Upper Body Workout: Endurance Burn-Out + Strength Exercises

Arm Workout (Biceps + Triceps) - This workout challenges both strength and endurance by using light weights with high reps for a burn-out and following that up with heavier dumbbell exercisesThis upper body workout combines high-rep, low-weight exercises with low(er)-rep, high(er) weight exercises for a taste of both endurance and strength (the two aren’t mutually exclusive). While I think the upper body moves you do in barre and spin classes with the 2-lb weights are challenging, I also think you need to be doing some form of strength training with heavier weights as well. And that could look like a lot of things! It might mean super heavy olympic lifting, but it also might mean dumbbells, kettlebells, med balls and even bodyweight exercises (push ups, pull ups, etc.).

If you need to do 100 reps of something to feel fatigued, that’s an exercise in muscular endurance and you’re definitely achieving a burn-out, but it’s not as effective at building strength. Any time Joe and I do a spin class together, for example, he dies during the arm song with the 2-lb weights and high rep numbers and has to drop his arms several times (sorry, calling you out, Joe!! haha) while I bang through it fairly easily. Does that mean I’m stronger than Joe? LOLLOLLOL

No. Not even close.

So for this workout, you’ll use a set of light weights for a series of small, high-rep exercises, and once the burnout is achieved, you’ll switch to heavier weights to target the same muscle group.

Endurance + Strength Arm Workout (Biceps + Triceps)


Equipment I Used:

  • Light hand weights (2-5lbs) — I’m using 2 lbs, which was PLENTY heavy for the triceps section but I probably could have done 3-4 lbs for the biceps. If you have access to multiple hand weights, go a pound or two heavier for the bis than tris.
  • Medium-heavy dumbbells (8-20lbs) — I’m using a pair of 10-lb dumbbells. My upper body isn’t very strong so I’m setting the suggested weight on these pretty wide.

Arm Workout (Biceps + Triceps) - This workout challenges both strength and endurance by using light weights with high reps for a burn-out and following that up with heavier dumbbell exercises

Explanations of the exercises below the pictorial.

Arm Workout (Biceps + Triceps) - This workout challenges both strength and endurance by using light weights with high reps for a burn-out and following that up with heavier dumbbell exercises

Biceps – ENDURANCE

LIGHT WEIGHTS | 20 seconds each x3 without rest

  • Biceps Curl (elbows lifted) | Keeping the elbows lifted at armpit-shoulder height, curl the weights into your shoulders and then extend the arms back out straight. Keep these quick but tight–really squeeze as you curl in and out. With the elbows lifted like this, you’ll feel your shoulders burn a bit as well. Expect the first round of these to feel fairly easy (it’ll build by the end of the three minutes, I promise!).
  • Biceps Extended Pulse | Hold the arms extended at chest height, palms up, soft bend to the elbows. Pulse the arms up an inch or two and down.
  • Biceps Extended Circle Taps | Arms still extended, palms up, soft bend to elbows, squeeze the weights and hit them together forming a small circle with the weights (hit high, hit low). Really slam the things together to ensure you’re squeezing your arms tight.

Biceps – STRENGTH

HEAVY WEIGHTS | 30 seconds work / 10 seconds rest x9 (three times through the exercises)

  • Biceps Curls | Start standing, one dumbbell in each hand, arms down by your sides with the palms facing in. From here, curl the weights up to your shoulders, rotating as you curl so that palms face your body at the top of the curl. If you need to modify, do one at a time.
  • Hammer Curls | Same as above except no rotation: palms face in towards each other the entire range of motion.
  • Circle Curls | Start standing holding a weight in each hand, palms facing front. From this starting position, curl the weights up and over to the right in a circular shape. At the top of the contraction, weights will be up at your chest (12 o’clock if we’re thinking of the motion as hands on a clock. From there, slowly lower the weights down and over the left, ending back in your starting position. Every time your hands reach this point (6 o’clock), you’ll switch directions so that the next circular curl is up and over to the left, down and over to the right. Forearms should stay parallel to each other as you do this; elbows stay locked in tight by your bottom ribs.

