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5 Upper Body Strength Workouts and 25 Essential Exercises

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Intro to Upper Body Workouts

The upper body includes all of the muscles above the waist – the abs, obliques, pectorals, shoulders, neck, trapezius, upper and lower back, biceps, triceps, and forearms.

Strengthening all of these muscles is important because they make you fitter, more athletic, and better able to contribute to life. You also become more independent and better able to tackle everyday tasks like doing manual labor, moving furniture, and carrying groceries.

The beauty of effective upper body training is that it ‘bundles’ different muscle groups and teaches them how to work together. For instance, the bench press is primarily known as a chest-builder. But the exercise also activates your triceps, shoulders, and abs (1). It effectively forces several muscle groups to cooperate and move the barbell through a specific range of motion. As a result, you get stronger and better able to use that strength and intermuscular coordination for other tasks.

This applies to many of the best upper body exercises. Their job is to teach you how to use your body as intended – by involving several muscles in a single activity.

It is often the case that you want to track training, and and visualize your improving fitness over time. That’s why we created Hevy, to enable athletes like you to have a simple tool to log workouts and track your progress!

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress – for free.

The most apparent benefit of upper body training is that you get stronger, which has many applications from sports to daily life and more. Stronger muscles also help keep you balanced and protect your spine, prevent injuries, and keep you safe in training and life situations (2).

Developing your back muscles also helps them work better in maintaining good posture, which makes you look better and can help prevent various aches and injuries down the road (3, 4).

Of course, upper body training is also beneficial for your appearance. You look better, which can boost your confidence and help you feel better about yourself.

5 Strength Training Upper Body Workouts

The premise behind any good upper body workout is to combine the right exercises and train the right muscle groups together. First, it’s beneficial to combine muscle groups that work well together. Examples include:

– Biceps with back
– Triceps with chest
– Chest with shoulders

You can also have fantastic upper body workouts that train all of the major muscle groups together. But, if your goal is to have somewhat shorter workouts, you should adhere to the above combinations.

Second, it’s important to structure each workout effectively for optimal performance and the best possible stimulus. Start your workouts with compound movements and gradually move down to accessory lifts and isolation exercises. The idea is to take advantage of your strength early on in the workout and perform as best as possible on the important lifts. Then, move to the less challenging movements that serve as the cherry on top.

With that in mind, here are five fantastic upper body workouts:

1. Complete Upper Body Workout (All Upper Body)

  • Flat Dumbbell Chest Press – 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
  • Bent-Over Barbell Row – 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
  • Standing Shoulder Press – 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
  • Lat Pulldowns – 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
  • Cable Dumbbell Bicep Curl – 2 sets of 12 to 20 reps
  • Cable Tricep Extensions – 2 sets of 12 to 20 reps
  • Cable Rope Face Pulls – 2 sets of 15 to 30 reps
  • Plank – 2 to 3 sets of 60-second holds

2. Upper Body Workout A (Chest and Triceps)

  • Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Press – 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
  • Cable Chest Flyes – 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
  • Overhead Dumbbell Tricep Extension – 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps
  • Cable Rope Tricep Extensions – 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps

3. Upper Body Workout B (Back and Biceps)

  • Bent-Over Barbell Row – 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps
  • Pull-ups – 3 sets of 5 to 12 reps
  • Seated Machine Rows – 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps
  • Cable Lat Pullover – 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
  • Standing Dumbbell Bicep Curl – 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps
  • Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curl – 2 sets of 12 to 20 reps

4. Upper Body Workout C (Shoulders & Abs)

  • Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press – 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps
  • EZ-Bar Upright Rows – 3 sets of 8 to 15 reps
  • Lateral Dumbbell Raise – 2 to 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
  • Cable Rope Face Pulls – 2 to 3 sets of 15 to 30 reps
  • Hanging Knee Raises – 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 20 reps
  • Decline Crunches – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

