Muscle Building 101; Upper Body

It’s that time again… This blog was directly inspired by my friend Kathleen who suggested I post a beginner’s guide to lifting. So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. This guide will be completed in two parts. The first one that I’m posting today is going to focus on the upper body (hence the title), and part two will naturally focus on the lower body. It will be posted some time within the next week; most likely next Saturday.

Since this is the first part I would also like to hone in on some basic, and very essential, rules for lifting:

(1) EAT
When you start lifting it’s imperative that you feed your body the fuel it needs. You just simply will not bulk if you don’t eat enough to make it possible. But of course, this doesn’t mean you need to load up on BigMacs. Quite the opposite actually. It means you should eat more carbs, calories, healthy fats, and most importantly, protein. Let meat become your best friend. (Or, if you don’t eat meat, find some kind of food with a high protein content and eat it like it’s your job.) Some great foods are eggs, greek yogurt, oats, brown rice, fish and other white meats, kale and other greens, etc. I personally drink a protein smoothie every morning; fruits, greens, greek yogurt, protein powder, ice and milk. If you really want to get serious with it you should try to avoid sugar as much as possible which means PLAIN greek yogurt (barf), minimal fruit intake, NO granola/protein bars (there are exceptions to this rule but they are few and far between and verrry expensive), etc.
There are tons of different ways to alter your diet get the nutrients you need, but the most important thing to remember is to get ENOUGH of the RIGHT things.

(2) REST
One of the most important parts of lifting, and something that people often ignore/forget, is that you HAVE to rest. There’s actually a common saying on this topic; “you grow more outside of the gym than in it.” Let that sink in.
Now, this doesn’t mean you can lift once or twice a week and turn into the Rock in three weeks. God no. What it means is that you should avoid overtraining any particular part of the body; upper, lower, abs, back, etc. Overtraining can happen a couple of different ways… You can either train one part of the body too intensely in one session, or you can train one part of the body too many times consecutively.
Avoiding over training is easy; (1) listen to your body, (2) never workout the same group two days in a row. If you’re doing an upper body day and you’ve done so much that your body is trying to tell you it’s done, listen to it. Stop for the day. But of course, this limit lies within your own discretion. And, of course, if you have an upper body day on Monday, don’t work your upper body again until AT LEAST Wednesday.

This is easily a cornerstone of lifting; constantly increase your weights. When I was first getting into lifting I found an incredibly helpful article that talked in depth about this point. The author referred to it as “progressive overload.” The basic idea is that if you constantly up your weight then you will definitely, 100%, no-doubt-about-it be getting stronger. So, rather than focusing on the amount of reps you’re doing, focus on increasing the weight.
My personal method for doing this is to do two or three sets of an exercise with the weight I’m currently on (let’s say 12 reps of curls with 17.5 lbs), and on my last set I up the weight by the smallest possible increment and do as many reps as I can (so that’s about 6 reps with 20 lbs). Generally, being able to do between 6-8 reps of an exercise is enough, if you’re doing 10-12 reps it’s definitely time to move up, and, you should pretty much never go above 12 reps.
Of course it’s worth noting that you should increase your weight carefully in small increments. Don’t go from curling 10 pounds to 20 pounds in a single day. You might hurt yourself if you jump too high in weight and your form will definitely suffer if it’s more weight than you’re ready for.

Lastly, but not unimportantly, you have to take care of yourself in general. Get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, and try to control your stress level.

NOW, let’s get to the fun part… the pictures!
Again, I apologize for the horrible quality of the photos. And I’d like to say that it’s really awkward taking pictures like this because do you smile? Or do you not? Do you make any kind of face? Is your face even supposed to be in the picture? Whatever. So my face is in all of these pictures lookin’ uncomfortable as hell. Enjoy! 😉

Works the biceps

BicepCurl_1 BicepCurl_2

Works the biceps, similar to bicep curl with a different orientation of the weights

HammerCurl1_1 HammerCurl1_2

Works the forearms (and makes you look like a T-Rex)

ReverseForearmCurl_1 ReverseForearmCurl_2

Works the shoulders and upper back

LateralRaise_1 LateralRaise_2

Works the chest, shoulders, and triceps
(Doesn’t have to be performed seated, I just prefer it)

OverheadPress_1 OverheadPress_2

Works the upper back, biceps, and shoulders

BentOverRow_1 BentOverRow_2

BARBELL LIFT (standing straight):
Works the shoulders, upper back, triceps

BarbellLift_1 BarbellLift_2

Works the triceps

TriExtBehindHead_1 TriExtBehindHead_2

Works the triceps

TriExt_1 TriExt_2

TRI. DIP (using a bench):
Works the triceps

TriDip_1 TriDip_2

PUSH UP (this is a military pushup):
Works the triceps, biceps, chest, abs, shoulders, mid and upper back
Basically, don’t ever skip these.

PushUp_1 PushUp_2

Works the triceps, biceps, chest, shoulders, mid and upper back
Again, don’t skip these.

PullUp_1 PullUp_2

This is an alternate, easier version of the pull-up

BarbellPullUp_1 BarbellPullUp_2

This is an altered, easier version of the barbell pull-up
(Use your arms, not your legs!)

BarbellPullUpEasy_1 BarbellPullUpEasy_2

Works the triceps, chest, and shoulders
(Yeahhh… sorry for the terrible angle, there, folks.)

Bench_1 Bench_2

– – –

That’s all for the pictures! Hope you enjoyed, and I hope it provided some useful information as well. 🙂

In my last post called “I don’t have the time” ( I mentioned that I might start an informal facebook survey to try and figure out what some of the top excuses are for not working out. Well, I did start the survey! Here’s a link to it: If you haven’t already please take a quick second to answer the question “what is your number one reason for not working out/missing a workout?” on the survey. It will close on November 1st, and I will sum up the results in a blog.

And, lastly, I’ve been working really hard to pimp this blog out. I’ve signed up with twitter, I’ve been sprucing up my g+, and I even ordered business cards. 8)
So, if you’ve got a twitter, follow me @fit4review!

Thank you so much for reading!

– – –

Here’s a link to the article that discusses progressive overload in more depth if you’re interested:

Pura vida and stay strong!