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5 Best Upper Body Exercises for Women

Build upper body strength and toned arms with this 30-Minute Upper Body Workout for Women. The workout consists of 5 arm exercises, targeting back, biceps, shoulders, triceps, and chest.

If you’re having trouble seeing the above video, try pausing or turning off your ad blocker. If you prefer, you can also view these 5 Best Upper Body Exercises on Youtube here.

Truth be told, I favor lower body workouts over upper body workouts. Which is why having a workout plan going into each week is essential for me. Otherwise I’ll over-train my lower body.

Splitting up muscle groups is important when strength training. The goal is to exhaust and breakdown muscle tissue to build strength. Therefore, you need to train a muscle group, and then let that muscle group rest and recover.

My ideal weekly workout routine would look like this:

  • Monday – Lower Body Strength + HIIT/Plyo Workout
  • Tuesday – Upper Body Strength + Cardio/Run if time allows
  • Wednesday – Barre / Yoga
  • Thursday – Lower Body Strength + HIIT
  • Friday – Upper Body Strength + Core or Barre / Yoga {pending on how I’m feeling based on the intensity of my workouts that week}
  • Saturday – Total Body Workout
  • Sunday – Rest + Stretch

But due to my group fitness teaching schedule, the above rarely happens. I usually only get one upper body and lower body split training day in, and fill in the other days with various total body workouts.

I just have to insert here, that I’m so stinking pumped about the new NML website. I hope you’re loving the new category pages as much as I am. Allowing you to search workouts by length, equipment, and more!

Back to this 30-minute upper body workout for women. It’s nothing fancy, but these five exercises — bicep curl, Arnold press, skull crushers, push ups, and bent over row — should be staples in every upper body strength training routine.

I love this rep-drop format, and encourage you to go heavy in weights. If you’re working out at home, I love these PowerBlock Dumbbells, which adjust from 5-50 lbs.

The Workout: 5 Best Upper Body Exercises for Women

This arm workout follows a repetition drop format. Reps decrease but weight, ideally, stays the same {or increases if you can}. Use a medium-to-heavy set of dumbbells. I am pictured using 10 lb dumbbells in this workout, but if I were doing this at home I would push for 15-20 lb dumbbells.

Perform 12 reps per exercise, then 10 reps, then 8 reps, and so on until you reach 4 reps per exercise. So you’ll complete 5 sets total, dropping reps with each set.

Option to add 1 minute of the jab, cross, jump, bonus move at the end of each set {30 seconds per side}.

12-10-8-6-4 Reps:

  1. Bicep Curls
  2. Arnold Press
  3. Lying Skull Crushers
  4. Push Ups
  5. Reverse Grip Bent Over Row

Bonus Move: Jab, Cross, Jump

After each set complete 1 minute of the bonus move {30 seconds per side}. This will increase heart rate.

See the workout video above for a demonstration of each exercise.

Bicep Curls

Keep your elbows off and slightly in front of your body to maximize bicep engagement. Go slow and controlled on the eccentric part of the curl {the way down}. Muscle building actually happens on the way down in the bicep curl.

Arnold Press

Sculpt all heads of the shoulder muscle by starting with the weights in front of your face. Keep a slight bend in your knees, but be sure to engage your core and squeeze your glutes as you press the weights overhead, protecting your low back.

Lying Skull Crushers

Keep your elbows in line with your forearms, not allowing them to fall out, away from your body. Slowly lower the weights toward your face, again muscle building happens in the eccentric motion {way down} of this exercise as well.

Push Ups

Lead with your chest, dropping toward the ground in a straight line from head to heel. As you lower your elbows should fall behind you towards your hips {not out to the side}. For push up modifications, see this post.

Reverse Grip Bent Over Row

Hinge forward at the hips with palms face out, away from the body. This grip change works a slightly different part of the back. Pull elbows up toward the sky and back towards your hips, as if putting on your pants in the morning.

Hold at the top of the moment, pinching your shoulder blades together. Then slowly lower the weights to the starting position, trying not to let them ‘drop’ down. Keeping your belly pulled tightly back towards your spine throughout the entire movement.

Bonus Move: Jab, Cross, 180 Jump

*After each set complete 1 minute of the bonus move {30 seconds per side}

Pin this Upper Body Workout for Women

This post does include an affiliate link to these PowerBlock Dumbbells. All words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Nourish Move Love, making the content you see on this blog possible.

Time: 20 minutes

Equipment: Mat, dummbell

Good for: Upper body

Instructions: Starting with the first move, complete as many reps as possible during the prescribed time while maintaining proper form. Rest where noted before continuing on to the next exercise.

1. Cactus Arms

How to: Start standing on the mat, feet hip-width apart. Bring elbows together and up, arms in a 90-degree angle. Keeping core stable, open elbows as wide as possible and then bring them together again. Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

2. Shoulder Rolls

How to: Start standing on the mat, feet hip-width apart, hands in fists by sides. Keeping core engaged, begin lifting shoulder toward ears. Pull shoulder blades back while opening chest. Then, pull shoulders down, away from ears. Bring shoulders forward, then lift back up toward ears and start over. Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

3. Jumping Jacks

How to: Start standing with hands by sides. Jump legs open, slightly wider than hip-distance, while bringing hands up overhead. Jump legs back together and arms down by sides, then repeat. Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

4. Inchworm Walkouts

How to: Start standing, then fold forward. Keeping legs straight (knees can be bent slightly if hamstrings are tight), begin walking hands out until shoulders are over wrists and body is straight. Walk hands back toward feet, keeping legs as straight as possible. Return to standing. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

5. Shoulder Taps

How to: Start in plank position, head in line with heels, shoulders over wrists, and feet hip-distance apart (feet can be wider if you need more stability). Bring right hand toward left shoulder, keeping core engaged to maintain still hips, then lower right hand back to ground. Bring left hand toward right shoulder, then bring left hand back down. Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, alternating sides, and then continue to the next move.

6. Downward Dog To Plank

How to: Start in plank position, feet hip-distance apart, hands shoulder-width apart. Lift hips to move into downward-facing dog pose, pointing tailbone up and pressing heels into the floor. Return to plank and repeat. Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

7. Alternating Military Press

How to: Start kneeling with right leg forward, tailbone tucked and core engaged. Bring elbows up and out so arms form 90-degree angles, like a field goal, with dumbbells in hands. Press right arm up to straight, until right bicep is near right ear. Lower to down to return to field goal position, then repeat on left arm. Continue alternating sides, completing as many reps as possible in 45 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then proceed to the next move.

8. Single-Arm Bent-Over Row On Right Side

How to: Start with feet hip distance apart, weight(s) in right hand. Hinge at the hips, keeping head in line with tailbone. Bracing core, pull right elbow back until right wrist is near ribs. Return to start to repeat. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds, and then rest for 10 seconds before proceeding to the next move.

9. Single-Arm Bent-Over Row On Left Side

How to: Start with feet hip distance apart, weight(s) in left hand. Hinge at the hips, keeping head in line with tailbone. Bracing core, pull left elbow back until left wrist is near ribs. Return to start to repeat. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds, and then rest for 10 seconds before proceeding to the next move.

