Upper Body Workout – Plus Tabata

by Marianne  - April 24, 2011

Hi everyone,

Firstly Happy Easter to you all πŸ™‚ I am unfortunately working this Easter weekend, but I still found a little time to do this upper body workout.

It worked out quite well actually, as yesterday I did heavy leg training in the gym (plus a pull up personal best of 7 in a row πŸ˜€ ) – all that practice is paying off. So today my pull ups suffered a little as I got carried away with 3 sets yesterday (7,6 and 5). Think it’s because the strength room was full of meat-heads all throwing their weights about and dropping them etc – which gets me into bad form and we all know what happens when Mad-Marianne comes out, Personal Bests! I actually had to tell one guy to shut up, because he was just being a complete ignorant arse – grrrr!

OK rant over – it’s a happy day…

So this workout is the second day of the 2-day split routine which started with lower body. The exercises obviously can be varied to work additional muscle groups, or the same ones in different ways, but the exercises I have chosen are tough!

Again there is a mix of rep ranges and set times depending on the exercise and then there is an upper and lower body Tabata to finish.

Workout Breakdown

Resistance Section – Complete 3 rounds of the following 6 exercises. Choose a moderate to heavy weight when possible and try to increase the weight each round. Remember the rep range is only a guide, you can go lower or higher if you wish: Confession from me, I only did 2 rounds today – I was busted after work and I just needed a day off.

  1. Pull Ups x MAX reps (6, 3)
  2. Half Kneeling Kettlebell Military Press (right) x 8 – 15 reps (R1 – with 12kg x 12 reps, R2 – with 16kg x 6 reps)
  3. Half Kneeling Kettlebell Military Press (left) x 8 – 15 reps (R1 – with 12kg x 12 reps, R2 – with 16kg x 5 reps)
  4. Burpees (or for beginners, modified Push Ups) x 1 minute (19, 17)
  5. Kettlebell Bent Over Row x 8 – 15 reps (Both Rounds with 2 x 16kg – 12 reps)
  6. DiveBombers (or Hindu push ups, which are a little easier, or even Plank Climbers instead) x 1 minute (14, 12)


Set your Gymboss Interval Timer for 8 cycles of 10 seconds rest and 20 seconds MAX effort and complete 4 rounds of the following 2 exercises (didn’t count reps):

  1. Kettlebell Vertical Swing Burpee (lighter weight for the Tabata) – Beginners do mountain climbers, KB swings, or burpees minus push ups.
  2. Light Squat/Sumo Jumps

If you don’t hate me now, you will tomorrow :-/ I hate myself already for this torture haha!

If you need something to get you through this, just think of something really annoying and turn the rage into drive, it really works, plus what you were annoyed at, disappears πŸ˜€

Enjoy your long weekend everyone who is off, don’t be eating too much chocolate … coz that means there will be more for ME πŸ˜› πŸ˜› πŸ˜›




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  1. Hi Marianne,

    I totally get the annoyance with the meat heads. I just switched gyms from my local Y to a new, much cheaper gym, and I was a little underwhelmed: not enough equipment, lots of meat heads making crazy grunting noises … sigh. I’ve realized though that I’m a gym whore – I usually spend a maximum of one year at a gym before I get unhappy with it and switch to a new one.

    Anyways, you’ve created a great workout as usual – I just wish I could get even one pull-up done! Well, that and pistol squats, which are my two dream fitness achievements at this point.

    1. Hi Jessica, for a laugh you should start grunting and see what they do haha!

      It’s great to have goals, as long as we are actively trying to achieve them. I am still working at many of mine. There are ups and downs. Just don’t get frustrated, focus and have some fun doing it too. I am sure you do, but persistance always pays off πŸ™‚

  2. I was a little disappointed in myself over this one — my pullups weren’t as good as yesterday (maybe too soon to do more) and, well, all of my numbers were a little down on what I was hoping.

    1. Pullups — 4+1, 5, 3+2 (on the + sets, I stood up and rested a second or so and then went back to it – so not full ‘dead hang’ pullups)
    2. 1/2 Kneeling press Right: 10 Kg x 12, 12 Kg x 8, 14 Kg x 4
    3. same — Left 10 Kg x 12, 12 Kg x4 + 4 negatives only, 14 Kg 4 negatives (I have to try to work the left as much as the right)
    4. Burpees 1 MIn: 12, 13, 12
    5. Bent Rows (30 Lb DBs) 12, 12, 12
    6 Dive Bombers 1 min 11.5, 11, 14 (I don’t know how I managed to increase the numbers!?)