5. Upper Body Workout At Home (All Upper Body)

  • Decline Push-Ups – 3 sets of 6 to 15 reps
  • Inverted Rows – 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps
  • Pike Push-Ups – 3 sets of 6 to 15 reps
  • Towel Pull-Ups – 3 sets of 8 to 20 reps
  • Towel Bicep Curls – 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 15 reps
  • Chair Tricep Dips – 2 to 3 sets of 6 to 15 reps
  • Lying Leg Raises – 2 sets of 8 to 20 reps

Benefits of Having a Strong Upper Body

1. It Makes You Capable and Independent

The most notable benefit of upper body strength is that you’re more capable of doing everyday activities without needing assistance. Things like carrying groceries, moving furniture, and lifting your child all become easier. This is also fantastic because you get to be more independent and don’t have to rely on others’ help for somewhat challenging activities.

Plus, research finds a positive correlation between physical strength and quality of life in elderly individuals (5).

2. It Improves Your Posture And Keeps Nagging Aches at Bay

Poor posture can stem from many things, and we sometimes need a professional’s assistance to resolve such an issue. But, in many cases, healthy individuals suffer from poor posture precisely because of weak and tight muscles. Specifically, tight muscles in the front (chest and shoulders) and weak muscles in the back (lats, rhomboids, trapezius, etc.) (3, 4).

Developing upper body strength is great for your posture precisely because it addresses the issue of back musculature. In strengthening these muscles, they better keep your spine in a natural position and prevent your shoulders from rolling forward.

This helps prevent nagging aches, keeps your spine in a healthy position, and improves the way you look.

3. It Simply Feels Good

Whether we like to admit it or not, we train to feel better about ourselves, and there is nothing wrong with that. Having a stronger upper body, reaching new goals, and setting personal records are all rewarding things. With Hevy, you can easily see when you set personal records and improve over time. With each passing workout, you feel better in knowing that you’re more capable.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress – for free.

Plus, this can be incredibly valuable if you’re a competitive person and enjoy doing better than your friends, which you can of course see in Hevy!

Essential Compound Exercises For Upper Body Workouts

1. Bench Press

The bench press is one of the most popular gym exercises, and many people use it to strengthen and develop their chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Muscles trained: Chest, anterior deltoids, and triceps.

Equipment: Barbell or dumbbells and a bench

How to do it (barbell version)

Lie on the bench and reach up to grab the barbell evenly with a grip slightly outside shoulder-width level. Make sure your thumbs grasp the barbell. Bring your shoulders back, place your feet flat on the floor, and dig your glutes into the bench. Take a breath, unrack the barbell, bring it over your chest, and lower it at or around your nipple line. Once the bar touches your chest, push through to raise it back to the top.

2. Pull-ups

The pull-up is one of the best bodyweight exercises to strengthen your back and improve your core stability without needing any special equipment.

Muscles trained: Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, thoracic erector spinae, posterior deltoids, and biceps.

Equipment: Pull-up bar

How to do it (overhand version)

Extend your arms and grab the pull-up bar with an overhand grip. Your hands should be slightly outside shoulder-width level with your thumbs wrapping over the bar. Bring your shoulders back, contract your abs, squeeze your glutes, and take a breath. Pull yourself up as much as you can without jumping or using momentum on your way up. Ideally, you should pull until your chin is over the bar. Then, control yourself on the way down as you exhale.

3. Barbell Bent-Over Row

Bent-over rows are an excellent movement with a fantastic overloading potential for strengthening and developing your entire back musculature.

Muscles trained: Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, erector spinae, posterior deltoids, biceps, and forearms.

Equipment: Barbell

How to do it (overhand version)

Stand in front of the barbell, bend forward, and grab it with an overhand grip, having your thumbs envelop the bar. Your hands should be roughly shoulder-width apart. Take a breath, bring your shoulders back, and lift the barbell off the floor. While keeping your torso as parallel to the floor as possible, make sure your lower back is neutral, and take a breath. Row the barbell toward your stomach without using momentum. As the bar touches your belly, slowly release it to the starting position without changing your torso angle.