10. Reverse Table Top Pull-Through

How to: Start in reverse table top position. Hips should be lifted, and shoulders should be over wrists, with knees over feet. Keep chest open so body is flat. Slowly lower hips down and through arms while extending legs and keeping hips off the ground. Pull body back through to start and repeat. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

15. Renegade Row

How to: Start in plank position, holding dumbbells in either hand on the ground. Pull right elbow toward the ceiling until right wrist is near ribs, then lower it down. Repeat on opposite side. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds, alternating sides. Rest for 10 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

16. Glute Bridge Chest Press

How to: Start by lying on back, knees bent, feet hip-distance apart and about 6 inches away from butt. Arms should be out to the sides like a field goal, with elbows at 90-degree angles and a dumbbell in each hand. Lift hips toward the ceiling, keeping core engaged. Hold the glute bridge as you lift weights to the ceiling, lower them back down, and repeat. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

17. Alternating Side Plank

How to: Start in plank position, shoulders over wrists and feet hip-width apart. Resting on balls of feet, rotate right arm up towards the ceiling, opening up the chest. Bring right hand back down to the ground, and switch sides. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds, alternating sides, and then continue to the next move.

18. Seated Arnold Press

How to: Start seated, legs out in front of you (you can have a bend in knees if it’s comfortable). Elbows should be at 90-degree angles in front of face, hands facing each other, with a dumbbell in each hand. Creating a slight upward arc motion, open elbows up to the sides until palms face forward. Brings elbows back together on same arc. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds, and then rest for 10 seconds before proceeding to the next move.

19. Renegade Row

How to: Start in plank position, holding dumbbells in either hand on the ground. Pull right elbow toward the ceiling until right wrist is near ribs, then lower it down. Repeat on opposite side. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds, alternating sides. Rest for 10 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

20. Glute Bridge Chest Press

How to: Start by lying on back, knees bent, feet hip-distance apart and about 6 inches away from butt. Arms should be out to the sides like a field goal, with elbows at 90-degree angles and a dumbbell in each hand. Lift hips toward the ceiling, keeping core engaged. Hold the glute bridge as you lift weights to the ceiling, lower them back down, and repeat. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

21. Alternating Side Plank

How to: Start in plank position, shoulders over wrists and feet hip-width apart. Resting on balls of feet, rotate right arm up towards the ceiling, opening up the chest. Bring right hand back down to the ground, and switch sides. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds, alternating sides, and then continue to the next move.

22. Seated Arnold Press

How to: Start seated, legs out in front of you (you can have a bend in knees if it’s comfortable). Elbows should be at 90-degree angles in front of face, hands facing each other, with a dumbbell in each hand. Creating a slight upward arc motion, open elbows up to the sides until palms face forward. Brings elbows back together on same arc. Complete as many reps as possible in 45 seconds, and then rest for 10 seconds before proceeding to the next move.

23. Dumbbell Leg Lowers

How to: Start by lying on the back. Keep hands straight and raised above shoulders, a dumbbell in each hand. Lift both legs up to the ceiling, legs at a 90-degree angle. With feet flexed, slowly lower right leg down. Bring right leg back up and repeat with left leg. Continue alternating legs for 30 seconds, then proceed to the next move.

24. Reverse Crunch

How to: Start lying on back, legs lifted so thighs are perpendicular to ground and knees are bent. Pressing lower back into mat, “curl” knees into chest to lift hips off the ground. Return to start with control. Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

25. Plank Hold

How to: Start lying face-down. Place forearms on ground so elbows are under shoulders, head is in line with heels, and feet are together (you can move them apart to make the move easier). Keep core engaged and tailbone tucked under. Hold for 30 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

26. Dumbbell Leg Lowers

How to: Start by lying on the back. Keep hands straight and raised above shoulders, a dumbbell in each hand. Lift both legs up to the ceiling, legs at a 90-degree angle. With feet flexed, slowly lower right leg down. Bring right leg back up and repeat with left leg. Continue alternating legs for 30 seconds, then proceed to the next move.

27. Reverse Crunch

How to: Start lying on back, legs lifted so thighs are perpendicular to ground and knees are bent. Pressing lower back into mat, “curl” knees into chest to lift hips off the ground. Return to start with control. Complete as many reps as possible in 30 seconds, and then continue to the next move.

28. Plank Hold

How to: Start lying face-down. Place forearms on ground so elbows are under shoulders, head is in line with heels, and feet are together (you can move them apart to make the move easier). Keep core engaged and tailbone tucked under. Hold for 30 seconds.

But wait, there’s (lots) more! This is just one of the four workouts in Women’s Health’s 30-day fitness challenge. Each week, you’ll tackle four different workouts: lower body, upper body, total body, and abs. They all follow the same format (six moves, six minutes, three rounds), and use the same equipment that you see in this workout. The only thing that will change throughout the month is the strength you feel—and the results you see! Join our Facebook group for daily motivation, progress checks, and more!

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Two Arm Row w/ Triceps Kickbacks

Remember those ’80’s workout videos, complete with leg warmers and repetitive bicep curls and a hot pink leotard? Thankfully, lifting weights has been updated since then, because strength training is vital to good health. Not only is it a great way to tone your muscles, but working out with weights will strengthen your bones, too.

Ladies, it’s time to pick up the dumbells and use those muscles. Start by keeping a few light free weights around your house and adding in several exercises a few times a week. Doing so will boost your energy level and mood, protect your bone health, and define your muscles. Guaranteed.

There was an old myth that lifting weights will bulk you up, but we promise that is not the case. Light weights with lots of repetition can tone, define, and strengthen your body.

Muscle mass keeps your metabolism at peak performance. What’s more, it makes you look (and feel) young and vibrant. Let’s avoid the unhealthy “skinny-fat” syndrome—a thin person who is weak is certainly not healthy. Build strength into your physique!

The following six compound exercises are quick and easy, perfect for those days when you can’t make it to the gym. Do the whole routine or squeeze in one or two each day. And of course, don’t forget your dumbells!

Start with 3lb or 5lb weights. Work up to 1 set of each exercise for 20 repetitions. You know you need to add more weight when it is too easy.

Tones upper back and back of arms.

Stand with a soft bend in knees
Tight core (belly button to spine)
Hinge forward at hips with a straight back

Reach down with both arms and pull elbows back and in squeezing should blades together. Maintain that position and straighten the elbows pushing the weights behind you. Retrace/reverse these steps with your arms back to start position. Repeat.

Two Arm Biceps Hammer Curl w/ Parallel Overhead Press

Tones front of arms and shoulders.

Stand with a soft bend in knees
Tight core (belly button to spine)

Arms start straight down at your sides, palms face in. Bend elbows, keeping tucked in at your sides until hands arrive at shoulders. With palms still facing in, press weights overhead. Retrace/reverse these steps with your arms back to start position. Repeat.

Two Arm Biceps Blast

Tones front of arms.

Stand with a soft bend in knees
Tight core (belly button to spine)

Hold weights in front of you, palms facing up and arms bent at 90 degree angle, elbows tucked in at rib cage, hold for 20-30 seconds. Keep elbows in place and open arms to the side as wide as possible without disconnecting elbows, hold for 20-30 seconds. Maintain this wide position and continue with a full range of motion wide bicep curl, opening and closing the elbow joint.

Push-ups

Tones chest, back of arms, and core.

Face down on floor

Advanced:
Assume the plank position, hands comfortable width but wider than should width apart. Tighten legs and core and then bend elbows toward 90 degree angle maintaining a straight body as far down an back up as possible. Repeat.
*Another option here is to lower your self all the way down in good form, and then set up again at the top to repeat.

Intermediate:
Same set up as above, but without shifting weight simply drop knees to floor forward of the knee caps, and continue to follow steps for advanced. Repeat.

Beginning:
Set up on all fours, knees under hips, hands comfortable width but wider than should width apart (wider may be better in this variation). Core remains tight and back straight. Bend elbows toward 90 degrees, aiming your nose to the floor, return to top. Repeat.