Triceps – ENDURANCE

LIGHT WEIGHTS | 20 seconds each x3 without rest

For all three of these exercises, you’re standing with your torso hinged forward (flat back, butt back, knees slightly bent). Arms are extended behind you.

  • Straight Arm Lifts (palms up) | Keeping the arms straight and as high behind you as you can, pulse them up and down.
  • Triceps Taps (palms up) | Keeping the arms lifted behind you (higher than your back), hit them together squeezing your arms in towards each other.
  • Bend-Stretch (palms in) | Rotate your thumbs down, palms facing each other. From here softly bend the elbows and then squeeze the arms straight again (bend and stretch). You really need to squeeze the arms as straight as possible–you’ll feel a big burn from this tiny pulsing movement.

Triceps – STRENGTH

HEAVY WEIGHTS | 30 seconds work / 10 seconds rest x9 (three times through the exercises)

  • Overhead Triceps Extension | Start with a dumbbell in each hand, arms overhead, palms facing in and dumbbells held together (press them into each other). From this starting position, bend the elbows as you lower your hands and weights behind your head. Contract the triceps to then extend the weights back up overhead to starting position. As you do this exercises, hold the upper arms in towards the side of your head; elbows shouldn’t bow out to the sides in a diamond shape. To modify, just use one weight in both hands.
  • Triceps Kickbacks | Hinge your torso forward and row your elbows back–this is your starting position. From here, kick your weights back, straightening the arms behind you. Bend at the elbows to return to starting position. To modify, alternate arms.
  • Single-Weight Lifts | Essentially the same movement from the endurance section but using a heavy weight. Hold a dumbbell behind your back with one end in each hand. Leaning forward with your torso (flat back) start with the weight resting on your bum and lift it a few inches up into the air before tapping it back down. 

Arm Workout (Biceps + Triceps) - This workout challenges both strength and endurance by using light weights with high reps for a burn-out and following that up with heavier dumbbell exercises

OUTFIT DETAILS

I filmed this workout yesterday and my arms are definitely feeling it this morning (holy biceps)! Let me know what you think in the comments if you give it a try. And don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I really enjoyed this format and am thinking of doing another like it focusing on shoulders–thoughts? 🙂

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Links to some outfit details are affiliate. A “c/o” indicates the item was gifted to me by the brand (courtesy of).

12-Minute Bodyweight Tabata Workout Series: Upper Body (Chest, Arms, Core)

12-Minute Tabata Workout: 3 tabata supersets focusing on upper body - no equipment needed!

Today’s is upper-body focused, but you’ll get a good dose of core and cardio work as well.

12-Minute Bodyweight Tabata Workout Series: Upper Body (Chest, Arms, Core)


This workout is made up of three tabata supersets. For each tabata superset, set an interval timer for 8 rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. During the work intervals, you’ll alternate between the two exercises. In other words: 20 seconds Exercise 1 / 10 seconds rest / 20 seconds Exercise 2 / 10 seconds rest and so on. Rest as needed between tabata supersets, but try to limit it to 60 seconds if possible. 12-Minute Tabata Workout: 3 tabata supersets focusing on upper body - no equipment needed!

Tabata Superset 1

Chest-to-Floor Burpees | Squat down, bringing your hands to the floor. As you do, hop your feet back out in a plank position, simultaneously lowering your chest to the floor with control (like a push up all the way down). Press yourself back up to straight arms, jumping your feet forward back to squat and then jumping straight up overhead.

Low Push Up Hold | For this, I want your hands close into the sides of your body (tricep push up). To get into the hold with proper alignment, start in a plank position with your hands stacked underneath your shoulders. From here, roll forward slightly onto your toes so that your hands are now a little further back, aligned with your ribs (this will allow you to bend elbows to 90 degrees). Keeping your elbows close to your body, lower down to a low push up position and hold there with your body hovering off the ground, abs held in tight.

