You want to have the best upper body workout routine. You need your workout to include the most effective weight training exercises and to produce the best possible result for you. Sound about right? I thought so. Let’s discover together the exercises that will help you craft a strong and sculpted upper body.
With all the training tools at your disposal, it’s easy to find something to help with resistance and weight, but nothing as convenient as dumbbells. Dumbbells are a great tool to have in your strength arsenal. They offer a lot of versatility and using them in your routine will hit all the major muscles groups in your body.
Here are some of the advantages of training with dumbbells:
- Balance – they allow you to train each side of your body at a time, helping you with any strength imbalances if that’s the case.
- Symmetry – with arms forced to working dependently, you can simply detect any imbalances between the two. You will have to train your weaknesses to maintain a good overall symmetry.
- Wider range of motion – they allow you to move in a single plane and use a wider range of motion for better muscular development.
And these are four of the best exercises for your upper body that you can perform with dumbbells:
- Seated overhead dumbbell press
Seat on a bench or a chair upright with your back fully supported and a dumbbell in each hand above shoulder level, palms facing forward. Strongly push the dumbbells up until they touch at the top. Pause, and then slowly come down at the starting position. You can draw your elbows all the way back to emphasize more on the middle delts.
- Dumbbell bench press
Lie down on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand to the sides of your chest, holding them in front of you at shoulder width with your palms facing away from you. Your upper arm and forearm should create a 90 degree angle. Use your chest to push the dumbbells up and lock your arms at the top of the lift squeezing your chest. Hold for a second, and then slowly come down at the starting position.
- One-arm dumbbell row
Place one knee and the same-side hand on a flat bench. Keep your other foot on the floor and with the free hand grab a dumbbell. Keep your arm fully extended with the weight hanging straight down. Pull the dumbbell up to the side until it touches your ribs and squeeze your shoulder blades together for a full contraction. Lower the dumbbell until the hand is fully extended again.
- Dumbbell wrist curl
Sit at the end of a bench with your forearms flat on your tights and the palms facing up. Allow the weights to roll to your fingers and use your wrist to curl the dumbbells back. For a better range of motion and stretch of the brachioradialis, keep your thumb on the same side of the dumbbell handle as your fingers. This way, you will fully engage as much of the lower forearm as possible.
So these are a couple of exercises that help you do a complete and intense upper body workout. But let’s see what other workouts are best for strengthening and shaping the upper body.
- Overhead press
5 sets, 5 reps, 90 sec.
Set the bar up in a squat rack and grasp it just outside shoulder width. Take the bar off the rack holding it at shoulder level with your forearms perpendicular to the floor. Squeeze the bar and brace your abs while pressing the bar overhead, pushing your head forward and shrugging your traps as the bar passes your face.
As many sets as needed, 50 total reps, 60 sec.
Hang from a pullup bar with your hands just outside shoulder width and palms facing away from you. Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.
- Incline bench press
5 sets, 5 reps, 60-90 sec.
Lie down with your back flat on an adjustable bench that you’ve set to a 30- to 45-degree angle. Grasp the bar using a grip just outside shoulder width, arch your back, and pull it off the rack. Lower the bar to the upper part of your chest and then drive your feet into the floor as you press it back up.
- Single-arm single-leg cable row
Set a cable handle to chest height, grab the handle and lift the leg on the same side (right arm pulling, left leg down and vice versa). Squeeze your shoulder blades and row while avoiding twisting or bending forward.
The best way to set up an upper body workout routine
- Select the best exercises to train with, keeping in mind a proper balance around the joints.
- Arrange to work on the exercises in the most ideal order.
- Choose the right amount of reps and sets per exercise.
- Make sure that the training volume is within the optimal range.
- Train each of the upper body muscle groups
The 6 upper body movements
Did you know that your body can really do only 6 things? It can push and pull horizontally and vertically, and flex and extend at the elbow. Let’s see what this means for a workout:
- Horizontal push – most chest exercises such as bench press, decline bench press and chest press.
- Horizontal pull – most back rowing exercises such as barbell bench pulls, T-bar row and incline dumbbell rows.
- Vertical push – most shoulder exercises such as the overhead press, front raises, and barbell military press.
- Vertical pull – most back pulling exercises such as pullups, chin-ups and lateral pull-downs.
- Elbow flexion – biceps curling exercises like barbell and dumbbell curls, preacher curls and cable curls.
- Elbow extension – triceps extension exercises like cable press downs and laying barbell extensions.
The exercise order is also important when working on your upper body
In fact, this order should be implemented every time you work out. Take these as the basic rules of exercise order:
- Perform your compound exercises before your isolation exercises.
- Use free weights before using machines.
- Work on your bigger muscle groups before doing the smaller groups.
- Do the harder exercises before the easier ones.
These are two killer workout routines that are perfect for the upper body.
Incline bench press
Seated cable rows
Overhead dumbbell triceps extensions
You can use a variety of tools and overload protocols for the upper body muscles. Try and implement as much of the information we’ve given you and go work out to get the perfect upper body that you were looking for!