Starfish/Superman

Tones back muscles.

Face down on floor

Lay flat on the floor face down, arms extended overhead. Lift opposite arm and leg, creating lift and length. Release and switch sides, keep it moving. Hold “Superman” by lifting both arms and both legs for as long as you can. Your head can lift slightly for this part.

Side-lying Deltoid Raise

Tones shoulders and core.

Lie on your left side, rest your head on your left arm. Extend your right arm straight out on the floor, palm down holding weight. With slight bend in elbow, lift arm slowly, no further back than shoulder height. Return down slowly. Use your core to stabilize, so that your body doesn’t roll back and forth, only the arm is moving. Repeat. (Make sure to do other side.)

The 8 Minute, No Equipment Upper Body Workout

Whether you run, cycle or hike, your legs and lungs are accustomed to getting a good workout. But what about your upper body? Strong arms help hold you up while on the bike; they help you power up hills whether you’re running or walking. The good news is it doesn’t take long to firm your upper body—the following routine takes less than 10 minutes to complete.

Dara Theodore, trainer at The Fhitting Room in New York City, created this fast and effective arm workout that can be done anywhere. The routine below is divided into four circuits. Perform the exercises in each set back-to-back, then enjoy a quick break before moving on to the next circuit. You’ll end the workout with a quick round of burpees. (Sorry!) “I love combining exercises together because they not only target your arms, but engage your shoulders, back and your core, too. Ending the routine with burpees will give you a high-intensity, explosive finish that will leave you breathless,” Theodore explains.

The GIFs below will teach you how to perform each exercise. Do the entire workout once—it should take you about eight minutes, so no excuses! And if you’re looking for a crazy-tough routine, rest for 90 seconds, then repeat the entire circuit one more time.

Circuit 1

Diamond Push-Ups

Start in a plank position. Bring index fingers and thumbs to meet, forming a triangle under chest. Bend elbows and lower torso as close to ground as possible. Push through palms to straighten arms. Modify this move by dropping to knees. Do 10 reps.

Superman Holds With Squeeze

Lie face down on mat and hold arms out to sides at shoulder-height, thumbs facing up. Lift chest, arms and legs off ground simultaneously. Pause, then lower back to mat. Do 10 reps, then rest for 30 seconds.

Circuit 2

Plank Ups

Start in a forearm plank. Keeping abs tight and spine long, pick up right arm and right palm on ground. Repeat on left side, ending up in a high-plank position. Now reverse the movement, replacing right palm with right elbow and left palm with left elbow. That’s 1 rep. Be sure to keep hips still and facing the ground throughout the routine. Do 10 reps, alternating starting arms with each rep.

Inchworm to Push-Up

Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Hinge forward at hips and place palms on floor, bending knees as needed to reach. Walk hands forward so that you’re in a plank position. Do 1 push-up, keeping elbows close to torso, dropping to knees if needed. Walk hands back toward feet and stand up. That’s 1 rep. Do 10 total. Rest for 30 seconds.

Circuit 3

Dive Bomber Push-Up

Start in a downward facing dog position. Sweep chest down and through arms lowering through a push-up. Straighten arms end in a cobra position. Now push through palms and hips to return to downward facing dog. That’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

Tricep Dips

Stand in front of a chair or couch seat. Place hands on seat with fingers pointing forward. Keep back flat and walk legs out in front of body. Bend arms and lower butt toward ground, being sure to keep elbows directly behind body. Straighten arms to complete 1 rep. Do 10 reps.

Circuit 4

Burpees

Your favorite. Our favorite.

Start standing. Squat down until hands touch floor and kick feet back into a plank position. Drop chest to floor, then jump feet wide, then to the sides of hands, then back to standing position. Jump up and immediately move to the next rep. Do as many reps as you can for one minute. Your goal: Do at least 15 reps.

To see a video of the entire workout, click here.

The Best Upper Body Workout for Men of All Shapes and Sizes

No matter who you are or what stage of life you’re in when you step into the gym or read articles on fitness, you’re in one frame of mind: to improve.

Improvements can mean a physical change or a mental change, but all for the better.

For men who are just starting their fitness journeys or for those who are further along and looking to sculpt, these upper body workouts are a great place to start improving.

When you tone your upper body, your entire frame takes shape.

Toning your shoulders and arms are the first step to creating the coveted inverted triangle body type. To take the geometry lesson out of it, what we’re working towards is a built up upper body and a lean midsection.

Learn from our favorite upper body workouts below and make a plan for how you can improve your overall physique.

5 Best Muscle Building Exercises for

men Over 40

It’s 100% possible to build muscle – at any age – with the proper methods.

Weighted Upper Body Workout For Men

Using weights is one of the best ways to challenge our muscles and increase mass.

Pick your favorite weighted upper body workout for men out of our list below, or mix and match to form your own set for weight training day.

Shoulder Presses

Hold dumbbells in each hand with your feet shoulder width apart. Raise your arms to look like goal posts, with a 90-degree angle from your upper arm to your forearm. Then, raise your arms up straight to fully extend your arms.

Bent Over Rows

Stand upright while holding dumbbells in each hand. Bend at the waist so that your torso goes forward while maintaining a straight back. Start with your arms hanging in front of you in a straight line, then bring them up so that you keep your elbows close to your body. Make sure to squeeze your back muscles before letting your arms go back to their resting position.

Upright Rows

While standing upright, hold two dumbbells at your side. Use the muscles in your sides and shoulders to lift the dumbbells straight up, towards your chin. Hold briefly at the top and bring your arms back down to the starting position.

Bench Press

Lie with your back down on a bench with a weighted barbell and keep a slight arch in your back. Place your hands just outside of your shoulders. Grip the barbell with your hand and wrap your thumb. Use your chest, back, and arms to lift the barbell off the rack, and lower down to your chest. Continue this movement until you’ve reached your desired reps.

Dumbbell Flyes

Lie on a bench with dumbbells in each hand and resting on your thighs. Have your palms facing each other. Keep a small bend in your elbow as you open both arms out to the sides, tensing your biceps and chest. Lower back to your point of relief and continue to reach your desired reps.

Body Weight Upper Body Workout For Men

Alternatively, using your own body weight can be an effective way to secure lean muscle mass.

The added benefit of all of these bodyweight upper body workouts for men is that you get to engage your core and work on balance as you perfect your frame.

Tricep Dips

Start sitting on a bench or chair, then scoot yourself forward so your hands are resting on the bench with fingers pointing forwards. Keep your legs extended out in front of you. To do the tricep dips, bend your elbows and then straighten up, always keeping a small bend in your elbows to keep pressure off of your joints.

Push-ups

Get into a plank position with your arms extending straight down from your shoulders and your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Tighten your quads and abs before doing any push-up movements. Once you’re tense throughout your body, lower your entire body like a board near the floor and push back up. Only do as many reps that you can do without losing tense, correct form.

Climber Push-ups

To further engage your triceps and shoulders while doing push-ups, try the climber variation. Get into the proper plank position with your forearms on the ground. Then, push one arm up to place your hand on the mat, and then the other. After you’ve pushed up this way, lower back down to the mat with your forearms, one by one.

Planks

Place your hands or forearms on the ground, directly below your shoulders. Keep your arms just past shoulder width apart. Hold this position for intervals of 30 to 60 seconds, with your back, core, and quads tightened.

Side Planks

To further engage your triceps and lats, transfer your original plank to your side. Do this by stacking one foot on top of the other and transferring all your weight to one forearm or one hand.