Modify by holding the push up from your knees. Just make sure your hips are still lowered so that your butt isn’t sticking up into the air. Think of lowering from your knees rather than your hips to achieve this.

I’m going to call myself out a little on these as it’s a good demo of what not to do with form. Notice the difference in shoulder height between the first five seconds of the hold and the last five seconds: low-push-up-hold

As my arms fatigue, I’m compensating by sinking into my shoulders. Don’t do this. If you notice your shoulders start to dip down (usually accompanied by your bum sticking up into the air), just modify the hold with proper form from your knees. 🙂

Tabata Superset 2

Triceps Dips | Use a chair, coffee table or bench for these. Start with your hands gripping the edge of a chair (bench, etc.) and your legs outstretched with your heels on the ground. Keeping your bum and back close to the edge of the chair, bend your elbows to 90 degrees as you lower your body towards the ground. Make sure your elbows don’t bow out in a diamond shape as you lower. From the bottom, press through your hands to straighten your arms back to the starting position. Imagine there’s a heavy weight sitting in your lap as you do these—don’t trust up through the hips and legs to rise up; use your arms! You’ll do three like this and on the fourth, lower down and hold at the bottom for about three seconds before starting back at the top. Beginners: To make these easier, bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground.

Alternating Crab Kicks with Triceps Pulse | Start in a crab position: feet on ground, knees bent, hands on ground underneath your shoulders, body facing upwards. Lift one foot into the air, straightening that leg. This is your starting position. From here, you’re going to alternate kicking one leg into the air and then the next, switching feet in midair so that there’s never more than one foot on the ground at a time. Your whole body will be working during these but focus on the softening of the elbows (like a triceps dip pulse) as you prep for the jump kick. Push through the hands, thrusting the pelvis upward as you straighten the arms and switch feet midair before landing.

Tabata Superset 3

Shoulder Tap Push Ups | Start in a plank position. I’m doing these with my hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart because my triceps were fried after tabata set 2! 🙂 Keeping your hips level to the floor, tap your left shoulder with your right hand then the right shoulder with your left hand. Do a push up. To modify, perform from your knees.

Marching Plank | You’re essentially just moving from low plank to high plank, up and down. Starting in a forearm plank position, press up into a high plank, one hand at a time. Reverse the movement when you’re in a high plank, lowering onto one forearm at a time. Important form notes:

  • Hands under shoulders, not in front. As you do these, think about keeping your shoulders stacked directly over whatever joint is on the floor (wrist in high plank, elbow in forearm plank). As you fatigue, the tendency is to have your hands far in front of your shoulders so that it’s easier to get back down to your forearms—don’t do this!
  • Hold your hips level. Instead of shifting your body weight and rocking the hips to the forearm side as you move up and down, stabilize through the core and hold the hips level. To do this, the arms need to work harder, elbows bending deeper (like when you do a push up).
  • Alternate your lead hand. Your body will want your dominate side to lead on this (from forearm plank: right hand presses up, left hand comes up, right forearm lowers down, left forearm comes down). Switch it up next time through so that your left side then leads the way.

workout-outfit-ootd

WEARING | leggings c/o Tully Lou // tank c/o Fabletics //  bra c/o PRISM Sport (use code ACTPERRY to get 30% off)

Enjoy! Phew this one was tough for me. My upper body is definitely weaker than my low body and core so this was a challenge!

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10-Minute Upper Body Dumbbell Workout

10-minute Upper Body Workout using Dumbbells

Gahh it’s been forever since I’ve posted! Which is weird because I have been CRANKING out content over the last two weeks. Photographing and writing it, anyway. Publishing … not so much. The lighting in today’s video and workout pics is kinda brutal (rookie mistake) but you’re just going to deal with it OKAY??! 😉

Nothing too fancy about this workout, but foundational, basic exercises are important! This no-frills, 10-minute workout will target your upper body. Grab a set of dumbbells and give it a go!

