Exercise Pool: Upper Body Movements

Updated: May 27

Joe Kenn | Vice President of Education and Performance

Continuing the process of building our extensive Exercise Pool, we will now look at the third of or our three main strength categories, Upper Body Movements. The exercise pool is a critical component of the program design process. The exercise pool is some respect is your tool box. Your program design craftsmanship will be determined by the extensiveness of you pool. This is a major importance with elite athletes when adaptation comes quickly and variation of movement is more abundant.

Utilizing our basic sample pool(see below), this was just a simple task of listing all the exercises/movements that came to mind when choosing exercises based on these two questions, 1–Can I teach it? As a coach, am I competent and capable of instructing an athlete to properly execute a specific movement in a safe and efficient manner? 2–Do I have the necessary equipment to safely implement this particular exercise?It is now time to separate these exercises into specific movement categories.

The third category we will discuss is the Upper Body Movement Category. In athletic importance, you see I rate this as the third category. For the average gym rat, this most likely would be number one category of importance with the influence on upper body aesthetics. Regardless of athletics or general population, the first thought when speaking about upper body movements is “How much ya bench?” The bench press is by far the most popular movement in the history of weights. Horizontal pressing and pressing overall has an importance in overall athletic development, it is the antagonistic large muscle group of the back that must emphasized to stabilize the pressing muscles.This movement category will be headlined by the numerous variations of the bilateral squat.The bilateral squat variation is usually the key movement in developing lower body strength in an athletic based training program. Upper Body strength is a final component in the overall strength development of the athlete and rounds out the whole-body training approach.

Let’s refresh how we have defined an Upper Body Movement


Upper Body Movements

Upper Body movements represent movements that develop the belly button and above.These movements involve, flexion and extension of the elbow and multiple rotations at the shoulder joint. The majority of the movements will be variations of horizontal and vertical pulling and pushing movements. Upper Body movements will develop the upper back and trapezius, chest, shoulder capsule, and arms (triceps, biceps, forearms).Neck training is also an important part of the training plan.



Utilizing the Sample Pool lets specifically separate the Upper Body Exercise from our pool.

I will always remind you the coach, that your pool is“your pool”. Do not let other coaches views of exercises and how they are performed-influence your choices.In some cases, the variations seem endless. As you want an extensive pool to use as a library, there is no need to add unnecessary movements that you will never prescribe in an athletic based setting. You know what you believe is necessary, you know what you can teach, and you know what your athletes are capable of. Make your decisions wisely.


This pool is very basic for upper body choices. As a bonus to this week’s blog and 60 Second Strength Coach, we will be hosting an Instagram Live Discussion on the Upper Body Movement Category on Thursday, April 9th 3pm EST on the Dynamic Fitness and Strength Instagram Page. During this 30-minute program, I will dive deeper into a full breakdown of the upper body pool and the many sub categories that can be created.


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