Extra Credit Upper Body Workout For Men

While bicep curls and shoulder presses are essential to building your frame, these “extra credit” workouts provide additional toning down your back to finish the job.

These combination exercises will help you feel like you got a full body workout in while allowing you to focus on your upper body.

Squats

Using a weighted barbell placed on your shoulders and your feet a bit wider than your shoulders, lower your rear into the squat position. As you rise out of the squat, ensure that your posture is upright and bearing the weight properly.

Power Clean

Lower yourself into a squat with a barbell at your feet. Take hold of the bar and as you stand up, pull the bar up while keeping it close to your body. As it reaches your chin, flip your elbows down so that your palms are now facing upwards. Extra points if you conclude the power clean with a shoulder press.

Bench Press with Leg Raise

Add onto your usual bench press. On a bench, while holding a barbell, do a normal bench press with your legs directly in front of you, up about 45 degrees from the floor. On your next bench press, lift your legs 90 degrees from the bench while you push up on the barbell. Lower them in one movement.

It’s “Up” To You Now

Feeling inspired? It’s time to hit the gym, the park, your garage, or anywhere you can find space to work out your upper body.

When you work to improve your body, and especially your frame, you’ll not only be working on your physique but on your mental health.

It’s important to look and feel our best at any age. It brings confidence and contentment when you know you’ve worked to better yourself.

If you work through our favorite upper body workouts, we encourage you to check out our FREE muscle workout for men over 40.


It’s 100% possible to build muscle – at any age – with the proper methods.

The secrets to the top 5 muscle-building workouts that will carry you through your 40s, 50s, and 60s are all there.

Your friend in health,
Dr. Anthony Balduzzi
Founder, The Fit Father Project
Brotherhood Nickname: “Mr. Results”
Bragging Rights: Has helped over 10,000 fathers lose over 75,000 lbs and rebuild lean muscle

If you’re interested in a completely laid out “done-for-you” muscle building program – designed especially for you as a busy man over 50…

Then I’d recommend you read the program overview letter for our Old School Muscle Program (OSM).

Inside OSM, you’ll receive:

  • The simple & delicious Muscle Building Meal Plan
  • The awesome Old School Muscle workout plans
  • Full Muscle Gain supplement guide
  • Key accountability steps to help you through your journey

Read the Old School Muscle Program overview letter here to see how our plan can help you gain lean, solid muscle and keep you training safely and effectively… whatever your age!

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UPPER BODY WORKOUTS

  • March 7, 2019March 7, 2019
  • By rop
  • 0 Comments

The Best Upper Body Workouts For Men

A mans chest and arm area is one of the most attractive parts of the upper body. A research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B stated that the biggest predictor of how attractive the men were to the women in the study was their perceived physical strength. The men thought to be the strongest made up 70 percent of the men thought to be the most attractive.

The upper-body proclaim that their owner works out, takes care of himself, and has a solid measure of strength. If you are reading this and thinking “but i don’t have biceps does that mean I am unattractive?” Well Of-course not! In this article we will focus on key arm exercises for the gym that are definitely geared toward getting you ripped.

Barbell Bicep Curls

Sets: Four reps of 15.

Execution: Grasp a pull-up bar with a shoulder-width underhand grip. With elbows to side, raise the bar until forearms are vertical. Lower until arms are fully extended. Repeat 14 times. Rest. Start your second set.

Skull Crushers

Sets: Four reps of 15.

Execution: Lie back on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Hold the weights over your chest, palms facing each other. Bend your elbows and lower the weights to the sides of your head. Return to start. Repeat movement 14 times for one rep.

Dumbell Alternate Curl

Sets: Four reps of 12.

Execution: Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length. Keeping the upper arms stationary, exhale and curl the weights while contracting your biceps. Inhale and slowly begin to lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat 11 more times for one rep.

Underhand Kick Backs

Sets: Four reps of 15.

Execution: Stand up holding a dumbbell in each hand and bend over to a parallel position. Turn your palms to face in front of you and, keeping your upper arms against your sides, extend your elbows until reaching a full contraction of the triceps. Repeat 14 times and rest to complete one rep.

These are some of the best beginner workouts that can help you work on your upper body. We have a modernly equipped gym with highly qualified trainers offering personalized services to the clients. Enroll today!

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The Best Upper-Body Workout

Do you want to add a serious amount of lean muscle mass in just 28 days? Then you’ve come to the right place because this four-week, 16-session training plan will do exactly that by pushing your body harder than it’s ever been pushed before. After all, getting out of your comfort zone and doing something you’ve not done before is the key to making rapid progress.

The way this programme has been designed – with two sessions a week that work your chest and back directly, and two that work your arms both directly and indirectly – will mean you add significant muscle mass across your torso, while the high-intensity weights workouts will also strip away excess body fat. The result? A brand new body.

How The Plan Works

To add as much lean muscle mass as possible over the next 28 days, while also stripping off body fat, it’s important you follow this training plan as closely as possible. It’s been designed to tax your major muscle groups, especially your chest and back, to radically transform how you look shirtless.

The four-week plan is made up of four sessions a week, which you will ideally do on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

The Monday session targets your chest and back; the Wednesday one your legs and shoulders; the Friday session your chest and triceps; and the Saturday one your back and biceps.

This means you’ll work your major upper-body muscles either directly or indirectly twice a week, and it’s this big increase in training volume that will stimulate these muscles into growing bigger quickly.

Each workout is made up of five moves. The first two moves form a superset and the final three moves make up a tri-set. Do the reps and rest period for move 1A followed by 1B, then repeat that sequence until all the sets of each move have been completed. Then do the same for exercises 2A, 2B and 2C. This approach increases the amount of time per session you are working rather than resting, which will not only keep your muscles stimulated for longer but also keep your heart rate high to increase the rate of fat burn.

Tempo Training

To get the full effect from these workouts, you need to stick to the four-digit tempo code for each exercise. The first digit indicates how long in seconds you take to lower the weight, the second how long you pause at the bottom of the move, the third how long you take to lift the weight, and the final digit how long you pause at the top.

The accumulated time under tension increases your heart rate to burn body fat and break down muscle tissue so it’s rebuilt bigger and stronger. Keep each rep smooth and controlled so your muscles – not momentum – do the work, and move through a full range of motion.

How To Warm Up

You don’t have to warm up for the workouts on this plan. You can go straight in at exercise 1 and blast your way through, see if we care. Just don’t come crying to us the next day when you’re suffering with crippling upper-body DOMS and unable to lift your arms above your shoulders.

Reduced muscle soreness isn’t the only reason to get a good warm-up before starting the workouts, either. Proper prep will allow you to begin your workout ready to lift big and get the maximum benefits, rather than creaking your way through the first couple of sets unable to perform the way you had planned.

Since this an upper-body focused plan, the standard weightlifting warm-up – five minutes on the treadmill – is even more useless than normal. You need to use the muscles you’re actually intending to use in the workout itself. This gym warm-up starts with a range of dynamic stretches that get muscles all over the body moving. Once you’ve done that, complete your prep with some exercise-specific warm-ups. Look at the exercises you have lined up in your workout and then do moves that hit the same muscles. One of the easiest ways to do this is to perform a set or two of each exercise using a light weight or no weight at all.

Upper-Body Workout 1: Chest and Back

1A Bench press

Sets 8 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 30sec

Lie on a flat bench, holding a barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip. Brace your core and press your feet into the ground, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start.

