Whenever I’m less than motivated to exercise my upper body, I’m inspired by the story found in Exodus 17:8-16. Joshua and the Israelites were fighting the war with the provoking Amalek, and whenever Moses raised his hands, Israel was winning. When Moses lowered his hands, Amalek was winning. Moses’ arms began to fatigue, so Aaron and Hur held up his hands on each side. The Bible says, “his hands remained steady until the sun went down,” with a combination of all three men’s upper-body strength. Joshua defeated Amalek and its army in battle. Besides winning battles, here are upper-body strength tips for you.
To find out your current level of upper-body strength, try the one-minute pushup test. It is a fantastic way to test your upper-body strength and endurance of your core, chest, and arms. Do as many pushups as you can in one minute by pressing yourself up with arms fully extended and lower yourself back until your chest is three inches from the floor (but do not touch your body to the floor). Men will assume a traditional push-up position, and females can use the modified push-up position (on knees). Then use the following chart with the age-adjusted standards based on guidelines published by the American College of Sports Medicine:
After the push-up test, think about how much time you spend rolling your shoulders forward throughout the day in activities such as hunching over the phone, computer, and/or desk, or driving. These activities cause an imbalance in our posture. Muscles in our upper body, mainly the upper back trapezoids and latissimus dorsi, help maintain good posture. The best way to achieve proper posture is to tone your back and shoulder muscles to hold the top half of your body in an upward position.
Upper-body muscle strength can prevent injuries as we age. In the story of Moses, Bible scholars believe that he was over 80 years old when he led the Israelites. Unfortunately, we naturally tend to lose muscle as we age, even up to 40 percent by the time we reach our 60s. How many times a day do you use your upper body to do activities such as reaching, pulling, pushing, and lifting? Having a strong upper body improves your flexibility, mobility, and range of motion as you mature. Muscles in your lower arms allow functionality to grasp, flex, and extend your hand, and perform fine motor skills. Muscles in the upper arm are important for pushing and pulling. Muscles in the shoulder assist in moving your arm away and toward your body, over your head, behind your back, and toward your front. Arm rotation is also controlled by your shoulder. Most activities you perform daily would be limited by an inability to perform the aforementioned functions.
There are many options available to maintain and increase your upper body mobility, flexibility, range of motion, and strength. Simple exercises can be found in books, DVDs, online sources, or through participation in strength-training classes or time spent with a personal trainer or physical therapist. Always seek the advice of a professional for any specific questions related to your personal health. Begin today toward your winning upper-body strength!