    Tabata — really hard
    1. Vertical swing burpee 12 Kg 5, 5, 5, 5
    2 Light squat sumo jumps 14, 12, 12, 13

    My dive bombers have always been fair, and I think that my form is improving on those… at least until I get tired. It is hard to make them look the same coming out of them as you did going into them, and I notice a lot of exercise regimes pushing these, revert to Hindus instead, which we know are not as hard. There’s not much point being lazy when you work out, as you are only cheating yourself!

    This was short enough that I did some yoga afterwards, thinking that would be easy, but that also had a lot of pushups and shoulder work, so I really got my workout today esp. on the shoulders.

    I enjoy all the variety — I just cannot imagine doing the same routines any more. This is always a challenge.

    Thanks a bunch.
    ~ Gillian

    1. Hey Gillian. Maybe the DiveBombers improved as you became more flexibile – sometimes that happens with me, like on the high deficit reverse lunges, I seem to improve.

      Can I ask what other sources you use for your workouts? πŸ™‚

  3. So, some reps then…

    Lat pulldowns (I did this workout at my gym) 12,12,12
    Half kneeling military press 12kg – 10, 7, 5 – a bit lame πŸ™
    Other side – same
    Burpees 17,15.5, 14 – I guess I’m doing them now, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement!
    Double row 216kg – 12, 12, 12
    Divebombers – 16, 15, 15

    Tabata – 16kg for the vertical swing burpees – definitely too knackered to count this time πŸ™‚

    I think my shoulders seem quite weak compared to the rest of me. Are there any particular exercises you could recommend that might help me a bit here? Maybe ones I could do at the gym?

    Thank you for your help as always.

    I hope you get a chance to enjoy the long weekend and aren’t working too much πŸ™‚

    1. Hey Emma, Nice work with the double 16kg rows! πŸ˜€

      Are your shoulders only weaker in the vertical movements like presses and over head stuff? Your dive bomber and rows have good numbers, and to be honest your numbers for the military presses are fine for 12kg. Remember, kneeling press are a lot harder. I can get 10-12 reps with 16kg in the normal military press, but only 6 (tops) in the kneeling presses – so don’t beat yourself up. The Military presses are a great strength exercise, so stick with them. You can also do barbell presses or push presses for that movement. Side raises etc may help, but they are more for shaping rather than functional strength.


      1. Thanks for this Marianne.
        It’s good to know I can’t expect such high weights or numbers with the kneeling presses. Perhaps I was being a little neurotic about the whole thing – that wouldn’t be the first time πŸ™‚
        I will keep practicing the kneeling presses though as I am a little weaker on overhead exercises than stuff like rows. I can’t even think about military pressing a 16kg yet.
        Another goal then – one of many πŸ™‚

        Take care,


  4. Hi Marianne

    Me again, totally unrelated question to your post here.

    But I was wondering what you would reccommend as one of the best gyms for weight training? I used to be a member of queens PEC but found the equipment could so with some updating and fixing from time to time! Wondered if youd heard or knew anything about the new puregym? Read in a previous blog you talked about fitspace bit awkward for me to get to but would consider it if the weights room was up to scratch! heard it was very much a ‘mans gym’ lol said by a cardio bunny though!lol

    Any info welcome lol

    Thanks again!

    1. Criostiona, I had no idea you are a local πŸ˜€ For strength training in Belfast, Queens PEC seems to be the best, it has proper lifting platforms, and squat cages, but I know what you mean about some of the equipment being a little out of date, or more run-down. PureGyms is a bit like FitSpace, it has got good equipment, but not the best for all the strength training I want to do. I’d say PureGym would be similar. I haven’t been to FitSpace in ages. When i was looking at getting lean last summer, I went to fitspace for their Cardio equipment, which is miles better than Queens’ crappy Technogym stuff – Love the StairMaster and Steppers – PEC doesn’t have these.

      Where do you live? Like are you near Lisburn – because if you are there is a great gym called “The RockPit”. Robert (the guy who owns it) is a good friend of Andrews and he has stocked the place to the brim with the best stength and bodybuilding equipment. It is a little male-orientated like most weight gyms, but Rab has just opened up a female-only gym nearby. I don’t mind the “maleness”, but some do.