1B Bent-over row

Sets 8 Reps 8 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a barbell using a shoulder-width overhand grip, hands just outside your legs. Bend your knees slightly, then bend forwards, hingeing from the hips and keeping your shoulder blades back. Pull the bar up towards your sternum, leading with your elbows, then lower it back to the start.

2A Chin-up

Sets 3 Reps 6 Tempo 2011 Rest 20sec

Hold a chin-up bar using a shoulder-width underhand grip. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chin is higher than the bar, keeping your elbows tucked in to your body. Lower until your arms are straight again.

2B Incline flye

Sets 3 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 20sec

Lie on an incline bench holding a dumbbell in each hand above your face, with your palms facing and a slight bend in your elbows. Lower them to the sides, then bring them back to the top.

2C Diamond press-up

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2110 Rest 60sec

Start in a press-up position but with your thumbs and index fingers touching to form a diamond. Keeping your hips up and core braced, bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor. Push down through your hands to return to the start.

Upper-Body Workout 2: Legs and Shoulders

1A Back squat

Sets 8 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 30sec

Stand tall with feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell across the back of your shoulders. Keeping your chest up and core braced, squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Drive back up through your heels to return to the start.

1B Overhead press

Sets 8 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell across the top of your chest with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up and core braced, press the bar overhead until your arms are straight, then lower it back to the start.

2A Barbell split squat

Sets 3 Reps 6 each side Tempo 2010 Rest 20sec

Stand tall with feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, holding a bar across the back of your shoulders. Keeping your chest up, take a big step forwards with your right foot, then bend both knees to 90°. Drive back through your right foot to return to the start. Repeat for six reps, then switch legs and do another six reps with your left foot forward.

2B Barbell high pull

Sets 3 Reps 8 Tempo 1010 Rest 20sec

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with an overhand grip and arms straight. Keeping your chest up and core braced, pull the bar upwards, leading with your elbows, until it reaches chin height. Then lower it back to the start.

2C Lateral raise

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Stand tall, holding a light dumbbell in each hand by your sides, palms facing each other. Keeping your chest up, your core braced and a slight bend in your elbows, raise the weights out to shoulder height. Turn your thumbs down at the top, then lower them back to the start.

Upper-Body Workout 3: Chest and Triceps

Sets 8 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 30sec

Lie on a flat bench, holding a bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart using an overhand grip. Brace your core and press your feet into the ground, then lower the bar towards your chest. Press it back up to the start.

1B Seated dumbbell overhead press

Sets 8 Reps 8 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Sit on an upright bench holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height, palms facing forwards. Keeping your chest up, press the weights directly overhead until your arms are straight, then lower them back to the start.

2A Hammer-grip dumbbell bench press

Sets 3 Reps 6 Tempo 2010 Rest 20sec

Lie on a flat bench, holding dumbbells by your shoulders with palms facing. Drive your feet into the floor and press the weights straight up, then lower them slowly back to the start.

2B Dumbbell triceps extension

Sets 3 Reps 8 Tempo 1010 Rest 20sec

Stand tall holding a dumbbell in each hand over your head, arms straight. Keeping your chest up, core braced and elbows pointing up, lower the weights behind your head, then return to the start.

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2010 Rest 60sec

Start in a press-up position but with your thumbs and index fingers touching to form a diamond. Keeping your hips up and core braced, bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor. Push down through your hands to return to the start.

Upper-Body Workout 4: Back and Biceps

1A Pull-up

Sets 8 Reps 8 Tempo 2011 Rest 30sec

Hold a pull-up bar using an overhand grip with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your lower chest touches the bar. Lower until your arms are straight again.

1B Barbell biceps curl

Sets 8 Reps 8 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold a barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart using an underhand grip. Keeping your chest up, core braced and elbows tucked in to your sides, curl the bar up to your chest, squeezing your biceps as you go. Lower it back to the start.

Sets 3 Reps 6 Tempo 2011 Rest 20sec

Hold a chin-up bar using a shoulder-width underhand grip. Brace your core, then pull yourself up until your chin is higher than the bar, keeping your elbows tucked in to your body. Lower until your arms are straight again.

2B Reverse-grip bent-over row

Sets 3 Reps 8 Tempo 2011 Rest 30sec

Hold a bar using a shoulder-width underhand grip, hands just outside your legs. Bend your knees slightly, then bend forwards, hingeing at the hips and keeping your shoulder blades back. Pull the bar up towards your sternum, leading with your elbows, then lower it back to the start.

2C Dumbbell biceps curl

Sets 3 Reps 12 Tempo 2011 Rest 60sec

Hold dumbbells by your sides with straight arms, palms facing forwards. Keeping your chest up, core braced and elbows tucked in to your sides, curl the weights up, squeezing your biceps as you go. Then lower them back to the start.

What Next?

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Build That Freaky Upper Body With This Workout!

Growing a physique that’s not just eye-catching, but downright freakily amazing, doesn’t happen by accident. It takes hard work, but also a smart approach to splitting up your training. The Bodybuilding.com BodyFit Elite program FreakMode: Alex Savva’s 12-Week Fitness Plan will give you both.

For the first four weeks, the program is designed to help stimulate growth by attacking body parts as a group based on prime movers and their synergists. For example, the chest is a prime mover (main muscle) on a bench press, while the shoulders and triceps are synergists (assisting muscles).

Because the synergist muscles are targeted during every exercise prescribed in each workout, they’ll be close to exhaustion by the time you work them individually. That means you’ll only need to do a few sets to finish them off.

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This workout, from Day 1 of FreakMode, shouldn’t take you more than 30-45 minutes. Keep the rest periods short so the sets are intense and effective. By increasing the demand of the work, you effectively increase the stress to your body, which is exactly what will cause your muscles to grow and your fat to evaporate.

Exercise Alternatives

  • Incline dumbbell press: incline bench, chest press
  • Dumbbell fly: incline fly, pec-deck
  • Close-grip push-up: close-grip bench press
  • Standing dumbbell shoulder press: seated dumbbell shoulder press, barbell shoulder press
  • Triceps press-down: skullcrusher, cable overhead triceps extension
  • Bilateral triceps kick-back: cable single-arm kick-back, dumbbell overhead triceps extension

Chest, Shoulders & Triceps 1 5 sets, 6-8 reps (Rest 1 min between sets)+ 7 more exercises

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If you want an effective upper body workout optimized for muscle growth, then you need to read this article.

When it comes to picking a workout split that maximizes muscle growth, there’s a lot of factors that need to be considered.

But due to the optimal training frequency and realistic time commitment of an upper lower split, it makes it an effective split for many lifters that can be easily adjusted based on your training experience.

I’ve personally incorporated upper lower splits into my own training regimen for the past couple years and here’s where it’s gotten me (naturally, of course!):
There’s no doubt it works.

But the key is choosing the right upper body exercises to make up your science based workout. In this article, I’ll show you exactly how to do just that in a way that’s backed by science.

…and stick around to the end of the article where I’ll provide you with a free downloadable PDF of the upper body workout that you can start using at the gym right away!

What is an Upper Lower Split?

First off, for those who are unaware, an upper lower split simply involves splitting up your workouts into upper and lower body workout days. Often 2 of each is performed every week. Ideally, you’d want to organize the split like so:

Sample Upper Lower Split

WEDNESDAY – REST

SATURDAY/SUNDAY – REST

Although the exact days for each workout is not important, it’s best to include a rest day after two consecutive days of training to allow sufficient recovery.

How to Set Up Your Upper Body Workouts

Now as for the best exercises to include in your upper body workouts, a good way to set it up is by sticking to the following guideline:

Horizontal Push (e.g. dumbbell press)

Accessory Movements (biceps, triceps, etc.)

