Upper body six-week challenge

Update on the six-week upper body challenge…

I started a six-week challenge mid-April for upper body exercises and wrote about it here. I am pleased to say that I’ve now successfully completed the six weeks, although will come clean and admit that I did have a few odd days where I wasn’t able to do the set of exercises (where does time go to some days?!)
At the end of the six weeks, I now feel I’m sitting up straighter and my posture has improved in general. However, I also feel that as with most things, this is a work in progress – I would definitely benefit from a few more weeks of the exercises and perhaps make them slightly harder exercises. There are a few ways to measure posture, none of them great, but one of the simpler things to do is place your back against a wall and see if your head, shoulders and low back touch it. I found this article explains how to do this fairly well.

Which exercises were used?

Read on to find out..

Shoulder-W exercise

I discussed the shoulder-W exercise in my previous post. It’s my most difficult one due to weak lower traps and overuse of my neck muscles. I found with time and repetitions I could move my arms more with less use of neck muscles. This one is definitely a work in progress as I believe I’ve had years of over-using neck muscles and have generally been quite weak in my shoulders.

Scapula (shoulder blade) setting

Six-week challengeSix-week challenge

  • Gently squeeze the shoulder blades together – keep this tension throughout
  • Hold the theraband shoulder width apart, move hands away from each other so the band goes on tension – keep this tension throughout
  • Action is to move the arms up to shoulder height and return to the start position
Reps = 3 x 10

Sounds easy? Try it and find out

When teaching this in the clinic setting I tend to find the shoulder blade squeeze eases off when the arms start to raise up. I also tend to find with the shoulder blade squeeze the shoulders will also raise up, which will put too much tension on those upper muscles.

As discussed above, I find when I perform the exercises that my neck muscles over-work as I lift my shoulders up, so another point to watch out for.

Below is a suggestion of what not to do…rounded shoulder and head forwards. Watch out for setting yourself up correctly – it’s always better to do fewer repetitions of quality exercises rather than more repetitions in the wrong position.


Six-week challenge

Chest stretch with theraband

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  • Start with the theraband around your rib cage, holding both ends
  • Gently squeeze the shoulder blades together – keep this tension throughout (are you noticing a theme with this?)
  • Keeping the shoulder blade squeeze, straighten your arms and then bring them out wide. Return to the start position

Reps = 3 x 10

Shoulder external rotation with theraband or small hand weight



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  • Lay down with one arm hanging over the side of the bed/plinth, placing a rolled up towel under the upper part of the arm so it’s well supported. Hold onto a small weight – I used 1kg
  • Keep the upper arm still, move your hand up so the forearm is parallel to your body
  • Return to the start position 

Reps = 3 x 10

Below is what the position would look like without a towel to rest the upper arm on – it causes the shoulder girdle to become too rounded.

Six-week challenge

Shoulder shrugs


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  • Lay down with your back resting on the bed, lifting your hips up to the ceiling
  • Arms are pointing straight up to the ceiling, holding onto a light weight (I used 1kg)
  • Keeping the elbow straight, move the whole arm up towards the ceiling (the shoulder of the side being moved will come away from the support)
  • Return to the start position
Reps = 3 x 10 times


Thoracic extension with foam roller


Six-week challenge
  • Lay down with the roller along your spine, arms out to the side
  • You can feel a lovely shoulder stretch with this
  • Stay there around 5 minutes
So there you have it, the exercises I’ve been doing for the past six weeks. As you can see I started off with very light weights. This is to ensure I was doing the correct technique and working on the smaller, endurance muscles. I’m giving myself a break from the challenge, but may return to the exercises later and increase the weights used.
Thanks for reading!

Photos courtesy of E. Arshamian, Director and physio of Fortitude Physio