      Do you think I know you? Are you the Criostiona that used to go to Spin a lot? πŸ™‚

      I’m intrigued now you said you went to the PEC πŸ˜€

    2. Yeah my name’s Irish so it sounds like I live somewhere exotic but sadly I don’t… yet lol!!

      I went to fitspace last night to have a look, was peak time about 6pm and the weight room was fairly busy and packed with bodybuilding males lol The cardio machines were impressive, I’m not big into cardio but I do prefer the stepper over anything else and PEC doesnt have one like you said that is one of the things that is putting me off.

      Also took a spin to puregym the new one in town, It was massive with lots of equipment but ive heard mixed reports on how tricky it can be to get to things in the weights area. the instructor seemed a little clueless also lol but i’d say there was better than fitspace slightly better location and a lot more equipment.
      The main thing for me atm is I’ll not have the car in the evening for a few months so some places are more awkward to get to after work but np for weekends. Bouchure road although 10mins away by car I can’t get any public transport to take me to it and some days my legs don’t want to walk lol! I live in Dunmurrary not too far from st mary peters track.

      whats the female gym like? do u know the name of it? U know the men dont put me off really once i stick the headphones on I just switch off just be daunting first time without a trainer in a weights room. Just want a good weights area to do squats and leg work.

      No I didn’t do spins at Queens- I just floated about the cardio area when I wasn’t as clued on to the power of weights lol typical really lol

      1. I am not sure what The RockPit’s female gym is called, I will find out for you. I used to live in Finaghy – you were only up the road to the wee garden/patio that my first workouts took place πŸ˜€ You should come to the KB Classes in Finaghy Community Centre. When I am off work, I am there! Mondays and Wednesdays 7-8pm. They start back Wed 4th.

        Anyway, I see your problem, if you work in B’fast, then it might be handier joining PureGym’s, or somewhere you can even get the bus to? Next time I have a few days off I’m gonna check out the female gym in Lisburn. It’s out the Moira side, so not the handiest with regard to transport. But I think you can pay as you go, so you can check it out for a while or supplement your training as and when – that’s another reason I like Rab’s. I’m a member of Queen’s and FitSpace, but can add in a super day down at a “real” gym for a Fiver as needed – or if I just fancy a change of scene.

        Can’t believe you only live in Dunmurry! ha – small world πŸ˜€

        1. It really is a small world lol! I’m thinking of doing a kettlebell class to get more overall conditioning in, have kettlebells at home that I use along with the gymboss timer too but like mixing things up.

          Think Ill join Fitspace and join the meat heads as you call them!lol Might show them a thing or two with my deadlift lol

          Might even join PEC again too as I get post grad student rate. Heard puregym can be very busy in the evenings, suppose everywhere is really but read blogs where it got mixed reviews!

          Do you have a plan already done out of what youre going to do at every session then? I’m trying to do one up atm so I look more clued on lol!

          See I have this goal ( may be silly and unattainable) but I love the physiques of fitness models, and I’ve this aim in my head to get to even a fraction of that, Just I’ve no patience to wait on the wee tweaks here and there to take place lol! But we can all dream and you see some inspirational stuff on the ‘net so cant all be genetics! that’s my mantra anyway lol!

          I’d def look into that gym sounds like a first of its kind.

          1. Most of attaining that type of physique is down to diet and strict calorie intake, so just be careful that you have sensible expectations of it. You could even aim for the Miss Northern Ireland Fitness model comp in November. If you don’t have an “end-point” then this type of low body fat is not healthy to maintain – so it’s good to have a specific goal where you need to be that lean. There is nothing silly about your goal, but it requires a lot of knowledge and care to keep your muscle mass and not lose too much weight too quickly.

            Here are a couple of blogs you might find useful –

            Allie McKee is a Figure Athlete – http://allimckee.wordpress.com/
            Kellie Davis was trained by Bret Contreras and has done her fair share of strength training and “cutting”, plus she is super inspiring! Lots of tips at her blog http://www.motherfitness.com/.

            As for the strength elements, these goals can be set all year round. My own approach is quite Laissez-faire, so I kind of go with what I feel I can or want to do that day. I just know when I go to the gym it will be heavier squats, a variation of deadlift, a single-leg quad dominant exercise (bulgarians), specific glute work and always my dips – can’t do them anywhere else, but in the gym. Sometimes I throw in a plyometric body weight version of each exercise to really kick things in the nuts LOL – like I’ll be doing Bulgarian Squats for one set, then I’ll do 30 seconds of Lunge jumps, I’ll so squat jumps after squats, my legs kill after this, and it shakes things up!