Choosing your exercises in this fashion ensures that your muscles are worked in a balanced manner. This helps prevent imbalances from developing and helps target all of the upper body musculature. This also prevents certain stabilizer muscles from being overworked, since each plane of movement is addressed.
So with that being said, let’s take a look at what the optimal workout might look like.

Exercise 1 (Horizontal Push) – Incline Dumbbell Press

Through the added shoulder flexion of this movement, incline dumbbell presses will put more emphasis on the clavicular head of the pecs, or the upper chest, which is more often than not a weak point for most people.
One EMG analysis by Bret Contreras found that out of 15 different chest exercises, incline dumbbell presses were found to be the most effective compound movement for upper chest activation.
Therefore, by starting with this exercise you’re able to effectively prioritize the upper chest.
And since utilizing dumbbells as opposed to a barbell more effectively prevents muscle imbalances from occurring and allows a greater range of motion, it makes incline dumbbell presses the ideal option for the horizontal push exercise of this workout.

Best Incline Setting

Now as for the best incline setting, research tends to show that the optimal bench angle is between 30 to 56 degrees.
I’ve personally found the best activation with a 30 degree incline, but experiment with it and see what best activates your chest (For more exercises, check out my article on the best chest workout for mass)

Exercise 2 (Horizontal Row) – Chest Supported Row

You want to move onto a horizontal rowing movement for your next upper body exercise.
As noted in my back workout article, my personal favorite is the chest-supported row which will effectively target pretty much all of the upper back musculature.
One study by Lehman and colleagues found that rowing movements provide similar levels of lat activation as lat pulldowns but more activation in other areas of the back like the traps and rhomboids.
Therefore, it’s essential to include at least one rowing exercise in your routine for both back width and thickness.
I suggest using some form of a chest-supported row in this upper body workout because it helps minimize the involvement of the lower back – which as you’ll see will be heavily involved in the next exercise.

Other Exercises

Other exercises like the barbell row do have their place for back development. But given that research shows they elicit high lower back involvement relative to other back exercises, their inclusion in an upper body workout needs to be carefully thought out.

Exercise 3 (Vertical Push) – Standing Overhead Press

Next you want to move onto a vertical pressing movement.
The overhead press is an ideal choice due to the ability to easily overload it with weight and target several muscles at once.
It mainly targets the anterior deltoid with some involvement of the lateral and posterior heads. It also heavily stresses the core, the triceps, and the serratus anterior muscle to help push and stabilize the weight overhead.
And, as explained in my shoulder workout article, I’d argue it’s the only upper body exercise needed for the anterior deltoid.
This is because studies like this one by Behren & buskies found the overhead press to be the best exercise for the anterior deltoid. It was shown to outperform dumbbell front raises by 41%!
Thus, this exercise is plenty of volume for your anterior deltoids.

Exercise 4 (Vertical Pull) – Pull-ups OR Lat-Pulldowns

Finally, you want to move onto a vertical pulling movement.
For those who are capable, I’d suggest adding in pull-ups given that they work pretty much all of your back musculature and also heavily involve your shoulder and scapular stabilizers.
One study by Ness and colleagues found that pull-ups elicit similar lat activation as lat-pull downs but more biceps involvement.
In addition, one study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning showed that subjects were able to pull 25% greater total weight with pull-ups as compared to lat pulldowns.
Therefore, one could make a case for the superiority of pull-ups to lat pulldowns.
But given that pull-ups are generally a lot more fatiguing, lat pull downs might be the better option here given that the previous upper body exercises are quite energy demanding.
So it’s really up to you, but again, including both in your weekly routine is definitely the best option.

Exercise 5 (Accessory Movement)– Incline Dumbbell Curls

The next two exercises are optional accessory movements for your upper body workout. These are more applicable for intermediate/advanced lifters as opposed to beginners, but I’ll talk more about this towards the end of the article.
With that being said, for the biceps, my go-to choice would be the incline dumbbell curl. As noted in my biceps workout, it preferentially emphasizes the long head of the biceps which often doesn’t get as much attention.

Journal of Sports Science and Medicine Study

And as shown in this study from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, it enables the biceps to be active throughout the whole range of motion. This is beneficial since many biceps exercises only elicit high biceps activation at the start or end of the movement.
Since this exercise targets the long head of the biceps, you could simply choose a biceps exercise that emphasizes the short head on your other upper body day during the week. This way, both heads will be developed in a balanced manner overtime.

Exercise 6 (Accessory Movement) – Incline Overhead Dumbbell Extensions

Similar to the biceps, due to the flexed position of the shoulder, this exercise is going to emphasize the long head of the triceps. The long head head doesn’t get much attention otherwise, which is why I suggest including this exercise.
Dumbbell extensions on a inclined bench are a good way to prevent muscle imbalances from occurring and minimizing the momentum used. And the incline of the bench helps put the shoulder in an even more flexed position, leading to greater emphasis on the long head.
But keep in mind that any tricep exercise that involves shoulder flexion (where the arm is raised overhead) will effectively target the long head. There’s a variety of exercises that do this, so experiment and see which you like best.

Upper Body Workouts Based on Your Training Level

So to sum up the video, if you’re a more intermediate or advanced lifter, here’s what your upper body workout could look like.

Intermediate or Advanced Lifter Version:

Incline Dumbbell Press: 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps

Pull-ups OR Lat Pulldowns: 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps

Incline Dumbbell Extensions: 2 sets of 10-15 reps

You could also add face pulls or chest flies as an additional exercise if you feel that your rear delts or chest needs more work.
On the other hand, if you’re a beginner and just starting out then this upper body routine will be excessive in volume.
Research has shown that for beginners, isolation exercises don’t provide more muscle growth when compound movements are already used.
Therefore, rather than performing the 2 or 3 extra isolation movements, I’d simply stick to the 4 main upper compound exercises like so.

Beginner Lifter Split:

Pull-ups OR Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

And as for your second workout during the week, you want to stick to the same general outline I showed earlier in this video but switch up the exercises.

For example, these exercises are a good option for your next upper body workout during the week as they compliment the ones I mentioned in this video.

New Exercises For Your Second Workout

There’s endless possibilities when it comes to structuring your workouts. So experiment with different exercises but stick to the general outline I mentioned earlier.

YouTube Video

See below for my upper body workout video that summarizes everything visually, and shows you how to properly execute each upper body exercise:

I’ve also made a free Downloadable Upper Body PDF Routine that you guys can access below:

Within the downloadable PDF, you’ll have access to the full workout with exercise tips, a progression scheme to use, and insight into how to set up your other upper body day.

It’s useful to have at the gym when you perform each exercise, so I highly suggest you at least check it out!

Feel free to let me know if you have any questions down below. And give me a follow on Instagram , Facebook , and Youtube where I’ll be posting informative content on a more regular basis. Cheers!

The Best Upper Body Workout Routine and Exercises Within the downloadable PDF, you’ll have access to the full workout with exercise tips.

This Is The Last Upper Body Workout You’ll Ever Need

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Let’s face it.

The reason most of us (guys, at least) got into working out is to get an impressive upper body.

We want that armor-plated chest and sexy v-taper, and those bulging biceps, “3D” delts, and washboard abs.

If you’re looking for help with this, though, chances are you’ve found it more difficult than you expected.

I know how that goes.

I was once stuck in a rut, hopping from one workout program and supplement, to another, without much to show for it.

