How to achieve the ultimate upper body strength

A form of exercise even the laziest of the lazy can do. All you need is some weights, weight bench, dumbbell and lots and lots of determination...

The world’s best riders are seldom musclebound, no-necked freaks, but by the same token they’re not ten-stone weaklings either. Whether you’re flicking through chicanes or filtering through traffic, decent upper body strength is essential to riding a motorcycle well. Using nothing more exotic than a pair of 7kg dumb-bells, this month Steve Plater takes you through five basic exercises to tone up your bike-riding torso.



This classic exercise is still one of the best for increasing strength and endurance without bulking up, thanks to the fact that it’s impossible to overdo the weight. Lying on your front, support your weight with your hands shoulder width apart and your toes pushing into the ground. Keeping your back and legs straight, with your chin almost on the floor, press up until the point just before your elbows lock out. Repeat until you can do no more. Log your tally.



We’re moving into the world of weights now, so remember the golden rule: start low and build up. Even if you think the weight is too low, high repetitions will soon make it feel a whole lot heavier. For this exercise 5kg per side is plenty. Starting with your arms by your sides, lift the weights straight out until your fists are level with your shoulders. Don’t flail about wildly; it’s controlled resistance that we’re looking for here. Hold the weights out for around five seconds then slowly lower them back down.


Pull Over

Ideally you’ll have a weights bench but if you haven’t, a sturdy table or workbench will do just as well. This exercise is great for strengthening the deltoid and rhomboid muscles – in biking terms you should be able to ride longer without that nagging pain in the upper back. Holding an 8kg dumbbell with both hands, lie on the bench. Wrap one hand around the dumbbell and the other around the gripping hand. Starting with the weight slightly lower than your head and your arms straight, lift the weight directly above your breastbone. Repeat.


Shoulder Press

Depending on your size and strength, you’ll be looking to lift upwards of 10kg per dumbbell for the shoulder press, a superb exercise that will strengthen the deltoids, greatly reducing the risk of rotator cuff injuries. Grasp the weights at just above shoulder height with your palms facing outwards and concentrate on lifting the weights smoothly and evenly without rotating at the wrist all the way to full extension. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position. Aim for ten controlled reps.


Ab Crunches

Yet another exercise that requires no equipment, so no excuses. Steve prefers this style of abdominal exercise as opposed to traditional sit-ups that give little reward for lots of effort. Lying on your back with your arms by your side, lift your upper body up making sure you keep your heels on the ground throughout. Before you’re fully upright, you should feel your stomach muscles contract. Try to hold this position for 5-10 seconds before slowly lowering yourself back to the start position. Aim at ten repetitions initially – after that the only limit is your determination.