            Maybe I’ll bump into you somewhere, if you see me come and say hi πŸ˜€

  5. Did this one easter sunday afternoon..great workout!
    Never did dive bombers before, and they were…a valiant attempt..lol. They didn’t look anything like yours. Previously I would switch burpees for something else, my rationale being that I don’t do them with any great speed, and figured i wasn’t getting enough out of it. I gave it a shot this time, and though not record setting by any means, there is improvement.
    The kneeling press was great, liked that one, and i did well with pull-ups.
    Im trying not to dodge the things I suck at (burpees and rear lunges and the like) as I’ve noticed I’m picking workouts that I know I’ll do well at..not the my-o-my way..lol. Easter’s supposed to be about new beginnings, so I figured I’d stray from my comfort zone a bit.
    Thanks for the workout, as always..
    ps-tomorrow, the lower body workout..

    1. Glad you motored through the Divebombers John, they are tough going though! Kneeling presses are a different kettle of fish, to standing ones, really feel it the core!

      New beginnings is right πŸ˜€

  6. And all this time I thought Hindu Push-Ups and Dive Bombers were one and the same! Looking forward to giving this one a try!

    Also, not sure if you’d be interested, but I noticed in my Email a message about a Russian Kettlebell Challenge Instructor course coming your way in October…

    1. Hi Marty,

      Yes I thought the divebomber and hindu push ups were the same thing too, but turns out they’re not πŸ™‚

      Yes I heard about the RKC coming here, but I don’t think it’s for me. I’m waiting on Steve Cotter coming to Belfast πŸ˜€ It’s a lot of money that course – I might just spend the money on getting my Level 3 Personal Training Cert. Was tempted with the RKC though.


  7. Hi Marianne,

    Just a random question really, when you say you did a heavy leg session in the gym, what roughly do you do? I know you have a video somewhere I watched before of you at the gym, just wondering if thats mainly what you do? Im a little intimdated by weight rooms, Im fine with a trainer but I dont know if ive the confidence yet to go to my own thing and know where to begin setting up racks etc!

    Do you weight train at the gym much? I feel like packing my membership in as I never use it and totally sticking to my little mini studio at home but I worry Ill become to complicant!!! decisions decisions lol

    Hope you had a lovely Easter, Im trying not to go over board with the chocolate especially as Ive been unable to train at all this week, but its calling out for me lol!


    1. Criostiona, you really shouldn’t be intimidated by the weights room. Instead of being worried about setting everything up, you could ask an instructor to help you learn, that’s what they are there for.

      I train in the gym with weights twice a week.

      My heavy training looks like this:
      – Back Squats
      – Deadlifts (varying between sumos, conventional and stiff-leg on different days)
      – Bulgarian Squats (trying to build up my quads)
      – Pistols (body weight)
      – Leg press
      – Back extension
      – Cable Rows
      – Reverse cable flies (for my rear delts)

      Then I usually add in pull ups and loads of dips, going to start doing some dumbbell work for my shoulders to shape them a little more πŸ™‚ Also I sometime try and practice my Olympic lifts, but I have lost my confidence a bit there and am scared of the snatch LOL – I do the Clean and Jerk though.


      1. Its really creating my own programme that I struggle with, what weight to start with etc. I’m forever spending money on fitness magazines to help me gage that. Its not the men that intimidate me, just the weights and me looking completely lost lol!

        How heavy do you go with your dumbbells? I’ve ordered from 3kg up to 10kgs so I can do more of a mix at home!

        Im on a mission to get as ‘cut’ as possible you see, I’m pretty lean and gain muscle mass easily, I’ve used a trainer up until 1 month ago so I’m sussed on nutrition etc but I’m apprehensive to know where to start when going it alone! I’ll just have to brave it I know once I do it once I’ll be okay!

        Olympic lifts, ur technique must be spot on looks too scary for me lol!