This went on for years, but fortunately, I finally decided to educate myself in the real science of fat loss and muscle building, and here’s where I’m at now:

A photo posted by Mike Matthews (@muscleforlifefitness) on Oct 27, 2016 at 12:43pm PDT

And in this article, I’m going to teach you the most important things I’ve learned about building a strong, muscular upper body, and I’m going to give you an effective upper body workout that will get the needle moving right away.

I have good news, too.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to live in the gym and suffer through hours and hours of grueling workouts every week to get the body you really want.

You have to work hard, yes, but it doesn’t have to take forever, and you can actually enjoy the process along the way.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

The Primary Muscles Involved in Upper Body Workouts

A good upper body workout trains several major muscle groups:

  • Chest
  • Back
  • Shoulders
  • Arms
  • Core

Each of these are best trained by different exercises, and each have “special needs” if you’re going to achieve maximal development and definition.

Let’s take a minute to review them separately.

The Best Way to Train Your Chest

The muscles we’re most concerned with in our chest training are the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.

If you work on developing those two muscles, you’ll eventually get the chest you really want.

If you’re a guy, you’re also going to want to know about the “upper chest” that so many people argue about.

Some say it exists, others say it doesn’t, some say you can emphasize it in your training, others say you can’t.

Well, the truth is this:

There is an “upper chest,” but it’s not a separate muscle.

It’s just a portion of the pec major called the clavicular head, and it looks like this:

While it’s technically part of the pec major, its muscle fibers are at a different angle, which means it doesn’t respond to chest exercises in the same way as the larger portion.

This is why research shows that certain exercises, like the flat and decline bench press, emphasize the main (large) portion of the chest muscle, whereas others, like the incline and reverse-grip bench press, emphasize the smaller upper portion.

Notice that I said emphasize and not isolate.

That’s because all chest exercises that emphasize one portion of the muscle do, to some degree, involve the others.

Nevertheless, one of the most important lessons I learned about building a chest is this:

Ideal chest development requires a lot of emphasis on the clavicular head of the “upper chest.”

Fortunately, this is easy to program for because the exercises that accomplish this are also all-around effective chest exercises.

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The Best Way to Train Your Back

The bulk of your back is comprised of several muscles:

  • Trapezius (traps)
  • Rhomboids
  • Teres major and minor
  • Infraspinatus
  • Latissimus dorsi (lats)
  • Erector spinae (iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis muscles)

The upper portion of your back is referred to as the thoracic spine, and it includes the trapezius, rhomboids, teres muscles, infraspinatus, and lats.

Here’s how it looks:

And the lower portion is referred to as the lumbar spine, which is mainly the erector spinae muscles shown here:

As far as back training goes, here’s the brass ring we’re striving toward:

  • Well-developed traps that form the centerpiece of the upper back.
  • Rhomboids that create deep “valleys” when flexed.
  • Wide, long lats that give us the V-taper we all love.
  • Well-developed teres and infraspinatus muscles that pop.
  • Thick erector spinae that turn the lower back into a “Christmas tree.”

Here’s where I’m at with mine:

A video posted by Mike Matthews (@muscleforlifefitness) on Apr 2, 2016 at 6:43am PDT

Now, people new to weightlifting tend to neglect their backs, mostly because you don’t see it in the mirror, so how important can it really be, right? 🙂

I can sympathize because I’ve been there myself (I hadn’t done a single deadlift until a few years ago), so let me assure you firsthand that this is a mistake.

Skipping your back training produces muscle imbalances that eventually look weird, and increase your risk of injury (too much pressing and too little pulling is bad news for your shoulders).

That’s why many respected weightlifting coaches recommend that you pull at least as much as you press, if not more, and why my upper body workouts always involve a good amount of back training to offset the pressing.

The Best Way to Train Your Shoulders

Your shoulders are comprised of several muscles, with the three largest being the deltoids:

  • Anterior deltoid
  • Lateral deltoid
  • Posterior deltoid

(The rotator cuff muscles are also a part of the shoulder, but they don’t necessarily require special emphasis in your training until you’re an experienced weightlifter.)

The most important thing that you need to know about shoulder training is you have to work on developing all three deltoids, and especially the lateral and posterior muscles, because if these two are lagging, your shoulders never quite look right.

Many people think all they need for complete shoulder development is the military press, but this is rarely the case.

Overhead pressing is great for developing your anterior deltoids, but you can OHP until your arms fall off and still never get those round, “capped” delts that make jaws drop. For that, you have to include exercises specifically meant to target those muscles, like the lateral and rear delt raise.

The Best Way to Train Your Arms

As you may already know, the major arm muscles are the biceps, triceps, and forearms.

The biceps (or, technically, the biceps brachii) is a two-headed muscle that looks like this:

Another muscle that comes into play here is the biceps brachialis, which sits beneath the biceps brachii and helps flex the elbow.

Here’s how it looks:

This muscle isn’t nearly as obvious as the biceps brachii, but it helps shape the overall look of your arms by propping up your “biceps speak,” and helps visually separate your biceps from the triceps.

Here’s a picture of me that I think shows this nicely:

Next on the list is the unsung hero of the arms: the triceps.

As you can see, this is a three-headed muscle that, unbeknownst to many, makes up about 2/3 of the size of your arms.

That’s right—the easiest way to add size to your arms isn’t curling, but training your triceps.

When properly developed, the three heads of this muscle form the distinctive “horseshoe” that no arms are complete without.

Finally, we have the forearms, which are comprised of several smaller muscles:

I like to think of forearms as the calves of the upper body.

They’re often ignored, and when they’re under-developed, it sticks out like a turd in a punchbowl. If they’re on point, though, you’re the envy of the gym.

That said, I’m actually not a fan of doing much in the way of forearm exercises (unless you’re looking to strengthen your grip) for two reasons:

  1. It’s not necessary if you’re training the rest of your upper body correctly. Your forearms will naturally develop alongside everything else.
  1. It can be hard on your elbows, causing joint pain and interfering with the rest of your training.

Now, many people will say that you don’t need to directly train any of your arms muscles if you’re training the rest of your upper body correctly.

That is, they say that heavy pressing alone is enough to give you great triceps, and heavy pulling is enough for great biceps

I disagree.

I’ve worked with thousands of people and I can probably count on one hand the number for whom this was true. The vast majority simply couldn’t get their arms up to snuff without targeting their biceps and triceps in their training.

So, if your arms need more inches, then you can’t afford to neglect them in your upper body workouts.

The Best Way to Train Your Core Muscles

Finally, we arrive at the showpiece: the core.

Now, if there’s one muscle group that’s identified with “fit” more than any other, it’s the abs. Everybody wants ‘em, but very few people get ‘em.

The most famous muscle of the region is the rectus abdominis, which is what we’re referring to when we talk about “abs.”

A well-developed core has more than just a well-defined rectus abdominis, though.

There are several other muscles that, when developed, complete the look, including the obliques, transverse abdominis (TVA), and serratus.

Now, the first mistake most people make in their quest for a six pack is they just don’t get lean enough.

The abs don’t become pronounced in men until around 10% body fat, and in women until around 20%, regardless of how many crunches you do.

It’s also commonly believed that ab workouts are unnecessary if you do a lot of heavy compound weightlifting.

The idea is that because exercises like the squat, deadlift, and overhead press engage the core muscles, there’s no need to train them separately.

This is mostly false.

Similar to arms, most people will find that they need to directly train their abs and core to get the cut, chiseled look they really want.

The Simple Science of Effective Upper Body Training

There are many ways to train the muscles in your upper body.

