Fitness Tips

9 Moves to Strengthen the Part of the Body Most of Us Neglect—but Shouldn’t

Photo: Getty Images/Grady Reese
There's some thing about squatting low and hitting some donkey kicks that's oh so satisfying. And nothing makes me feel stronger than burning out my back with (assisted) pull-ups and battle ropes. Come to think of it, I truly enjoy working every muscle group—except when it comes to chest exercises. Strengthening my pecs isn't exactly a top priority, and I would rather do 5,668,674 things other than a bench press. And I know I'm not alone.

"I think that the constant fear from women when it comes to weight lifting or working the 'manlier' parts of their body like the pectoral muscles or the biceps is that they will end up looking too masculine," says Cassey Ho, the powerhouse behind Blogilates. "Women have been taught to believe that tiny waists and curvy hips are the most desirable thing on a woman's frame, so that is what we put so much effort towards sculpting those parts of our bodies."

And according to Kara Hiller director of pilates at Flex Studios, avoiding chest exercises is a big mistake.

"It’s not a great idea to skip working out certain body parts because that can create muscle imbalances which lead to injury," Hiller says. "Working all the muscles in the torso—chest, back, abdominals—is important to build and maintain great posture, reduce likelihood of neck and back injuries, and help improve breathing."

Working your pectoral muscles will also help build the upper body strength we need to complete daily tasks, says Hiller, and it can even help “lift” up your boobs by improving posture while tightening the muscle tissue underneath and surrounding the breast.

Okay, so, I'm never skipping chest exercises again.

9 chest exercises for women who want improved posture and upper body strength

1. Push-ups

Plain and simple, Lanae Rhodes director of training and development at SLT says she loves push-ups because you can literally do them anywhere. And if you can't do a full push-up, you can use the pilates magic circle to make them easier. Bonus: since a push-up is just a moving plank Rhodes adds that it doubles as a core workout.

2. Cobra Chest Press

Begin lying on your belly, with your legs long behind you and your arms bent in front of you at a 45-degree angle. Instead of keeping your arms parallel, your fingers should be slightly facing inwards. Press up though your palms with your elbows out, until your arms are straight. Then come back down, and begin again. Ho adds that you should keep your arms bent the whole time, so make sure not to lock out your elbows.

3. Serve A Tray

This exercise is done kneeling with your elbows bent in at your sides and your palms facing up. With weights in both hands, exhale as you push your arms straight forwards in line with your shoulders. Inhale as you bend your elbows back in by your sides and repeat. Hiller says you should make sure to keep your navel pulled into your spine and your glutes engaged to maintain good posture and protect your back.

4. Hear No Evils

Standing upright on your knees, place both hands behind your head and then touch your elbows together in front of your nose. Then bring them back back and repeat again. You should make sure your spine is tall and that you're looking forward, says Ho.

5. Elbow Clampers

Still on your knees, begin with both hands clasped together above your head with your elbows slightly bent. Then focus on squeezing the elbows closed then open and keep repeating. Make sure your spine is tall and that you shoulders are down.

6. Hug A Tree

Begin again on your knees with weights in both hands. Like you're about to give someone a big hug, Hiller says to each your arms out to your sides with your hands slightly in front of shoulders. Exhale as you bring your arms together until your fingertips touch. Inhale to slowly open arms back out and repeat. Hiller says to keep your shoulders relaxed down your back.

7. 3-2-1 Push

This is a push-up on the knees that takes three pushes to get down into a pushup. Begin in a plank position on your knees with hands on the edge of your mat. Push down a little for 1, hold, then push lower for 2, hold, and push down to the lowest for 3, hold, and then push back up. Make sure to keep your hips down and your is spine long, says Ho.

8. Low-impact burpee

Begin standing, and nod your chin to your chest and start to roll down through your spine, as you take a deep bend in your knees and walk your hands forwards until you’re in a plank position, with your hands under your shoulders, legs straight, and hips in line with your spine. Hiller says to then do a push-up, opening your elbows wide as you lower and lift your entire body, keeping your hips in line with your spine. Walk your hands back towards your feet, bend your knees, roll back up to stand.

9. Prayer Pulse

Bring your elbows together and palms together in front of you. Your elbows should be about chin height. Keeping your elbows tight together the whole time, pulse your elbows up towards your nose.

Since a comprehensive workout means keeping that balance, here few workouts to keep your back muscles and your abs in tip-top shape. 

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