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  • Christina Hunt

Upper Body Strengthening Using Resistance Bands for People with Lung Conditions


One of the areas of exercise that I feel is of great importance is strengthening your upper body. If you think about it, we use our arms to do lots of different tasks throughout the day. Whether it be carrying an oxygen tank or concentrator, pushing the vacuum, putting dishes away, carrying in groceries, or simply holding our arms above our head to wash our hair, we use our arms for everything. When the muscles in your upper body are weak, you are going to experience increased breathlessness when doing any of these daily tasks. Strengthening those muscle groups should be a part of your exercise routine so that you can perform daily tasks like carrying anything and even bathing with increased strength and less shortness of breath. Don’t skip out on doing exercises that will help to promote strength in your arms.


In the last couple of months, I have been working hard to get into an exercise routine that works for me. Last year I was putting everything else before exercising. Blogging, working, mommyhood, and running the household came before my health. I was noticing a decline in my strength and my wellness. I can tell you that this will be something in my life that I am going to constantly struggle with because my personality is to help others before even remotely considering my own needs. I needed an exercise routine that would be inexpensive, that I could complete in my home, and that I could accomplish in about 30-45 minutes.


Some of the pieces of equipment that I have been working with recently to build upper body strength are resistance bands. They have various tensions and various shapes and they meet the requirement of “cheap!” The bands that I love the most and I am getting awesome results from are the resistance bands with the handles. I bought two bands a medium and a heavy. If you feel that you are weak in this area you might want to consider starting with a light and a medium tension.



I also purchased an anchor in order to give me the ability to do many more exercises. There are anchors that come with a few of the sets on Amazon, but I purchased this one (below) separately. I felt that this anchor was a bit sturdier. It had great reviews and the last thing that I needed to happen was for a cheap anchor to “give way” and I go flying backward and possibly hurt myself.



I’m going to give you 5 exercises today that will help to increase your upper body strength and let you know how each exercise applies to your activities of daily living. There are a ton of other upper body strengthening exercises that you can do with these bands, but for the sake of getting you some quick ideas to get you going… I’ll keep it brief. (Look for more ideas to come on my Facebook page!)


*** As with all exercise programs, please make sure it is fine with your doctor to start any new exercise routines. Also, if you have experienced any shoulder injury in the past, please check with your doctor if there are limitations to your range of motion as well as any weight restrictions before trying any of these exercises. I also recommend trying each movement without any tension to make sure the range of motion is comfortable for you. If you have any pain, stop the exercise immediately and see your doctor for recommendations.***


Before you begin, I want to give you 3 BASIC RULES I tell each of my patients when doing any strengthening exercises.


1. “If it hurts, don’t do it” – If you have a range of motion issues in your joints, doing a weight lifting exercise or using a resistance band that causes you pain is not going help resolve this. In fact, you may cause more problems in your joint if the range of motion issue isn’t resolved first. Prior to putting any tension on your muscle groups… check to make sure you can perform the movement without any pain. If you experience any pain while doing any of these exercises, STOP IMMEDIATELY and notify your doctor for recommendations. DO NOT keep going. “No pain, no gain” IS NOT our focus!!!

2. “Go slow” – Going slow is a great way to make sure you are performing the exercise with proper technique and will ultimately prevent any injury or sprain. If you haven’t been upper body strengthening in your exercise routine, start with very light tension and slowly work up in the number of repetitions.

3. “Breathe” – We all have a tendency to hold our breath. Make sure you use your breath to help fuel your muscles and breathe in and blow out through each repetition. This is another great opportunity to practice using a breathing technique (See Breathing Techniques blog).


So, let’s get into it!!!


1. Single Arm Overhead Press (This exercise is great for increasing strength to lift things overhead. It strengthens back and shoulder muscles.) – To begin, select a lighter tension resistance band to perfect your form. (You can use a stronger tension once your technique seems proficient.) Stand with your feet shoulder length apart. Take one end of the resistance band and step on the handle with your right foot. Place the other handle in your right hand. Start with your right arm at shoulder level. Raise it up over your head (while exhaling) and lower it back down to shoulder level. Repeat 10 times. Switch the band by stepping on a handle with the left foot and putting the opposite handle in your left hand. Perform the exercise 10 times.

RULE OF THUMB: If you cannot do 8 repetitions… the tension that you have chosen is too heavy for you. As you get stronger, increase your repetitions adding 1 or 2 each session. When you get to 20 easily… advance to a heavier tension.



2. Bicep Curls (This exercise is great for increasing strength in your arms for lifting and carrying.)- Stand with your feet shoulder length apart. Step on the center of the resistance band. Hold the handles of the bands in each hand at your sides and breathe in. Keep your elbows tucked in and exhale as you bend your elbows and lift the palms of your hands up. Lower your arms back down to waist level while breathing in. Capitalize on the resistance you feel by going slow. Repeat the exercise 10 times.



3. Triceps Extension (palms up) – (This exercise helps to stabilize your shoulder joint. This will also give you strength when you are lifting and carrying objects. Having strong triceps will help you to improve your elbow joint range of motion and mobility.) Place your resistance band anchor almost to the top of the door. I put mind right by the top hinge.) Thread your resistance band through the loop so that you have an even length on either side. Start the exercise by pulling on the resistance band by the handles until your forearms are even at your waist and palms are up. Bend your elbows and straighten your arms until your arm is almost straight. (***Be careful not to lock out your elbows.) Slowly bend your elbow and return your arm to waist level. Repeat 10 times. *Remember for this exercise not to move your shoulders. Your elbow is the only joint that moves. For an added challenge do this exercise with palms facing down as well! BONUS… you will also strengthen your forearm muscles by doing this exercise!



4. Chest Press – (This exercise increases the strength in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. It is great for doing daily activities that require pushing, pulling, and carrying.) Place the anchor at or a little above chest height. (Mine was a little high in the pics below but I was trying to move quickly through photography and forgot to lower it some.) Loop the band through the anchor and pull it through so that you have an even amount on each side. With your back to the anchor, grab the handles of the resistance bands and step forward until there is no slack on the band. Press the handles forward and together at the same time. Return slowly, being careful not to go past your shoulders. (As you can see my hands start and return just slightly in front of my chest. Repeat 10 times.



5. Oblique Side Bend – (We all can use some abdominal exercises to strengthen our core. Having a strong core will help you to protect your back from injury and will help you with your stability. I love this exercise for reducing those ever-popular “love handles!” Stand on the resistance band with your feet just wider than shoulder length apart. Holding the handles in each hand slowly bend your waist to the side. Be careful not to “kick out” your hip. Raise back up to your starting point and repeat to the other side. Feel the “squeeze” from your abs on the opposite side as you raise back up. Repeat each side 10 times. **These don’t feel like much when you are doing them, but I promise… you will feel them later, so only do 10 to start with! :)



Thanks for Reading!

If you enjoyed this blog, I invite you to check out some of the topics I have covered in the past


Make Small Changes for a BIG Impact When You Have a Lung Condition

From Setup to Use. Feeling Confident with Oxygen Tanks.

9 Tips to Decrease Breathlessness While Carrying Anything


Remember: We are in this TOGETHER!


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:) Christina


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***This blog uses affiliate links. They do not affect the cost of the product for you, but I receive a small commission for recommending them. I only recommend products that I feel comfortable with and believe would benefit my readers. Thanks for your support!


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