Support your posture and everyday activities with these exercises. 

Welcome to Mab & Stoke’s proprietary workout series. We believe that movement is medicine and fitness is for all. So, each month, we’ll bring you a new routine from a trainer in our community. Next up: Sculpt your upper body with five moves from the founders of The Ness, a New York City-based fitness studio and streaming service. 

When it comes to workouts, the upper body doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Working your core, glutes, and legs is absolutely necessary, but your arms and shoulders need a little love, too.

“The benefits of activating your upper body regularly are endless,” says Aly Giampolo, co-founder of The Ness. “Not only does it promote healthier posture, which is especially important for those of us spending long days in front of a computer, it allows you to maintain the strength you need for simple, everyday activities such as carrying groceries or picking up your kids.” 

The Ness was created by Giampolo and Colette Dong, both professional dancers, after they discovered the trampoline as a low-impact cardio option. Along with trampoline classes, they teach strength-focused sculpt classes using bodyweight movements as well as props like light dumbbells and resistance bands. 

Together, Giampolo and Dong put together this quick, five-move upper-body workout. 

Their advice: Focus on engaging your core throughout the workout, and go slower through each rep than you want to. “It’s easy to fake your way through bodyweight exercises, but the slower you go, the more able you are to create your own resistance and activate your muscles without any added weight or equipment,” Dong says. Of course, if you want to add an extra challenge, they have some ideas on how to do that, too.  

The workout: Perform the following exercises as a circuit for two rounds. Do each exercise for one minute, then move on to the next exercise. Rest for up to two minutes between rounds.

1. Tabletop Tricep Push-ups

This exercise isolates the triceps (which are on the back of your arms) without putting as much pressure on your wrists as a standard push-up. It’s also a great way to practice engaging your core.

Instructions: Set up on a mat on your hands and knees. Your hands should be a few inches in front of your nose, and your knees stacked under your hips. Rotate the insides of your arms towards each other so your elbow creases are facing forward. You should feel your core hugging up and in to stabilize your torso in one long line. 

Bend your elbows, lowering your forearms down to the mat. As soon as you tap down, straighten your arms back to your starting position. 

Level Up: Walk your hands slightly further forward. 

2. Goal Post Overhead Press

Activate your upper back and shoulders, improve posture, and relieve neck tension with this seated exercise.

Instructions: Sit on the floor cross-legged or kneeling, whichever feels most comfortable. Lift both of your arms to 90 degree angles, with fingers aimed towards the ceiling, making a goal post shape. Relax the tops of your shoulders away from your ears, and press your shoulder blades down, as if you’re plugging your arms into your back. Imagining you have a cinderblock in each hand, slowly reach your fingertips upwards until both arms are fully extended overhead. Bending your elbows, control your arms on the way down by squeezing your shoulder blades together to come back to your starting position. 

Level Up: Hold a three-pound weight in each hand. 

3. Army Crawl Plank

This full-body exercise especially works your core, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and upper back. 

Instructions: Set yourself up in a high plank with your shoulders over your wrists and your feet about hips-width distance apart. Squeeze your glutes to stabilize your hips as you walk down to your forearms then back up to your hands, one arm at a time. With each rep, alternate which arm you start with. If your hips are swaying, try starting in a modified plank on your knees. 

Level Up: Add a push-up in between each rep.

4. Bear Plank with Row

This move helps to activate your lats (the muscles under your arms and along the sides of your back) and triceps simultaneously. Oh, and it’s also a core burner!

Instructions: Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position with your toes tucked under. Exhale and press into your hands and the balls of your feet to hover your knees over the floor. Holding this hover, slowly row your right elbow up towards the ceiling, return to start, then switch to row the left elbow up. 

Level Up: Add a three-pound weight to your row, or try this in a full plank.

5. Extended Over-Under Arms

Stabilizing the weight of your arms when they’re extended away from your body fires up your shoulders, biceps, and core.

Instructions: Sit or stand comfortably with both arms extended out to your sides. Keep a soft bend in your elbows. Engaging your core, move your arms from the shoulders, rotating them over and under to carve a “c” shape in the air on either side of you. 
Level Up: Add light wrist weights.