4. Overhead Press

Overhead presses are a compound exercise that strengthens and develops our shoulders while also improving our stability and core strength.

Muscles trained: Medial and anterior deltoids, upper chest, triceps, and core.

Equipment: Dumbbells or a barbell

How to do it (standing barbell version)

Position the barbell at collarbone height. Grab it evenly with your hands roughly shoulder-width apart. Make sure your thumbs envelop the barbell, too. Tuck yourself underneath the barbell with a staggered stance, take a breath and push up to unrack it. Take a couple of steps back to clear enough room with the barbell near your upper chest. Take another breath and push through your elbows until the barbell is above your head and your arms are straight. Exhale as you slowly bring the barbell back to the starting position.

Popular Exercises for Upper Body Workouts

5. Lat Pulldown

Lat pulldowns are a fantastic accessory movement that helps you further develop your back and improve its width.

Muscles trained: Lats, rhomboids, biceps, and forearms.

Equipment: Lat pulldown machine

How to do it (overhand version)

Set the appropriate weight, grab the bar evenly with a grip slightly outside shoulder width, and sit down. Make sure your thighs fit snugly underneath the machine’s pads. Bring your chest out and shoulders back, take a breath and pull the bar down to your upper chest. Pull until the bar taps your upper chest and release it slowly until your arms straighten.

6. Triceps Rope Pushdown

The rope pushdown is a humbling and incredibly effective exercise you can do to strengthen and develop your triceps.

Muscles trained: Triceps

Equipment: Cable station and rope attachment

How to do it

Start with a lighter weight and grab the rope attachment near the bottom with both hands. Keep your elbows bent and to your side, as you take a step or two back to lift the weight off the stack. Bring your shoulders back, take a breath, and extend your elbows as you bring your hands down and to your sides, splitting the rope. Hold for a moment as your elbows extend fully and slowly release the weight to the starting position.

7. Shoulder Press (Dumbbell)

The dumbbell shoulder press is a great compound movement for building shoulder strength and mass. 

Muscles trained: Medial and anterior shoulder heads, triceps, and upper chest

Equipment: An adjustable bench and dumbbells

How to do it (seated version)

Adjust the bench to 90 degrees, grab a pair of medium dumbbells, and sit down. With your back against the bench, bring both dumbbells atop your thighs, and get your shoulders back. Take a breath and use your leg strength to hoist the dumbbells to your sides one at a time. Take a breath and push through your triceps and shoulders to bring the weights over your head. Slowly lower them to your sides as you exhale.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress – for free.

8. Incline Bench Press

The incline press is an important assistance exercise for your chest because it helps emphasize the clavicular (upper) head and contributes to fully developed pectorals.

Muscles trained: Upper chest, medial and anterior shoulder heads, and triceps.

Equipment: Adjustable or incline bench and barbell or dumbbells

How to do it (dumbbell version)

Adjust the bench to anywhere from 30 to 45 degrees, grab a pair of dumbbells, and sit down. Curl both dumbbells and rest them on top of your thighs. Use your leg strength to hoist both dumbbells up over your torso as you simultaneously lie down on the bench. With both dumbbells over your chest and arms straight, take a breath, and bend your elbows gradually until you feel a stretch on your chest muscles. Push through to bring both dumbbells back to the starting position as you exhale.

9. Hammer Curls

The hammer curl is a variation of the traditional movement that offers great bicep development while also strengthening the forearms. 

Muscles trained: Biceps and forearms

Equipment: Dumbbells

How to do it

Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand tall. With your arms to your sides and palms facing your body, bring your shoulders back and take a breath. Curl both dumbbells without changing your wrist position until your hands are slightly higher than your elbows. Hold the top position for a moment and slowly release both dumbbells to the starting position as you exhale.

