Turbocharge your strength training with these three upper body strength innovations.

“The thing about training the upper body is that you need to keep mixing it up,” says Les Mills Program Director, Glen Ostergaard. “Whereas we can keep strengthening the lower body with squats and deadlifts, it’s harder to keep creating the adaptation in the upper body by doing the same thing.” Variety is key to continued success with upper body strength training – and that’s where innovative new options come into play. The Diamond Press, Preacher Curl and I-Y-T Raise are three great options, check out the video below to see why they're winning moves.

3 innovative upper body exercises


The Diamond Press with a weight plate is inspired by the traditional diamond pushup, which is a great exercise to strengthen the entire upper body. It's performed by laying on your back (ideally on a bench) and taking a narrow grip on the plate and pulling it down towards the lower ribs, before raising it again over the shoulders.

"This is such an epic move that hits the muscles we use for pushing or propelling something away from us," says Ben Main, Les Mills Presenter and Creative Consultant. "Whether we're passing a ball or pushing ourselves off a chair, strong pushing muscles are key for all types of movement."

As well as targeting the triceps, this move also activates the pectoralis muscles, meaning it’s a great exercise to strengthen the chest. Placing the hands closer together also demands more from the shoulder – particularly the anterior deltoid, which makes this a great move for shaping and toning our shoulders.

Watch out for: Elbows flaring out; shoulders hunching towards ears. Tuck the elbows in close and keep shoulders down away from ears to keep the work in the triceps.


The Preacher Curl is a variation of the traditional biceps curl. While it’s typically performed sitting on a preacher bench with arms resting on a slanted surface for support, it can also be performed by hinging forward from the hips and lifting the bar towards the shoulder line – which is how it’s done in BODYPUMP #122.

Glen Ostergaard explains using this Preacher variation is a great way to mix up muscular stimulation to generate the adaptation. “By changing the tension on the long head of the bicep – the part that crosses the shoulder – the Preacher Curl produces a more complete stimulus for bicep conditioning, so we get stronger, faster!”

“The Preacher Curl takes bicep training to a whole new level,” says Kylie Gates, Les Mills Creative Director. “You’re in a hip hinge position, so coaching the high chest position is crucial for good posture. And then the key ingredient is to take the bar away from you rather than pull it towards – if you want results, this is how to get them!"

Watch out for: Rounding through the spine; movement through the upper arm. Try to maintain a high chest position, brace your core and keep your upper arm absolutely still.


We know it’s important to strengthen our smaller, stabilizing muscles that help protect us from imbalances that can lead to injury. Enter the I-Y-T Raise. These are three different moves to target the shoulders:

  • To perform the I Raise – hinge from the hips and lift plates in a straight line towards your forehead, maintaining a straight spine. Lift the arms as high as you can. Keep your abs braced and chest lifted.
  • To perform the Y Raise – do the same as above, but take your arms wider to create a shallow ‘V’ shape.
  • To perform the T Raise – hinge from the hips and lift the plates straight out in a ‘T’ shape, stopping them just beneath your shoulders.

So, what's the benefit? Our shoulder blades rotate upward whenever we push overhead, demanding the simultaneous recruitment of the three components of the trapezius: upper, mid and lower. While the lower and mid areas can often be dominated by the upper portion, the I-Y-T lifts help to address this imbalance, increasing our strength and stability when we lift. In fact, research from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) shows this exercise is one of the most effective moves for strengthening the lower and mid trapezius, beating pull-ups, lat pull-downs and chin-ups. Glen Ostergaard says: “I love this move because I feel my shoulders and upper back warming up and then I feel stable under the presses”.

Watch out for: hunched shoulders. Focus on keeping your shoulders back and down.

You can try these three moves during BODYPUMP #122 at a club near you and coming soon to LES MILLS+.


This article originally appeared at www.lesmills.com/instructors/instructor-news/bodypump-122-innovations/