Building Upper Body Strength

The Workhorse Workout

“My armpits hurt!”

That’s what I said for a few days after this upper body workout.

Dr. Len Lopez, fitness expert and a frequent contributor on our sister site, has developed a simple, yet effective piece of equipment to help build upper body strength. It’s called The Workhorse – and Dr. Len sent us one to try out. So, we incorporated it into an hour-long workout.

(Disclosure: We were not compensated for this post or for trying this product. The product was sent to us for free of charge, with no obligation for a review of any kind.)

First – The Cardio

You know us, we always try to get in some cardio to get our hearts and lungs pumping and our muscles warmed up. So, Megan and I started by taking a few laps around our neighborhood. 2 laps is about 3 miles and we don’t waste any time getting it done… in about 35 minutes we were done and had gotten our heart rates into the 150s.

(Just over a half hour and just walking… and we burned about 300 calories. Walking is easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless!)

DSC_0677Then – The Workhorse

So… Dr. Len’s Workhorse has the shape and size of sawhorse. It’s made out of a sturdy metal that holds up to 300 pounds, but by pulling a few pins it folds flat to be carried out of a room without denting a wall, and stored under a bed or behind a couch.

The machine can be used for three essential moves:

  1. Under-hand chin-up
  2. Over-hand pull-up
  3. Push-up

Dr. Len says:

I recommend the over-hand, pull-up grip, instead of the under-hand, chin-up grip.  This comes from my sports medicine background and for injury prevention.  A pull-up grip is more bio-mechanically natural than a chin-up grip and places less stress on your wrists and elbows.  Also, it brings into play your forearm muscles, much more than a chin-up grip.

Megan and I tried all three. We both agreed, the under-hand chin-up put a lot of stress on our wrists and just did not feel natural.

That being said… the over-hand chin-up and the push-ups were more difficult than either of us had imagined. We both work out a lot and are able to do push-ups and arm balances and all sorts of things that require upper body strength. But, we don’t run into many opportunities to do pull-ups or chin-ups.

DSC_0689On my first try, I was able to squeeze out 5 pull-ups. Yup – only 5. Same thing for push-ups on the widespread push-up handles at the base of the machine.

I told Dr. Len I was surprised about the low number, and he told me not to worry:

The more intense the workout – the more testosterone (TT) and growth hormone (GH) you produce.  These two hormones build lean muscle and burn body fat, for both men and women!  An aerobic workout or class is only so intense.  It may be exhausting, but because it is low to moderate intensity – it doesn’t stimulate as much TT and GH.  Short, high intensity, burst, interval training or weight training, including bodyweight exercises – activate your fast-twitch, anaerobic muscle fibers – the ones responsible for producing TT and GH.

Basically, he’s saying that those 5 pull-ups are doing a lot of work.

So, we did our sets in 5s. 5 pull-ups, 5 push-ups, repeat. The first time around we did 4 sets (20 of each movement), and in our second round, we did 3 sets. By the time we got to the end of that 3rd set, both of us were struggling to maintain form.

Really – it was surprising how difficult it was. But, like Dr. Len said, those few intense movements were working our muscles in a very effective (and exhausting!) way.

My heart rate monitor verified that we were working in intense bursts. I watched as my heart rate spiked after the first move and stayed up through the set of 5, and then dropped as soon as I finished and flipped over between pull-ups and push-ups.

The Results

Like I said, my armpits hurt! But, in a way that let me know that the moves were working well, and working muscles that obviously aren’t getting attention in my other workouts.

I could feel a good burn across my chest and upper back as well.

We will defiantly be incorporating this and use it with our Live Life in Yoga Pants workout group!

My goals is to try to increase reps and sets over time!


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