE!

Video Highlights

  • 04:40: Strength Training Recap
  • 07:57: Advanced Upper Body Training
  • 12:36: Upper Body Muscle Groups
  • 14:08: Upper Body Workout Best Practices
  • 17:08:  Top 10 Advanced Upper Body Movements
  • 28:44: The Importance of Recovery
  • 51:26: Remember to Stretch!
  • 54:28: Wrap-Up

If you’ve been watching Dr. Nancy’s exercise series, you know that so far we’ve covered: 

Even if you’re not ready to perform the moves Dr. Nancy is going to show you today, feel free to watch — it will give you something to aspire to!

Strength Training Recap

Before we start to work up a sweat, let’s recap very quickly what we’ve been talking about in our previousstrength training episodes:

  • Integrating strength training into your workout routine twice a week is good forheart health, increasing mobility,joint flexibility, stability, and balance. 
  • Strength training can reduce symptoms associated withdepression andanxiety.
  • Strength training also increasesbone density and muscle mass, the latter of which helps you maintain a healthy weight. 

In thelast episode, we talked about endurance and power and how that plays into strength training and building strength. 

  • Endurance is your ability to perform a task for a longer amount of time. 
  • Power is your ability to perform that task at a faster rate. 

Did you know you that the average personloses 5% of their overall muscle mass with each decade you age after the age of thirty? 

This loss of muscle mass has a name, it’s calledsarcopenia, and it is simply the natural process of losing muscle as you age. It can be brought on by inactivity, living a sedentary lifestyle, and not doing enough strength training. 

When you age, not only do you lose muscle mass but the speed at which you can do things — that power we talked about — declines even more quickly. This is just one more reason why strength training is so important, especially as you get older. It’s never too late!

Advanced Upper Body Training

If you’re trying the exercises we’re going to show you today, we’re assuming you’ve worked out before. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to talk to your physician before embarking on a new workout routine. 

Most of the exercises today do not require the use of any equipment. You’re going to rely on your body weight, which can actually build more muscle than if you were strictly using weights. This is because bodyweight training creates what is called aclosed chain. What this means is you’re moving your body through space in some way rather than moving an external object through space in some way. 

An example would be a leg press at the gym. That’s anopen chain, whereas a squat is considered a closed chain.

Did you know that one study found people who performed closed chain exercises saw a 31% increase in lower body strength than those who performed open chain exercises? Those open chain exercisers only saw a 13% increase.

Bodyweight training forces the muscle fibers to be worked at an increased rate, which is why you see a gain in muscle strength. Also, you burn more fat. 

When you train, you activate that fight-or-flight response we’ve talked about on more than one occasion. Which means intense exercise can help signal the body to release fat during strength training. Your body doesn’t know whether you’re performing mountain climbers or if you’re running from a bear! Your body only knows there is some sort of stress it needs to help you fight against. Bodyweight training is a great way to tap into that response and burn fat faster. 

Lastly, and I think this one is really important, especially if yousit at a desk all day, bodyweight traininggets the body moving. It’s counterintuitive to sit behind a computer all day only to go to the gym or start a home workout that involves laying on the ground or a weight bench or sitting and lifting weights. We’re only doing one exercise lying on our backs today. Otherwise, you’re going to be moving and grooving!

Upper Body Muscle Groups

Very quickly, before we get started, let’s review muscles we’re going to be targeting today:

  • Deltoids, which is a muscle group of the shoulder
  • Rotator cuff, another shoulder muscle group
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Forearms
  • Trapezius muscles
  • Pectorals
  • Lats
  • Serratus anterior
  • Neck
  • Abs

Upper Body Workout Best Practices

Today’s exercises are intended to be done either as a certain number of reps or to perform as many reps as you can for 30 seconds, so you’ll need a timer of some sort. 

Another option is to break the exercises up into three or four circuits if you’d like. You would perform each circuit twice. This can be great, especially when there are alternating sides. Do the exercise on the right side the first time around and then do the left side the second time you run through the circuit. 

Whatever you decide to do, we need to warm up first. 

Warm up with 5 minutes of light cardio. What you do is up to you, but here are a few options:

  • Jogging in place
  • High knees
  • Butt kickers
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Alternating Lunges
  • Alternating Lateral Lunges
  • Squat Xs
  • Jumping rope

Feel free to do one exercise for the full five minutes, pick a couple, or do one move every minute. 

Top 10 Advanced Upper Body Movements

Up-Down Planks

Alright, let’s hit the ground running with some super fun, but super challenging up-down planks.

