Free Weights (Chest & Shoulders)

Exercises > Gym Exercises > Free Weight Exercises (Chest, Shoulders & Triceps)

The following free weight exercises are designed to strengthen many of the major muscles of the upper body using free weights. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain.

For those who are untrained, you should begin by performing one or two sets of only a few free weight exercises, with light resistance, working a variety of muscle groups and gradually increase the number of exercises, resistance and sets over a number of sessions provided there are no signs of injury.

For beginners, it is generally advisable to begin with light weights that allow you to perform 20 – 30 repetitions of each exercise with good control, posture and form. Allow approximately 1 minute rest and recovery between exercise sets.

As your endurance and strength improves, aim to gradually increase the number of sets of each exercise over a number of sessions until you are eventually performing 3 – 4 sets of each exercise provided the exercises are pain free. These free weight exercises can then be progressed by gradually increasing the weights used so that fatigue is achieved by 8 – 12 repetitions and by progressing to other unaccustomed exercises provided they are pain free.

Specific requirements may vary between individuals depending on the functional goals they wish to achieve. Your physiotherapist can advise on the most appropriate resistance, sets and repetitions to meet your needs.

Ensure you always perform an appropriate warm up before beginning any strengthening exercises, an appropriate cool down after and ensure you balance recovery periods from training to prevent injury. Generally, it is advisable to perform a selection of the following free weight exercises 1 – 2 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Allow approximately 4 – 7 recovery days before repeating the same exercises, to allow muscle recovery.

 Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Anterior)

Figure 1 – Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Anterior)

Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Posterior)

Figure 2 – Major Muscles of the Upper Body (Posterior)


Free Weight Exercises – Chest, Shoulders & Triceps

Bench Press

Major Muscles Used – Pectorals, Triceps, Anterior Deltoid.

Begin this chest strengthening exercise lying in optimal posture with your back and neck straight and your hands holding a bar with light weights slightly further apart than shoulder width as demonstrated (figure 3). Slowly bring the bar down towards your chest and then straighten your elbows tightening the chest (pectoral) muscles and returning to the start position. Your elbows should remain either directly below your wrists or slightly closer to the lower half of your body than your wrists throughout the exercise. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Free Weight Exercises - Bench Press

Figure 3 – Bench Press

Dumbbell Bench Press

Major Muscles Used – Pectorals, Triceps, Anterior Deltoid.

Begin this chest strengthening exercise lying in optimal posture with your back and neck straight and holding some light dumbbell weights as demonstrated (figure 4). Slowly bring the weights down to the sides of your chest and then straighten your elbows tightening the chest (pectoral) muscles and returning to the starting position. Your elbows should remain either directly below your wrists or slightly closer to the lower half of your body than your wrists throughout the exercise. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Free Weight Exercises - Dumbbell Bench Press

Figure 4 – Dumbbell Bench Press

Flys

Major Muscles Used – Pectorals, Anterior Deltoid, Biceps.

Begin this chest strengthening exercise lying in optimal posture with your back and neck straight and holding light weights as demonstrated (figure 5). Slowly open your chest and lower the weights to the side of your body until they are approximately level with your torso, and then slowly return to the starting position tightening your chest (pectoral) muscles. Your elbows should remain in a slight bend throughout the exercise. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Free Weight Exercises - Flys

Figure 5 – Flys

Incline Bench Press

Major Muscles Used – Pectorals (Clavicular Head), Triceps, Anterior Deltoid.

Begin this chest strengthening exercise lying on an incline bench in optimal posture with your back and neck straight and holding a light weight with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart as demonstrated (figure 6). Slowly lower the bar towards your chest and then slowly straighten your elbows, tightening the chest (pectoral) muscles, returning to the starting position. Your elbows should remain either directly below your wrists or slightly closer to the lower half of your body than your wrists throughout the exercise. Perform 1 – 4 sets of 8 – 30 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Free Weight Exercises - Incline Bench Press

Figure 6 – Incline Bench Press


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