Workouts

Beginner Upper Body Workout

beginner upper body workout


The following beginner upper body workout is great not only because it’s suitable for beginners, but also because it can be completed in the comfort of your own home. Oh, and did I mention that you can do it seated?


Even if you have POTS, you can still perform strength training exercises for your upper body. You don’t even need a gym membership to accomplish this! There are just certain modifications you should take into consideration, as I’ll highlight below.


*Disclaimer: I am not a certified personal trainer, but I do have a minor in health and wellness studies and am passionate about exercise. As always, consult your doctor before starting this or any new exercise routine. 

Beginner seated upper body workout


Some considerations for POTS patients completing this workout


If you’re just starting out exercising with POTS and can’t tolerate free weights or resistance bands, don’t worry! You can still perform this beginner upper body workout with just your bodyweight resistance until you grow stronger.


Using just bodyweight tension will get your arm muscles fired up more than you think! Really focus on engaging the working muscles as you move through each exercise. Imagine you’re in a pool and you really have to push your arms to get through the water. That’s the kind of tension you should be holding in your arms! No weights needed!


However, if you are more advanced with your exercise tolerance, feel free to add dumbbells to these exercises. Or, you can try to stand for portions of the workout. Everyone’s at a different place in their fitness journey, so please modify this beginner upper body workout to meet your individual needs. 


If you have to stay on the floor to complete the workout, stay on the floor! If you want to try using dumbbells but can only do so while sitting, then don’t feel pressured to stand either. Do whatever you need to do, as long as you’re maintaining good form. You’re in your own home after all–who cares?!


Another thing: This beginner upper body workout only includes arm exercises that do not involve raising your arms up over your head. This movement can trigger POTS symptoms for some people, especially those still new to exercise.


Directions for the beginner upper body workout


Try to start by performing one set of 12-15 reps for each exercise. Over the next weeks/months you can work up to 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps per exercise as you gain endurance and strength. 


If the exercises start to feel too easy (and you don’t experience intense rebound POTS symptoms up to 48 hours after your workout, for you POTS people), then it’s probably safe to increase the intensity. Try standing, adding more reps or sets, or lifting light dumbbells. 


Give your body the time it needs to adapt to the exercises and grow stronger. This takes time! You won’t become the Hulk overnight! Even if you do exercise in a Hulk green room…(see below for a laugh!). 


Just promise me one thing throughout this and any workout: Listen to your body! If you have POTS and become too symptomatic, back off. If you feel great, push forward. Either way, you’re doing amazing for completing what you can. 


Here’s part one of the workout:

Beginner Upper Body Workout


And here’s part two!


Some Notes for These Exercises


Close-body curls

For this exercise, squeeze your elbows in tight against your ribcage. Keep your arms glued there as you perform the movement–which is essentially a hammer curl. This exercise will hit both your biceps and your triceps.


Chest openers

This move is fantastic for your posture! I learned it from my physical therapist when I was having neck pain from reading and working on my computer too much. (*Straightens posture as I slouch writing this.) It’s great to open up your chest and reverse the effects of poor posture from sitting at a desk all day. Again, keep your elbows glued into your ribcage as you rotate your arms externally.


Upright rows

Upright rows are one of my favorite upper body exercises. For this exercise, start with your hands down by your sides, palms facing back. Lift your arms as shown until your hands are about level with your armpits. Your forearms and shoulders should be parallel with each other. 


Prayer pulses

This move is a toning exercise that you can put your weights down for (if you were using them). It’s a tiny pulse–so tiny that you might not even see the difference between the two photos–but it’s highly effective. Start with your arms in a “prayer position,” keeping your elbows glued together. Then, lift your arms slightly before lowering them down to the starting position. Try to pulse for 30 seconds to start, but do whatever you can until you reach fatigue. Trust me, you will feel the burn when done right! 


Keep up with this beginner upper body workout and you’ll progress to a pro in no time! Your arms will become more toned as you gain muscular endurance. Plus, once you can start adding free weights, you’ll start to see more added strength as well.


But take your time and progress at your own rate!


I’ve been primarily focusing on increasing muscular endurance in my upper body. When I started following the Levine Protocol for my POTS, I became symptomatic trying to lift heavy weights, so I sadly had to stop until my tolerance improved.


That being said, I’m not as muscular as I’ve been in the past. However, my arms are still lean and toned from completing this workout and other exercises with resistance bands (another workout coming soon!).


But now that my symptoms have subsided with lifting free weights, I’m incorporating them back into my strength training routine (yay!). So next I’ll be working on gaining strength and building muscle in addition to endurance. Who’s ready to take that next step with me?!


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