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Structural Balance For The Upper Body

A good place to begin when putting together a should weight training programme is trying to have balance. 

That’s balance in the way of similar amounts of work in opposing movements. 

For example two opposing movements for the upper body from a vertical perspective could be a shoulder press and a lat pull down. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to place the exercises directly after one another (but you can), what it does mean as that across either a particular session or even a training week you have both movement types covered. 

If you are new to putting programmes together a 1:1 ratio is a decent place to begin. 

In another example, if you were to do a set of seated rows for every set you do of the bench press, again you probably won’t go far wrong. 

One thing some people are particularly guilty of in the gym is only really concentrating on the muscles they can see in the mirror, yes guys I am mainly talking to you on this. 

Hammering away on just your abs, chest and biceps is a recipe for increased risk of injury and poor posture. 

You can spot the people who only ever train like this a life off in the gym, it’s not a great look and your older self will not thank you for it. 

But the good news in that it’s not that hard to correct. 

If anything you can even do it in a way that can add to your programme, without having to spend too much longer in the gym. 

This can be done by super-setting a pair of exercises, like so:

  • A1 – Barbell Bent Over Row, 10 reps, 3010 tempo, 10 sec rest  
  • A2 – Dumbbell Bench Press, 10 reps, 3010 tempo, 120 sec rest

You can repeat the above 3-5 times, depending on your goal.

And a quick note on exercise selection… 

When pairing two exercises together, you need to consider logistics in terms of how busy the gym is, where equipment is located in the gym and what equipment there is. 

I like to a pair a barbell exercise with a dumbbell exercise as it’s most likely you can do this. 

My next point would be relevant particularly to back, bicep or any upper body pull exercise and that is hand/grip position. 

You have three grip options:

  • Supinated – Palms Facing Up 
  • Neutral – Palms Facing Each Other 
  • Pronated – Palms Facing Down

Again, look at your programmes over the week and try to vary the hand positions so you can be strong across the board and particularly avoid overuse injuries in the wrists and elbows. 

The same goes rationale would for any direct arm and shoulder work, in this case you may perform a tri-set as these exercises tend to be less demanding on your central nervous system (CNS), it works quite well. 

  • C1 – EZ Bar Bicep Curl, 12 reps, 3010 tempo, 10 sec rest  
  • C2 – Cable Tricep Extension, 12 reps, 3010 tempo, 10 sec rest
  • C3 – Dumbbell Lateral Raise, 12 reps, 3010 tempo, 120 sec rest

A programme without balance can lead to an increased risk of injury and generally poor movement, take a look at what you do and try to implement a balanced movement approach to reach your full potential. 

Thanks for reading, have a great day.


Do you need confidential help with your health, fitness or nutrition? I have a range of services available, with Personal Training in my Private Gym in Manchester, also at your home or workplace in the surrounding areas. For clients further afield, I provide Online Personal TrainingNutritional Consultancy & Private Fitness Holidays.

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