10. Seated Cable Rows

The seated cable row is an excellent assistance exercise that adds strength and thickness to your back musculature.

Muscles trained: Lats, rhomboids, erector spinae, trapezius, biceps, and forearms.

Equipment: A seated cable row machine

How to do it

Adjust the weight on the machine and sit down. Grab the handle with both hands, place your feet on the machine’s platform, and bring yourself back to lift the weight off its stack. Bring your shoulders back, take a breath, and row the handle toward your upper stomach. As the handle taps your belly, hold for a moment, and release it gradually while exhaling.

11. Dumbbell Row

The dumbbell row is a fantastic unilateral exercise that emphasizes your lats, helps you build a wider back, and prevents you from developing side-to-side muscle imbalances.

Muscles trained: Lats, rhomboids, erector spinae, biceps, and forearms

Equipment: A bench (optional) and a dumbbell

How to do it

Bring one dumbbell next to a gym bench or chair where you can place your non-working arm for balance. Bend down with a staggered stance, grab the dumbbell, bring your shoulders back, and lift your torso to get the dumbbell off the floor. Take a breath and row the dumbbell to your stomach without changing your torso angle. Row as high as you can, hold the top contraction for a moment and release slowly as you exhale.

12. Triceps Extension

Tricep extensions are an incredibly versatile movement you can perform with all sorts of equipment to target, strengthen, and develop your triceps.

Muscles trained: Triceps

Equipment: Cable machine, dumbbell, an EZ curl bar, or something similar

How to do it (overhead dumbbell version)

Grab a light dumbbell in one hand and stand tall. Bring the dumbbell over your head, straighten your elbow, and have your palm face forward. Take a breath and gradually bend your elbow as you allow the dumbbell to travel down and behind your head. Once your elbow is bent, hold for a moment and extend it back to the starting position. Keep your shoulder steady throughout each repetition. Repeat for ten to fifteen repetitions and do the same for your other arm.

13. Cable Crossovers

The cable crossover is one of the best semi-isolating movements for your chest. When done right, it can stimulate a large percentage of muscle fibers and accelerate muscle growth.

Muscles trained: Chest and anterior deltoid heads

Equipment: Cable crossover machine and handles

How to do it

Adjust the weight on both stacks of the machine, grab both handles one at a time, and take a couple of steps forward. Maintain a small bend in your elbows and keep them lower relative to your shoulders. Bring your chest out, take a breath, and bring both arms together, as if you were trying to hug someone. Once your hands touch, slowly release them back to the starting position, exhaling in the process.

Check out how one of our Hevy users performs the cable crossovers!

14. Skull Crushers

Despite their unnerving name, skull crushers are an excellent tricep movement that does a fantastic job emphasizing the long head and building up your strength.

Muscles trained: Triceps and shoulders

Equipment: A straight or EZ bar

How to do it

Grab a bar, lift it in front of your chest, and carefully sit down on a flat bench. In one motion, lie on the bench slowly as you extend your elbows, so the bar ends up over your face. Bring your shoulders back and take a breath. Bend your elbows as you allow the bar to travel down and back behind your head. Lower as much as you can – you should feel a nice stretch in your tricep. Extend your elbows and bring the bar over your head as you exhale.

15. Face Pulls

Face pulls are a simple and beneficial exercise you should do regularly to develop your rear deltoids and maintain good shoulder health.

Muscles trained: Rear deltoids, trapezius, and biceps

Equipment: A resistance band or cable station with a rope

How to do it (cable rope version)

Attach a rope to a high pulley, grab it with both hands, and take a couple of steps back. With your elbows straight and up, bring your chest back, and take a breath. Make sure your thumbs face the ceiling and pull the rope toward your face, at roughly eye level. Exhale as you slowly release the weight and extend your arms.

