When you think of upper body strength exercises, what comes to mind? Maybe it's push-ups and bench pressing. Both of these exercises have their place in a well-rounded strength routine. They are great for building big bulky muscles. But let's be honest, that is not why we're here! We are here because we want to build a strong chest, back, shoulders, and arms — not huge bulky muscles, but a lean and mean upper body.
If you're new to exercise, or returning after a long hiatus, it can be intimidating to look at all the different exercises you can do for your upper body. This article will give an overview of some of the best upper body strength exercises that you can add to your routine today.
Incline push-ups are great for beginners to start working out their upper body. They are also a great exercise for anyone that is unable to do a regular push-up. The incline push-up will help build strength and endurance in the pecs, triceps, shoulders, and upper back muscles. This will help improve your regular push-ups and help you progress to more difficult exercises.
This workout is effective at building bicep strength and endurance. Bicep curls are an essential part of any upper body workout since they work on one of the most noticeable muscle groups on the upper body.
If you have access to free weights, you can use dumbbells or barbells to do this exercise. However, if you do not have access to free weights, then you will need an alternative way to do this exercise. To make your own weights at home, simply fill up two water bottles and tie them together with a rope or string so that they stay in place. You can also use soup cans or other canned goods as weights instead of water bottles.
Diamond push-ups are great for working the triceps (the muscle on the back of your upper arm). It's a variation of the standard push-up that compresses the muscle against your forearm.
Here's how to do it: Get into a standard push-up position, but instead of placing your hands flat on the ground, put them in a diamond position with your thumbs touching and index fingers touching. The knuckles of both hands should form a point aimed towards your feet. Lower yourself down until your chest almost touches the ground then squeeze back up to create tension in the triceps. Do 3 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds rest between each set.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and bend at the knees. Keep your back straight and your head up. Lift a dumbbell in your right hand and stand with your arm straight above you, locking it into position. Bend your elbow to bring the weight down behind your head, allowing only your forearm to move. Hold for a moment, then return to the starting position. Do reps for each arm.
This exercise requires you to keep your body straight, with only the tips of one foot and one hand touching the floor. The other parts of your body are suspended in the air. You start this exercise by getting into a push-up position, then moving one leg forward so that it forms a 90 degree angle with your body. Now move the other leg as far back as possible so that it is also at about a 90 degrees angle from your body. You should look like a triangle now. Do a push up, then repeat this same sequence on the opposite side. Perform 2 sets of 8 reps each for this exercise.
The lateral pulldown is a great exercise for a strong back.
Start with your feet firmly on the ground, straddling the machine and placing your hands on the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Slowly pull the bar down until it reaches your chest, feeling the muscles between your shoulder blades tighten. Hold this position for a second before slowly returning to the starting position.
Repeat this movement until you have completed three sets of eight to 10 reps at a weight that is challenging but allows you to maintain control throughout each rep.
Upright Row/Front Raise Combo
This combo works both the front and back of your shoulders, as well as your traps. It also works your grip, which can be a weak point for many people. You may find that you have to reduce the weight when you add the front raise or use dumbbells instead of a barbell.
Start with a barbell held in front of your thighs. Your hands should be just outside your hips, palms facing you.
Raise the bar up to around chin level with a vertical motion, keeping your elbows out to the sides at all times.
Lower it under control back to the starting position.
Without pausing, raise the bar straight in front of you to shoulder level, then lower it under control.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press
A seated shoulder press is a classic exercise for building overall shoulder strength. This exercise targets your entire shoulder, including the front and middle deltoids and the triceps.
To complete this exercise, sit on a weight bench with an upright back support and grab a pair of dumbbells. Hold the dumbbells by your shoulders with your elbows bent and palms facing out. Push the weights above your head until your arms are almost straight, then slowly lower them back to your shoulders.
The seated row targets the rhomboids, which are a pair of muscles that connect your thoracic vertebrae to the spine of your scapula (shoulder blade). It also engages the trapezius or upper back muscle.
To complete this exercise, sit down at a cable row machine with a straight back and plant both feet firmly on the ground. Pull in both handles next to your sides with your arms extended straight in front of you and lower them in a slow and controlled motion until they reach waist level.
In any case, these are the best upper body strength exercises. If you're looking to bring up your biceps and triceps, then these exercises should help you get there. Just remember, these are all compound exercises, which means they work multiple muscle groups at once. This means that the more muscle groups involved in an exercise, the better it is for building overall strength and size. That's not to say you can't build good size through isolation exercises—you certainly can—but that shouldn't be your only focus.
The best upper body strength exercises are the key to upper body fitness as they target every upper body muscle group in a manner that allows all of these muscles to perform to their full potential, when combined with lower body exercises. The three exercises highlighted above should be performed at least once, preferably twice a week as part of an effective upper and lower body workout regime. If you want to get the most out of your workouts, it is important that you come up with a routine that suits your personal fitness goals and target areas.