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mbg moves: An Efficient Upper-Body Strength Workout To Try At Home

BB Arrington, CPT
Personal trainer & holistic nutritionist
By BB Arrington, CPT
Personal trainer & holistic nutritionist
BB Arrington is NASM-certified personal trainer, holistic nutritionist, and sustainability advocate.
Image by Andreas von Scheele
July 26, 2021

Welcome to mbg moves! We've been working out at home more than ever lately—and we know our readers are, too. To help keep your fitness routine feeling fresh, we're releasing a new at-home workout every Monday to start your week off strong. Each month will feature routines from a different incredible trainer we adore. Now, let's get moving with our spotlight trainer: BB Arrington.

So far with my mbg moves series, we've discussed eccentric exercises and the concept of shortening and lengthening. Now, I want to highlight another important aspect of fitness: pushing and pulling. Pushing movements are when you bring the weight away from your body, and pulling movements are when you bring the weight toward your body.

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To put this concept into practice, I've put together an efficient upper-body strength workout that takes you through various pushing- and pulling-focused exercises.

What I love about pushing and pulling is they require different muscle groups. So in theory you could do all pushing one day, and do all pulling the next day, and your workout wouldn't be compromised. You can also manipulate a push movement to have more pull by changing the placement of the weight, and we're going to explore that during this workout, as well.

You're going to need one medium dumbbell and a chair (or another elevated surface) for a bit of stability. This push-pull upper-body workout would be great to do two or three times total, if you're up for it!

Your 4-week challenge: For the next couple of weeks, I'll be sharing a different strength-training workout that focuses on a specific exercise principle—so we'll be strengthening our minds and bodies all at once. I challenge you to make it a goal to incorporate these routines two to three times per week.

Workout Summary

  • Time: 5 to 15 minutes
  • Equipment: One medium dumbbell, yoga mat, chair or elevated surface
  • Instructions: Move from one exercise to the next. Complete 10 reps for each. Repeat the entire sequence two or three times total for a full workout.

Seated Single-Arm Overhead Press

Image by mbg creative
  1. Start in a seated position in your chair, plant your feet, lift your chest, and bring your right arm into a goalpost position with the weight in your hand. 
  2. Engage your shoulders, and extend your right arm to lift the weight directly overhead, until your arm is straight. 
  3. Keep your core activated as you slowly bring your weight down.
  4. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps, then switch sides and complete 10 reps. 

Trainer note: This is a push motion since you're pushing the weight overhead. That said, you might have noticed on the way down, a little bit of lat activation—that's the pull. Think about that and how the interplay works. 

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Single-Arm Lat Row

Image by mbg creative
  1. Hold the weight in your right hand, put your left hand on the chair, and bring the right leg back. To add a little extra challenge, add a quarter repetition on the deepest part of the pull.
  2. Pull the weight toward your body using your lats, thinking about your elbow going behind you. At the top of the rep, complete a small pulse, or quarter rep. Then lower back down with control. 
  3. That's one rep. Complete 10 then switch sides. Complete 10 reps on the opposite side. 
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Single-Arm Chest Press

Image by mbg creative
  1. Lie on the floor, with your knees bent and feet planted on the mat. Keep your ribs down on the ground to give you extra stability. Hold the dumbbell in your right hand. 
  2. Push the weight up toward the sky. Slowly lower back down with control. Use your abs to help you stay grounded.
  3. That's one rep. Complete 10 reps. Switch sides, then complete 10 reps on the opposite side. 
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Trainer note: Again, this is a pushing motion, but you may feel lat activation as you lower back down. Take note of the interplay. 

Pullover

Image by mbg creative
  1. Lie on your mat. Grab your weight in both hands, and reach your arms up to the sky. Internally rotate your elbows. 
  2. Keeping your arms nice and long, reach the weight back, then slowly bring it back over your chest.
  3. That's one rep. Complete 10.
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Trainer note: This one is fun because you play with the idea of push and pull in the same movement—you're going to feel them about equal. You're pushing when you bring the weight back and pulling when you bring the weight overhead. 

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BB Arrington, CPT
BB Arrington, CPT
Personal trainer & holistic nutritionist

BB Arrington is NASM-certified personal trainer, holistic nutritionist, and sustainability advocate. Not only are fitness and nutrition integral to healthy function, but the way we treat the planet and others. She advocates for a true wellness that is inclusive of all six tenements: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and social.