16. Back Hyperextensions

The back hyperextension is one of the best movements that strengthens and develops the often-ignored lower back.

Muscles trained: Upper and lower back and abs

Equipment: A back hyperextension machine 

How to do it

Adjust the machine’s pad to be just below your hips, position your thighs on the machine and secure your feet. Position your arms over your chest and take a breath. As your lower body is secured, take a breath, and lower your torso by bending at the hips. Go down as comfortably as you can and extend your body as you exhale. Avoid overextension of your lower back upon returning to the top.

Bodyweight Exercises for Upper Body Workouts

17. Push-Ups

Push-ups are a versatile and incredibly useful bodyweight movement that strengthens and develops your chest, shoulders, triceps, and serratus anterior.

Muscles trained: Chest, anterior deltoids, triceps, and serratus anterior

Equipment: Push-up stands (optional)

push up plant woman yoga

How to do it

Get down on all fours and place your hands flat on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder level. Make sure your elbows are somewhat tucked in and not flared out. Lift your knees and balance your lower body on your toes. Straighten your body, so your shoulders, hips, and feet are in a straight line. Take a breath and bend your elbows gradually. Go down as comfortably as you can – ideally until your nose almost touches the floor. Push through your elbows to lift your body as you exhale.

18. Diamond Push-Ups

This push-up variation boasts many of the same benefits as the classic movement but emphasizes your triceps better because of your hands’ position.

Muscles trained: Triceps, chest, anterior deltoids, and serratus anterior

Equipment: Push-up stands (optional)

How to do it

Get down on the floor and place your hands flat on the floor, close to one another, with your elbows tucked in. Bring your chest out, lift your knees off the floor, and balance your lower body on your toes. Your shoulders, hips, and feet should be in a straight line. Take a breath and bend your elbows to lower your torso to the floor. Go down as much as you can before pushing through your elbows to go back to the starting position.

19. Chin-Ups

Chin-ups are genuinely a classic exercise in bodyweight training. They are remarkable for building whole-body balance, back strength, and muscle mass.

Muscles trained: Lats, rhomboids, rear deltoids, core, biceps, and forearms

Equipment: Pull-up bar

How to do it

Reach up and grab the pull-up bar with an underhand grip. Your hands should be at shoulder-width level. Bring your shoulders back, brace your core, engage your glutes (if you find it helps with balance), and take a breath. Pull through your elbows and go up as much as you can – ideally until your chin goes over the bar. Practice a controlled descend as you exhale.

20. Dips

Dips are another bodyweight movement that does a fantastic job of strengthening your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Because of your hands’ pushing direction, this movement better emphasizes the lower portion of your chest.

Muscles trained: Chest (with emphasis on the lower portion), anterior deltoids, triceps, serratus anterior, and core.

Equipment: Dip bar

How to do it

Get to a dip bar and grab it evenly with both hands. Your hands should be to your sides and slightly wider than your shoulders. Bring your chest back, engage your abs, and squeeze your glutes. Jump up to begin in the top position of the dip. Take a breath, and bend your elbow to dip your body. Go down until your elbows are at 90 degrees before pushing through to go back to the starting position.

21. Handstands

Handstands might feel like an impossible movement, but everyone can learn how to do them. The result is a strong upper body and a stable core.

Muscles trained: Shoulders, triceps, upper and lower back, abs, obliques, and transverse abdominis.

Equipment: None

How to do it (against a wall)

Stand tall and face away from a wall a couple of feet away from it. Place both hands flat on the floor at about shoulder-width level. Place your feet against the wall and walk them up to get into the starting handstand position. Make sure your glutes and abs are engaged, and you’re pushing through your shoulders and triceps to maintain your position. Keep your lower body balanced on your toes and take regular breaths. Once you feel tired, slowly walk down from the wall and stand upright.

22. Plank

The plank (not to be confused with that silly trend from a few years back) is a fantastic isometric movement that strengthens your core and develops a wide range of other muscles in your body.

