Priority Arm Exercises Save Workout Time, Balance Muscles, and Improve Posture


The Priority Arm Exercises strengthen and shape the upper body. A stronger, sculpted upper body makes your waist and hips appear smaller, enhancing your overall appearance while improving upper body fitness. These multi-joint exercises also save workout time in the gym.

The 4 Priority Arm Exercises are the: (a) bench press, (b) bent rowing exercise, (c) military press, and (d) lat pull (lat is short for the latissiumus dorsi muscle, the main muscle used in the exercise).

The bench press and bent rowing are opposite movements. As you gain strength, they balance out each other to promote good posture and prevent injuries. The military press and the lat pull also work opposing muscles. See The Principle of Balance

There are many alternatives to these key exercises, so there is ample opportunity for you to personalize your fitness workout program and vary it so that you don’t get bored. See The Principle of Individualization The Principle of Variation

The joint actions used in these exercises include the elbow joint, shoulder joint, and shoulder girdle (shoulder blade area). Bicep curls, tricep extensions, and other exercises are not necessary (but optional) because these 4 exercises work the same muscles.

Bench Press

The bench press as shown here is a free weight lifting exercise. It is great for firming up the chest muscles. Combined with weight control, the exercise promotes fat reduction from the breasts, which helps improve upper body curvature. See Gender Differences

Description: The bench press is performed by locking out the bar, lowering it to the chest, and returning to the locked out position. The grip should be slightly wider than the shoulders. A more narrow grip shifts emphasis to the triceps.

Normally, you lift the bar from the uprights. For heavier weight loads, a spotter should be ready to assist. See Workout Safety

Bench Press Locked Out PositionBench Press Extended position

Description: To counterbalance the bench press, use bent rowing as an upper back strengthening exercise that also helps posture. Place your head on a solid object to take the stress off your low back. Lift the weight from an extended position to the chest. Your legs should be slightly bent to protect your back, which should be flat.

For women in sports: If you are performing Olympic lifting exercises, muscle balancing is built into the lifts. Bent rowing is not necessaary, unless you choose to add it.

Bent Rowing ExtendedBent Rowing to Chest

There are many alternatives for these lifts, most involving dumbbells (see free weights) or weight machines. For women, disadvantages of using dumbbells are (a) the difficulty of increasing weight in smaller increments and (b) greater stress on the joints of each limb.

An advantage of dumbbells lies in the potential to increase the range of motion because the body does not block the movement, as with a barbell. See Fitness Equipment
The military, or overhead press, and the lat pulls also work the opposing muscles of the upper body, but in a different range of motion from the bench press and bent rowing.
Military or Overhead Press
Description: For the military press, lift the bar from the shoulders to overhead, and then return it to the shoulders. The arm and shoulder movements are very similar to the upper body action of the Jerk.
Military Press Start
Military Press Overhead

Description: For the lat pull, or pull down, a machine provides the resistance. Pull the bar down from overhead and then return it. Your legs should be anchored by a bar so the weight does not pull you off the seat.
Lat Pull

In addition to toning and shaping the upper body, these 4 Priority Arm Exercises are ideal for Sports Training when upper body strength is important (e.g., basketball, javelin throwing).

Also, if you are performing Olympic Lifting exercises, it is not necessary to duplicate joint actions with these upper body lifts. For example, if you are performing the Jerk, you need not duplicate with the military press.

Site Build It! All of the 4 Priority Arm Exercises or alternatives need not be performed on every single training day. For example, they can be alternated by pushing (bench, military) and pulling (bent rowing, lat pull), or by using other planned sequences. However, these key actions save time building the arms and should regularly be included in your training program in some form.