10-Minute Upper Body Dumbbell Workout


Equipment I Used:

You’ll do each exercise for 30 seconds, moving one exercise immediately to the next without rest. Once you’ve done all six exercises, rest for 30 seconds. Repeat a total of 3 times.

You’ll notice the progression of the circuit is biceps to shoulders to triceps (heavy on the biceps and shoulders).

10-min-upper-body-arm-workout-dumbbells

Biceps Circle Curls | Start standing holding a weight in each hand, palms facing front. Make sure you have a soft bend in your knees and abs are engaged so that you have a supportive base. From this starting position, curl the weights up and over to the right in a circular shape. At the top of the contraction, weights will be up at your chest (12 o’clock if we’re thinking of the motion as hands on a clock. From there, slowly lower the weights down and over the left, ending back in your starting position. Every time your hands reach this point (6 o’clock), you’ll switch directions so that the next circular curl is up and over to the left, down and over to the right. Forearms should stay parallel to each other as you do this; elbows stay locked in tight by your bottom ribs.

*A consideration when choosing your weights: Bicep curls with the elbows braced by our sides are generally easier than those done with the elbows lifted in front of your body. Keep this in mind and maybe choose a set of weights a few pounds heavier than you’d normally use for bicep curls.

Hammer Curl | This is a bicep curl with the palms facing in towards each other the whole time. Start standing holding a weight in each hand, palms facing in. Make sure you have a soft bend in your knees and abs are engaged so that you have a supportive base. From this starting position, curl the weights up towards your shoulders and then release back down to your sides.

Hammer Curl to Press | Add on to the previous movement. Curl the weights up towards your shoulders and then press them overhead (shoulder press). Reverse the movement, lowering weights back to shoulder height and then down to starting position.

Arnold Press | This is a shoulder press where you fluidly circle your head with your forearms at the bottom. It’s easiest to start in the middle of the movement: elbows bent to 90 degrees out to your sides in goal post position. Shoulders should be down and back, not shrugged up towards your ears. From here, press the weights overhead and together. Lower them back down to 90-degree bends (elbows should be at armpit height, no lower) and as you do, close your forearms in front of your face, rotating the palms to face you. When weights tap together in front of your face and your forearms form the number 11, reverse the movement, opening up your arms to goal post as you rotate your palm outward and press the arms straight overhead.

If you’re doing these standing, make sure you have a soft micro-bend in your knees and core is engaged (think of gently tightening a corset). This will help prevent any undue stress on the low back.

Shoulder Press Ups | Imagine your forearms and elbows have magnets on them. Holding a weight in each hand, press the weights together and hold your forearms in front of you, elbows bent at 90 degrees. Fight to hold the elbows as close to each other as you can throughout the whole movement. From here, you’re going to press your hands straight up, lifting the elbows, keeping forearms close together (they form the number 11). Be careful not to shrug your shoulders up towards your ears as you do this. After pressing up as high as you can, slowly return back to starting.

If this is too heavy, just hold one weight as you do this.

Overhead Tricep Extension | Start with a dumbbell in each hand, arms overhead, palms facing in and dumbbells held together (press them into each other). From this starting position, bend the elbows as you lower your hands and weights behind your head. Contract the triceps to then extend the weights back up overhead to starting position. As you do this exercises, hold the upper arms in towards the side of your head; elbows shouldn’t bow out to the sides in a diamond shape. As with all standing arm exercises, keep a soft bend to your knees and the core engaged so that you have a supportive base.

If you need to modify, just hold one of the weights.

outfit-spiritual-gangster-sweaty-betty

WEARING | Spiritual Gangster tank c/o Shopbop (sold out but this tank is similar) & Sweaty Betty Urdhva leggings (c/0)

BTW these Sweaty Betty leggings are reversible–I love them! Super soft, too. They have a high waist so are great for pairing with a crop top if you don’t want to show too much midsection. 🙂 sweaty-betty-leggings

I know it’s only Thursday but have a fun weekend! I’m off to Scottsdale for a wedding (’tis the season!).

Let me know in the comments if you try this workout!

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