Muscles trained: Abs, obliques, transverse abdominis, glutes, back, shoulders, and arms.

Equipment: None

white background plank woman

How to do it

Lie with your face down and place both forearms and hands flat on the floor beneath you. Your forearms should be aligned with your shoulders. Push through your forearms to lift your upper body as you simultaneously raise your thighs. Balance your lower body on your toes. Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes. This will help straighten your body, so your shoulders, hips, and ankles are in a straight line. Hold the position for as long as you can, taking regular breaths in the process.

23. Crunches

Crunches are an incredibly simple, safe, and versatile movement everyone can include into their training for a stronger core. 

Muscles trained: Abdominal muscles

Equipment: Decline bench (optional)

How to do it

Lie on the floor, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms and rest them on your chest. Take a breath and initiate the crunch by engaging your ab muscles. Go up as comfortably as you can and slowly return to the starting position as you exhale. Be mindful of engaging your abs on every repetition.

24. Pike Push-Up

The pike push-up is a variation of the classic exercise that allows you to emphasize your shoulders better and cause significant mechanical tension.

Muscles trained: Anterior and lateral deltoids, upper chest, triceps, serratus anterior, and core

Equipment: None

How to do it

Get down on the floor and plant your hands firmly. With your knees bent, balance your lower body on your toes. Push your butt back and up toward the ceiling to fold yourself in half. Your back should be neutral, with your arms and legs straight. Inhale and bend your elbows to descend until your head is almost in contact with the floor. Push through your elbows to go back to the starting position as you exhale.

25. Burpees

Muscles trained: Arms, shoulders, chest, back, abs, obliques, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves

Equipment: None

The burpee is an all-in-one activity that strengthens and develops your entire body while also helping you burn many calories in the process.

How to do it

Stand tall with your back straight, core braced, and feet at hip-width level. Drop your hands and plant them firmly on the floor. Gradually place more weight on your hands as you kick your lower body back and extend it into a push-up position. Ensure your shoulders, hips, and feet are in a straight line, take a breath, and perform one push-up. Jump your legs forward, positioning them outside your hands. Stand up as you jump vertically and reach up with your arms. As soon as you land, descend for the next push-up and keep going.

How to Warm-Up Properly

Much has been said on the topic of warming up before exercise. The problem is, there isn’t a single formula that works great for everyone (6). Some folks have unique requirements, so a tailored approach will work better.

For example, one person might need to spend less than two minutes to get their hips ready for a workout. In contrast, another person might need up to ten minutes to loosen up the area, especially for movements like squats and deadlifts.

In general, it’s best to follow this framework and adjust it based on your needs:

1. General Warm-Up

The goal here is to prepare your entire body for the workout. Here, you need to mobilize your joints, raise your core body temperature, and warm up your muscles. For example, you can begin with five minutes of low-intensity cardio. 

After that, move to a dynamic drill consisting of movements like arm and leg swings, arm and leg circles, shoulder rolls, walking high kicks, and even jumping jacks. Do this for another several minutes.

2. Specific Warm-Up

Once you’ve warmed up and feel ready for your workout, it’s good to go through the specific warm-up. This makes sense because you can’t just walk up to a barbell, load it up with your working weights, and get started.

Instead, you build up to it gradually. Perhaps you start with an empty barbell for some repetitions and slowly add weight over several sets until you reach your working weight. This is important for further warming you up, preparing your body for the specific activity, getting your mind right, and allowing you to detect any potential aches early on.

Popular Workout Plans Containing Upper Body Workouts

Upper Lower Plan

The upper lower split is among the most popular ways to organize your training. A common way to program it is to have four weekly workouts – two upper and two lower. For example:

Monday – Upper
Tuesday – Lower
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Upper
Friday – Lower
Saturday & Sunday – Off

With this schedule, you have two upper body workouts each week. The goal is to train all major muscle groups twice per week, which appears optimal for hypertrophy (7). If you download Hevy, you’ll see some pre-built Upper / Lower workouts you can use for free.

