Target the major muscles of the upper body using one weight at a time in this short, single circuit routine. You’re only completing the five-exercise circuit twice so challenge yourself to lift heavy (for you) while paying close attention to muscular imbalances and compensations that often occur with unilateral work. Remember that performance differences between the right and left side of the body are usually not solely derived from strength deficiencies but are also related to inefficient patterns of daily movement done with high repetition. Consider:
- How you sit while working, watching tv, and eating — do you maintain an upright, open posture?
- Your walking gait — do you swing your arms in tandem with your legs? Cross your arms?
- How you initiate most movement — do you use one side of your body more than the other to get moving? To stand up?
Just know that there’s no perfect ideal for movement (just generalized guidelines that fit many folks) and that each person’s unique frame, body composition, and existing/pre-existing injuries are all factors that contribute to determining a non-injurious flow of movement for that individual. The key to improving bilateral movement performance is seeking pain-free adaptations and being open to the fact that movement often changes across the lifespan.
In this workout, you will complete two moves that involve handing the weight off from one hand to the next (low rows and biceps curls). Brace your core during the transition and keep your shoulders and hips in alignment to minimize twisting and placing unnecessary tension on the lower back. The other three moves in the circuit focus on one arm at a time (overhead presses, biceps curls). For these three exercises, be mindful of maintaining your natural slight hip tuck (core braced) to create a cylinder of support from the transverse abdominus (deep abdominal muscles). If your lower back starts to ache and/or you find the two-foot stance difficult, tighten your abdominal muscles and/or opt for a kickstand position to offset the pressure in the lower back (kickstand = keep the foot on the same side as the weighted arm flat, drag the opposite leg slightly behind you and lift the heel).
Tack this workout onto a short lower body, core, or cardio routine or enjoy it as a stand-alone challenge for the day. However you choose to tackle this workout, note that there is a short one-minute finisher at the end involving jumping jacks. The finisher is the only time during the entire workout that you’re gifted with an opportunity to jump — maximize it, revel in it, or omit it. Your choice!
Warm-Up: 30 sec per exercise, 2 rounds, no rest between exercises or rounds (4:00)
-Arm Circles (freestyle and backstroke)
-Squat with Overhead Press
-Hinge + Reverse Fly
-Inchworm + Forward Raises
My weight selections (not a recommendation, just a reference):
-Heavy = 20 lbs. (9.1 kg)
-Medium = 15 lbs. (6.8 kg)
-Light = 12 lbs. (5.4 kg)
Upper Body Circuit: 45 sec on / 15 sec off / 2 rounds (Water Break after round 1 and 2)
-Low Row (alternating, weight handoff)
-Overhead Press: Neutral + Military – R
-Overhead Press: Neutral + Military – L
-Lateral Raises (alternating, weight handoff)
-Rotating Biceps Curl (round 1 = R; round 2 = L)
***Water Break*** (after round 1 and 2)
-3 Jumping Jacks + 1 Snatch/High Pull (alternating snatches/pulls)
Cool-Down: approx. 30 sec per stretch (approx. 4:00)
-Shoulder Rolls (forward and back)
-Crossbody Shoulder Stretch – R
-Crossbody Shoulder Stretch – L
-Neck/Traps Stretch – R
-Neck/Traps Stretch – L
-Chest Opener Stretch + Hug the Tree
-Spinal Roll Down
-Gentle Spinal Twists