  • Start  by getting into a forearm plank position. Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders, the core is engaged, the tailbone is tucked, and the head is in line with the spine. 
  • From here, you’re going to place your right hand on the floor and then your left, coming up to the top of a push up. 
  • To come back down, first lower the left forearm down and then the right. 
  • Do 30 of these, or as many as you can for 30 seconds. Do as many as you can until you can’t do any more… and then do one more!

If you want, you can take this to the next level by bringing each knee to your elbow, one at a time, every time you come to the top of the pushup.

Triceps Dips

Any upper body strength workout must work the triceps, right? For this workout, we’ve chosen Triceps Dips as one effective and challenging exercise. 

  • You’re going to need a stool or a chair or a bench for this exercise. Start by sitting on said stool, chair, or bench with your hands shoulder-width apart behind you. You can also use dumbbells , standing on end.
  • Slide yourself off the stool with your legs either straight out in front of your or the knees bent. Legs straight out in front of you is going to give you more of a challenge.  
  • I want you to keep a small micro-bend in the elbows as you begin to straighten the arms. 
  • Bend the elbows and lower down until you’ve got about a 90 degree angle happening with the arms. 
  • Once again, press into your support to straighten the arms, keeping the shoulders down away from the ears at all times – don’t let them hike up!
  • Do 30 reps, or as many as you can for 30 seconds.

If this is too easy and you want more of a challenge, you can lift one leg as you do it. 

Bear Crawls

This exercise is great for strengthening endurance, increasing mobility and stability, and working the abs and arms. As a bonus, you’re most likely going to feel this in the quads a little bit, too. 

  • Begin on all fours, in table-top position. Your hands should be right under the shoulders, knees should be directly under the hips. Tailbone is tucked and the abs are engaged. 
  • Tuck your toes and lift the knees a few inches off the ground, still keeping the back nice and flat – try not to arch in your lower back. Tucking the tailbone will help with this. Taking your gaze a few inches out in front of you will also help ensure you have proper alignment. 
  • You’re going to “crawl” forward using opposite arm and leg. Start by putting your right hand forward and take a step with your left foot. Next, put your left hand forward and take a step with your right foot. 
  • Only go as far as you can without losing form. You also want to make sure you stay centered — try not to pitch to one side or the other as you move forward. If you feel yourself swaying, shorten your steps. 
  • Think you can do 20? Only one way to find out!


This is the last move in Circuit 1. After that, we go back to the top and do all of Circuit 1 one more time. This last exercise is called theHalo, and it’s great for building core and shoulder stability. 

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. It’s really important you keep the tailbone tucked and the core engaged during this one. 
  • Hold a weight (a kettle bell, a dumbbell, or an Encyclopedia) chest height, grabbing hold of it with both hands. 
  • Lift the weight up to about eye level and circle your head in a clockwise motion, as if you’re drawing an imaginary halo with your weight. 
  • Next, alternate direction, moving the weight counter-clockwise, alternating directions each time you perform the move. 
  • Do as many as you can for 30 seconds. 

The Importance of Recovery

Now, before we move on to our next series of exercises, it’s important to talk a bit about the importance of recovery  so, take a break and grab some water. We can exercise until we are blue in the face and unless we are taking time to recover and fueling our body with the proper nutrients, we are going to see very little benefit from our hard work.  

That is why it is so important to fuel your body with lean proteins, healthy fats, and organic fruits and vegetables, such as the foods found in Dr. Nancy’s anti-inflammatory diet plan. Eating whole food sources as a way to fuel your body is awesome and you need to do that as often as possible.  But sometimes, it’s easier said than done — a lot of you have really busy lives — and sometimes it’s really hard to make sure you are getting the right amount of vitamins and especially the right amount of specific minerals, like magnesium, zinc, calcium, and even boron (especially boron) in your diet. That’s why you should supplement your diet withSmarter Nutrition’s multivitamin. It’s formulated with natural ingredients that will be crucial to your recovery.

Side Kick-Throughs

For this next exercise, we’re going to channel our inner break dancers . This move really gets into a lot of the muscles of the shoulders, as well as strengthens your obliques

  • Begin on all fours and lift your knees a few inches off the floor. Now, make sure the back stays flat and the tailbone stays tucked. The core is, of course, engaged. Keep your head in line with your spine and take your gaze a few inches out in front of you.
  • You’re going to kick your left leg underneath your body and extend it out to the right. 
  • At the same time, you’re going to lift your right arm, bending it at the elbow so your right fist is in line with the right shoulder. Allow your torso to open out to the right.
  • Return to start, do 12 to 15 reps and repeat on the left side. 

A modification of this exercise would be to grab your toes and press up toward the ceiling.

Close-Grip Press to Skull Crusher 

This exercise works the chest, triceps, and even the lats. 