You can follow other training frequencies (anywhere from two to six weekly workouts), but four seem like the sweet spot between adequate stimulus and good recovery.

As far as workout structure goes, you should typically start one of your upper workouts with a pushing movement (such as a flat or overhead press) and the other with a pull (such as a pull-up or barbell row). Alternate between exercises for your chest and back and introduce assistance and isolation movements for your shoulders, biceps, triceps, abs, and lower back as your workout progresses. A workout plan like Push Pull Legs (PPL), will also segment your upper body training in an efficient way.

The goal is to start with compound movements while you’re still fresh and gradually move to less intricate movements before you finish off with some isolating activities like bicep curls.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress – for free.

3 Day Split (Like Bro Split)

Three-day splits are similar to the classic bro split. The goal is to spread your training volume across three unique workouts, which is beneficial for giving your muscles enough time to recover. Plus, this type of training program is suitable if you’re pressed for time and can’t dedicate more than three days each week to working out.

A common way to structure it is like this:

Day 1 – Chest, shoulders, and triceps
Day 2 – Back and biceps
Day 3 – Legs and abs

The good thing about this split is that you get to train all of the major muscle groups in your body. It’s also good for preventing too much overlapping volume where you use a muscle group in one workout and then have to train it the very next day.

Inside this structure, you split your upper body training into two workouts: one focuses on pushing movements and one on pulling. The workout structure is similar to the one you would have for any other split. You start your workouts with compound movements like the bench press and pull-up and gradually move to assistance and isolation movements like chest flyes, bicep curls, and lateral raises.

Conclusion

Upper body workouts are those that bundle several muscle groups and have you train them together. These can include your core, chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, forearms, and traps.

Upper body training is essential because it contributes to your overall fitness, helps you become more athletic, and allows you to do more and remain independent. 

When programmed well, upper body training is also efficient because many exercises do a great job of training multiple muscle groups simultaneously. For instance, the back row is great for training your lats, but it also works on your lower back, abs, obliques, biceps, shoulders, and grip.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress.

Hevy – Workout Tracker

Create your own chest workouts with Hevy, and track your progress – for free.

As far as workout structure goes, putting together effective workouts is not a big deal. All you have to do is follow some basic rules, be mindful of the overall layout, and learn how to sequence exercises. As you saw above, you have two fantastic ways to organize upper body workouts into a training week. First, you can use an upper lower plan to train your upper body anywhere from one to three times per week. Second, you can go for the simpler three-day routine that splits your upper body musculature into two workouts.

As always, thanks for reading! If you need any help with tracking your workouts, using an app like Hevy can help to structure them and visualise progress.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) What is a good upper body workout? 

A good upper body workout allows you to train a large percentage of your upper body musculature, gets you to do enough training volume, and includes various movements for the target muscle groups (8, 9).

2) How can I work out my upper body at home?

Training your upper body at home is not as difficult as many people imagine. Movements like pull-ups and chin-ups, push-ups, chair dips, planks, handstands, crunches, pike push-ups, and burpees are all excellent ways to train the majority of your upper body musculature (10).

3) How long should my workouts be?

The goal of your training shouldn’t be to set a timer and try to fit within a given time frame. Instead, you should do all of your sets and repetitions, go down your list of exercises, and rest well between sets (11, 12). No single workout should be much longer than an hour for the average person, especially if they train more often.

4) How long should I rest between upper body workouts?

Research finds that muscle protein synthesis tends to drop within around 36 to 48 hours of training, and this is a guideline to follow when organizing your upper body training (13). Of course, this can vary based on the length and difficulty of your workouts, your fitness level, schedule, and goals. For most people, two upper body workouts per week will be the sweet spot. Rest a couple of days between the two, and you’ll do great.

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