        1. Criostiona, I just had a great reply typed up there and I deleted it! Grr!!

          I’ll start again…

          I use dumbbells mainly for shoulder raises, shoulder presses, bicep curls and Bulgarian Squats. For the shoulder raises, I used lighter ones (5kg or 6kg, depending on the type of raises), then shoulder presses and bicep curls are heavier (8 – 12kg). Bulgarian squats range from 2 x 12kg to 2 x 17.5kg, reps start at 12 and drop to 3-5 during this session, depending on the exercise.

          For you starting off in the weights room, just ensure you have good form before you add any weight. If you are new to barbells, then ask a member of staff to show you how to set the cage up and how to place the bar on your back etc – they should at least do that as part of an induction. Try dumbbells first for squats and deadlifts and then try them with the bar only, before adding any more weights. All you do then is aim for 12 – 15 reps a weight you can manage (with good form). As you become stronger at that, then you want to start progressing the weight and lowing the reps. But I would recommend keeping the weight moderate until your confidence builds, especially with the barbell, as they can weight 15kg or 20kg and require some balance given their width.

          Good luck with your goal and I hope you will brave the weights room as these lifts are great for your strength!


          PS Would you find a new gym workout video useful? Maybe I should try and film one ?

        2. Thanks Marianne for such a detailed reply! Hate it when u type something only to delete it by accident!!

          I’m actually quite strong and used to doing deadlifts and squats with weights, its just the trainer I had did all the weight adjustment for me as I went along with it absent mindly not paying as much attention as i should lol! So that’s my problem.

          But I’ll defintely have to get myself into the weights room if im to meet the new goals I’m setting and feel fulfilled with all elements of my training! I like doing heavy leg training for the inside of the thighs, most women’s hard to fix area!! So I’ll ask someone when I go, prob early in the morning to avoid it being too busy, i get a little flustered at times and make a right t*t of myself ( excuse the french lol)

          Thats impressive for ur biceps- 8-12kg, Im still on 7kgs lol! Just bout a set to 10kg ( so expensive for dumbbells!) that’ll do in meantime, i’ve kettlebells also.

          Yeah a video would be very helpful πŸ™‚ maybe showing what youre doing and even about the very basics. you’re very good at explaining the techniques!

          ps wish i could do pull ups lol you have amazing upper body strength! Im working on it!!

          1. You will have retained more info than you think. It’s a pity how some trainers just set things up for their clients, I would have them do it, to build their knowledge and confidence about the weights room, especially the ladies – we are often intimidated, when all is needed is a little push and support πŸ™‚ I will try and get a video put together during a quiet time in the gym.

            I feel my upper body strength is more impressive than my lower body most of the time – need to work on my squat strength as it has suffered from not doing heavy squats in so long. Deadlifts seem to be doing better though.

            It’s good that you know you are strong and you have done the strength exercises before. Even if you don;t remember the set up, you should remember most of the form πŸ™‚

  8. Happy Easter!!!
    is that the new gymboss in your hand??
    I use a really simple way to build up rage, I workout in shorts and get really pi***d off at the extra fat on my bum!!!The choc egg certainly will help!!!!
    Have a great day
    p.s. hope the weather is as great in Ireland as it is in Wales!!!can’t believe how hot it is!!!

    1. No, I was holding the camera remote LOL – need to get a new gymboss as the clip on my one has broke off πŸ™

      I just get annoyed at not being able to do something, then next thing I can do it! Mind over matter.

      Weather here not as warm as it was πŸ™ It was lovely last weekend and during the week there, but it has got colder again – what a surprise. Glad it’s nice where you are.


  9. Hi Marianne

    Firstly a very happy Easter you and yours, I hope you all have a great time. Sorry to hear that you have to work over the Easter holiday πŸ™ But I am sure the folks in poor health who are in your care really appreciate it. Nurses truly are Angels.

    Great workout and it was a nice idea to show the split routine. Mix things up a bit for folks.

    Your looking really strong in your pull-ups and your dive bomber form is really good also. Your KB movements and the weights you move are always top drawer. I also think that your positive attitude is really motivating. I really like your Tabatha workouts, especially with the burpee/KB high pull.

    Well time to give myself a shake and get and do my own workout πŸ™‚ Weights today and hopefully no issues as I tweaked my right piriformis and quad during yesterdays cardio πŸ™ Lots of stretching and foam rolling since πŸ™‚

    Best Wishes


    1. Thanks Michael, I feel generally I am improving in a lot of areas, especially the pull ups πŸ™‚

      Hope your injury doesn’t hold you back, just take it easy if need be – no Tabata for you πŸ˜‰


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