You can do bodyweight exercises, machines, or free weights. You can use lighter weights for more reps or heavier weights for fewer. You can train your upper body once, twice, or thrice per week, or even more frequently.

What’s best way?

Well, I’ve helped thousands of people of all ages and circumstances build muscle and lose fat faster than ever before, and here are the biggest lessons that I’ve learned:

1. You want to do a lot of heavy compound weightlifting.

The best types of workout programs for natural weightlifters are those that focus on heavy compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and military press.

Sure, you can gain muscle and strength in many different ways, but decades of scientific and anecdotal evidence have conclusively proven that this is the most effective approach.

The reason heavy compound weightlifting is so powerful is simple: it’s the best way to progressively overload your muscles.

That is, it’s the best way to increase tension levels in your muscles over time, which is the primary driver of muscle growth.

This is why your number one goal in your resistance training is to increase whole-body strength, and why the strongest people in the gym are also generally the biggest.

2. You want to make sure your weekly volume is right.

By “weekly volume,” I’m referring to the total number of reps that you perform for each major muscle group each week.

If you do too little work on any muscle group, it’ll progress slower than it could, and if you do too much, you’ll eventually run into problems related to overtraining.

Now, the first thing that you should know about training volume is this:

The heavier you train, the lower your weekly volume needs to be.

The reason for this is it takes your muscles and body longer to recover from heavy weightlifting than lighter lifting. This is why popular powerlifting programs look so austere compared to the nonsense you find in most bodybuilding magazines.

The subject of optimal training volume is rather complex, but here’s what you need to know for the purposes of this article:

Research shows that when you’re using weights in the range of 60 to 85% of one-rep max, optimal volume appears to be in the range of 60 to 180 reps per major muscle group per week.

As you can guess, the lower end of this range corresponds with the heaviest weights, and the higher end with the lightest.

Now, if you’re worried that this means I’m going to ask you to do 3-hour upper body workouts a few days per week, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Instead, I’m going to ask you to do a handful of compound exercises that train multiple major muscle groups at the same time, allowing you to rack up volume across your entire upper body much faster than you can with isolation exercises.

For example, while the bench press primarily trains the pecs and triceps, it also heavily involves the anterior deltoids, which means you don’t need to do as much direct shoulder training to give them the volume they need to grow bigger and stronger.

Alright, so now that we’ve covered our fundamental training philosophy for our upper body workouts, let’s talk exercises.

The Best Upper Body Exercises

There are literally thousands of upper body exercises to choose from, and just as many opinions as to which are good and which aren’t.

Sorting and weighing them can be damn near impossible without help, so that’s what I’m going to do here for you.

Below you’ll find a list of the most effective upper body exercises that you can do (with links to videos on how to do each).

You don’t have to do these exercises and only these for the rest of your life, but they’re all you really need to build the upper body of your dreams.

The Best Chest Exercises

  • Barbell Bench Press
    • Flat
    • Incline
  • Close-Grip Bench Press
  • Reverse-Grip Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
    • Flat
    • Incline
  • Dip

The Best Back Exercises

  • Deadlift
    • Conventional Deadlift
    • Hex Bar Deadlift
    • Sumo Deadlift
  • Barbell Row
  • Dumbbell Row
  • T-Bar Row
  • Pull-up
  • Chin-up
  • Lat Pulldown (Wide- and Close-Grip)
  • Seated Cable Row (Wide- and Close-Grip)

The Best Shoulders Exercises

  • Seated or Standing Military Press
  • Arnold Press
  • Dumbbell Front Raise
  • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise
  • Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise
  • Barbell Rear Delt Row
  • Cable Face Pull

The Best Biceps Exercises

  • Barbell Curl
  • E-Z Bar Biceps Curl
  • Alternating Dumbbell Curl
  • Hammer Dumbbell Curl
  • Chin-Up

The Best Triceps Exercises

  • Close-Grip Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Press
  • Lying Triceps Press
  • Triceps Pushdown
  • Dip

The Best Core Exercises

  • Cable Crunch
  • Captain’s Chair Leg Raise
  • Hanging Leg Raise
  • Air Bicycle
  • Ab Wheel Rollout

That’s it.

If you make it your mission to master those movements, your upper body will never be the same again.

Now, you’ve probably noticed that there isn’t much in the way of cable work, machines, or bodyweight exercises.

The reason for this is while those exercises do have a place in some people’s training (experienced bodybuilders, for example), free weight exercises are going to serve your needs better.

The Ultimate Upper Body Workout

Alright, we’re finally ready to get into the gym, and put some plates on the bar.

So, here’s what I want you to do twice per week, with a couple days of rest in between each workout (Mondays and Thursdays, for example):

Bench Press

Warm up and 2 sets of 4 to 6 reps (80 to 85% of 1RM)

Close-Grip Bench Press

2 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Standing Military Press

Warm up and 2 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

2 sets of 8 to 10 reps (75% of 1RM)

Barbell Row

Warm up and 2 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Lat Pulldown

2 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Dumbbell Curl

2 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Cable Crunch

3 sets of 8 to 10 reps

That’s a tough workout, but it shouldn’t take you more than 75 to 90 minutes, and it will hit every muscle in your upper body.

There are a few other things that you should know to get the most out of it:

1. Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, you move up in weight.

For instance, if push out 6 reps on your first set of the military press, you add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set and work with that weight until you can press it for 6 reps, and so forth.

2. Rest 3 minutes in between each 4-to-6-rep set, 2 minutes in between 6-to-8-rep sets, and 1 minute in between 8-to-10-rep sets.

Getting adequate rest in between sets is important because it allows your muscles to fully recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

3. Make sure you’re eating enough food.

Most people know that high protein intake is necessary to maximize muscle growth but don’t know that caloric intake also plays a major role.

You can learn more about this here.

Oh and FYI, this type of training is the core of my Bigger Leaner Stronger (for men) and Thinner Leaner Stronger (for women) programs, and I have hundreds of success stories that prove its effectiveness.

If you give this workout a go and like it, I highly recommend you check out BLS/TLS because you’re going to love it.

Happy training!

What About Supplements?

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your upper body (and other) workouts.

Creatine

Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

  • Build muscle and improve strength,
  • Improve anaerobic endurance
  • Reduce muscle damage and soreness

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.

RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

  • Caffeine. Caffeine is good for more than the energy boost. It also increases muscle endurance and strength.
  • Beta-Alanine. Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that reduces exercise-induced fatigue, improves anaerobic exercise capacity, and can accelerate muscle growth.
  • Citrulline Malate. Citrulline is an amino acid that improves muscle endurance, relieves muscle soreness, and improves aerobic performance.
  • Betaine. Betaine is a compound found in plants like beets that improves muscle endurance, increases strength, and increases human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 production in response to acute exercise.
  • Ornithine. Ornithine is an amino acid found in high amounts in dairy and meat that reduces fatigue in prolonged exercise and promotes lipid oxidation (the burning of fat for energy as opposed to carbohydrate or glycogen).
  • Theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found primarily in tea that reduces the effects of mental and physical stress, increases the production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow, and improves alertness, focus, attention, memory, mental task performance, and mood.

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.

The Bottom Line on Upper Body Workouts

If you follow the advice in this article, you’ll have no trouble gaining significant amounts of upper body muscle and strength.

And especially if you’re new to this style of working out (your body will be hyper-responsive to it).

So, do your upper body workouts, push yourself to get stronger in each of the exercises, eat right, and take the right supplements, and your upper body will transform before your very eyes.

Happy training!

What’s your take on upper body workouts? Do you have anything else to add? Let me know in the comments below!

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