  • Come down onto your back, holding a weight in each hand. The knees should be bent, feet flat on the floor. Engage the core and press the low back into the floor, so there’s no space between your lower back and the floor. 
  • You’re going to bend the arms at the elbows and hold the weights close together in front of your chest. The backs of the arms should be on the floor. 
  • Keeping the weights close together, lift up until the arms are straightened all the way – keep the movement controlled and don’t snap at the elbows.
  • At the top, separate your hands shoulder width apart and come into a Skull Crusher, bending at the elbows and lowering the weights in line with the ears. 
  • Reverse the entire movement and return to start. 
  • Do 15 reps.

Renegade Rows 

These  are an excellent way to work your back, arms, and core while working on balance and stability at the same time. 

  • Start out in a high plank position, and take hold of a weight in your right hand. 
  • Widen your feet a bit for extra stability as you row your right arm, keeping the arm close to the body as you do so.
  • The elbow should lift higher than your back before you lower the weight back down and repeat on the left side.
  • Do as many as you can, alternating sides each time you perform the move, for 30 seconds, or do 15 on one side and the 15 on the other. 

You can also do this on a bench, or on a flat-back lunge position.

Zottman Curl 

This is a challenging way to work and strengthen your biceps. 

  • Hold a weight in each hand. The feet can either be together or hip-width apart. Core engaged and tailbone tucked, shoulders down away from the ears and drawing together slightly on the back. 
  • To complete the move, start by doing a regular bicep curl.
  • Once you reach the top, turn your hands so your palms are facing out. Maintaining this position, lower your hands back down. Your elbows should remain locked against the body the entire time. 
  • Do 15 reps.

Hammer Curl 

Hammer curl is always great, but here we’re going to do it in a Camel Pose position. If you’re not sure what that is, don’t worry, you know I won’t leave you hanging. 

  • Come down onto your knees, keeping them hip distance apart. You might want to use a mat underneath you for some extra support. Core is engaged, tailbone is tucked. 
  • Holding a weight in each hand, you’re going to do a Hammer Curl, but as you lift your weights, you’re going to lean back as far as you can, keeping the spine nice and straight. 
  • As you lower the weights, return to standing upright on your knees. 
  • Do as many of these as you can for 30 seconds.

Side Plank with Reverse Fly

This move strengthens the shoulders, back, and core, while also challenging your balance. 

  • Begin in Side Plank on your right side, holding a weight in your left hand. 
  • You have some options here. You can either be down on your forearm or place your right hand on the floor with your arm straight. If your arm is straight, press into the floor with your hand and don’t collapse in the shoulder. The inside of your elbow should be turned toward the front of your mat or toward your fingers. 
  • You have some options with your feet, too. Either place one foot in front of the other on the floor, or for a bit more of a challenge, you can stack the feet. A modified version is to place the right knee down on the floor. 
  • Whatever position you’re choosing, you want to keep the hips lifted, the core engaged, and the tailbone tucked. Head in line with the spine. 
  • Draw the left arm up and out, raising the arm toward the ceiling. Make sure the left arm stays in line with the shoulder – you don’t want to take it behind the body or overhead. 
  • Do 12 to 15 reps and repeat on the other side. 

You can modify this by doing a pushup in between each one. 

Remember to Stretch!

After any workout, it’s really, really important to stretch. 

Draw the right arm across the chest, gently taking hold with the left hand above the elbow. Take a few breaths here and switch sides. 

Let’s stretch out the triceps by taking the right arm overhead and bending at the elbow so your hand is on your back. Gently press on the elbow with your left hand. Hold for a few breaths and switch sides. 

Next, clasp your hand behind your back. Tuck the tailbone as you draw your hands toward the floor, opening the chest toward the sky. This one should feel really good on your arms, chest, and even your neck. 

For our last stretch, let’s come into a forward fold. Start by tucking the chin into the chest and curling down one vertebra at a time. No worries if your hands don’t touch your toes. You can rest your hands on your shins, or you can clasp opposite elbows and just hang out for a few breaths. When you’re done, slowly come up to standing, again, one vertebra at a time.

Great workout, you guys. Give yourselves a hand. 


In today’s episode, Dr. Nancy showed you more upper body strength moves, but these exercises were considerably more advanced. They help build endurance, strength, and power, something we all lose as we age, especially after age 30. 

Strength training is great for maintaining a healthy weight, and improving heart health, bone health, mental health, and joint flexibility. 

We spoke about the benefits of bodyweight training, which we did a considerable amount of today. Bodyweight training creates a closed circuit meaning you’re moving yourself through space rather than moving an external object through space. This is beneficial because it forces the muscle fibers to work harder and the body to burn fat at an increased weight. Plus, it gets you up and moving around, which is especially important for those of you who might sit at a desk all day long!

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