• You need Flash player 8+ and JavaScript enabled to view this video.

Upper Body Only Cobra Holds

By RealJock Staff

This exercise provided courtesy of Billy Polson, founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006.

The cobra is both a test of back strength and flexibility and a way to train those qualities.

Muscles Worked
Shoulders, Back

Starting Position
Lie face-down on the floor with your arms at your sides with thumbs out (palms down).


  1. From the starting position, slowly lift your chest and shoulders off the floor using your upper body.
  2. Rotate your thumbs up and out so that your shoulders externally rotate and your shoulder blades wrap together. The focus of this exercise is endurance of your shoulder retraction (lower middle traps), so you should not flex your glutes at all during this movement. Allow your heels to hang out to the sides and fully relax your glutes throughout the exercise, focusing all the work between the lower portion of your shoulder blades. Keep your chin in a neutral position so that your head and neck stay in line with your spine.
  3. You will hold at the top for a set amount of time—anywhere from a 30 seconds to three minutes, depending on your workout program. The goal is that one set always equals three minutes of total exercise (for example, six reps of 30 seconds). So progress your time up as you are able. Start with 6 reps x 30 seconds hold, with 15 sec rest between each rep. Then progress to 3 reps x 60 seconds hold with 30 seconds rest. Then progress further to 2 reps x 90 seconds hold with 30 seconds rest. Finally profess to a full three minutes hold per set.
About Billy Polson: Billy Polson is co-founder of the award-winning Diakadi Body personal training gym and creators of RealJock's 12-week Workout Programs. Billy is a certified Level 1 Practitioner and Holistic Lifestyle Coach through the Paul Chek Institute as well as a Certified Personal Trainer through The National Academy of Sports Medicine. Have burning questions about your fitness that you want Billy and Diakadi co-founder Mike Clausen to answer? Send an email to