“Fitness a recurring word in almost every commercial” strangely it is also the most abused word, these days. The so-called perceptions have taken over its true meaning. The dangerous rapid growth of fitness fads have over-time blurred the real issue of health and the very purpose of fitness is dissipating slowly but definitely. No, “fitness mania is not madness mania” restricted to fashionistas, high profile celebrities whose exploits occupy most of the space in news papers and glossy magazines. The only difference being our lack of commitment of health. Our body mainly divided into two major parts those are upper body and lower body. So, it is important to include these best upper body exercises for strength and mass. However, following exercises are also consider as one of the best upper body exercises for both men and women.
Best Upper Body Exercises for Strength and Mass.
Here we have list out some selected best upper body exercises with different body parts, those will assist you to achieve an attractive look and a healthy body.
Best Upper Body Exercises for Strength.
This is the most neglected body part. Good collar bones and well-shaped shoulders enhance your good figure. And exercising them gives functional support to your posture. Shoulders also make your waist look smaller if they are toned.
We have three deltoid muscles:
- Anterior (front).
- Lateral (side).
- Posterior (rear).
- The front deltoid muscle flexes and rotates the arm inward.
- The side deltoid moves the arm away from the body (abduction).
- The rear deltoid extends and rotates the arm outward.
- Exercising our shoulders makes us strong and looks great.
- Exercise your shoulders 3 times a week on alternate days.
- If you lift heavy, two days of rest is advised.
- Do shoulder exercises first because chest and back work out also engage shoulder muscles.
- Over head presses, front raises and lateral raises target front and rear deltoids along with rotator cuff muscles.
Beginners 1-2 exercises, 1 set of 15—18 repetitions.
Muscle-building 2—4 exercises, 3—4 sets of 6-8 repetitions.
Muscle-toning 2—3 exercises, 2—3 sets of 10—18 repetitions.
- It is one of the best upper body exercises with dumbbells. At first, sit or stand holding weights with elbows bent and hands at eye level.
- Push weight up over your head.
- Do not arch your back and bend forward when you start.
- It engages major muscles of your shoulders.
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Over-Head Press With A Twist.
Image Source: Simple TEN in TEN Strength Training Workout Using Hand Weights
- Sit or stand, hold weights.
- Palms should face in front of your shoulders.
- Keep your elbows bent.
- Now straighten your elbows and lift weights over-head at the same time twist the hand until palms face out wards.
- Lower arms, twisting palms to face in again.
Standing Lateral Raises.
- Take a dumbbell in each hand, bend forward slightly.
- Now bring the weights together in front of you at arm’s length.
- Lift the weights up and outwards to each side at the same time turn your wrists as if pouring water out of a pitcher so that the rear of the dumbbell is higher than the front.
- Lift the weights higher than the shoulders.
- Then lower down slowly and in a controlled manner.
- Another variation would be to try the same exercise in seated position.
- This exercise develops the outside head of shoulders and some part of rear shoulders as well.
Front Dumbbell Raises.
- It is consider as one of the best upper body exercises for women. At first stand with a dumbbell in each hand, held slightly away from you placed in front of your thighs.
- Raise one arm out and up in a wide arc until it is as high as your head.
- Lower the weight down slowly and in control.
- Lift the other arm out and up in a wide arc and slowly lower it down.
- Both the arms should be used alternatively and should be in motion.
- When right arm lowers the left arm should start rising slowly.
- Front raises can be done with barbells and also in a seated position for a stricter movement.
- Front raises develop the front muscles of shoulders.
Standing Bent-Over Dumbbell Raises.
Image Source: Jase Stuart – The Better Body Coach
- Stand with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Bend forward from the waist about 45 degrees.
- Let your arms hang down below with palms facing each other.
- Keep your body steady in this position.
- Contract your abdominals.
- Now lift the weights out to the side turning your wrists so that the thumb ends up lower than the little finger.
- Lower your arms back down under control resisting gravity.
- Do not lift the weight too far to the rear because it does not work on the rear part of shoulders.
- This exercise also can be done in a seated position and with cables.
- It works on the rear muscles of shoulders.
Lying Side Laterals.
- Lie on your side on a bench, with your head raised.
- Hold a dumbbell in one hand and lower it almost to the floor.
- Now lift it up all the way over your head.
- Twist your hand little while lifting.
- Turn the head down in order to contract the rear part effectively.
- After completing the sets on one side, switch to the other side.
- Do equal number of sets on both sides.
- Stand tall grasp a barbell with an over-hand grip.
- Place your hands few inches apart.
- Keeps your bar hanging down in front of you.
- Raise it straight up close to your body.
- Bar must reach your chin.
- Keep your back straight and stress free.
- The entire shoulder girdle lifts the weight.
- Lower it slowly under control and back to the starting position.
- Don’t use momentum and strictly control the movement.
- Upright rows work middle deltoid, upper back, and bicep muscles.
- Stand tall and hold dumbbell in each hand.
- Arms kept at sides.
- Raise your shoulders up as high as you can, imagine you are trying to touch your ears.
- Hold at the top for few moments.
- Slowly lower down.
- Remember to move only your shoulders.
- Keep your body steady.
- This exercise develops the trapezius muscles.
Best Upper Body Exercises for Mass.
Chest muscles are pectoral muscles. The great pectoral muscle originates at collar bone, breast bone and sheath of rectus abdominis muscle. It inserts at intertubercular sulcus of humerus.
Pectoralis minor is another muscle that tilts scapulae anteriorly.
This muscle aids in upward rotation of scapulae and scapular abduction.
- It aids in forward movement of arm. Raised laterally backwards.
- It also enables inward rotation of arm.
- Beginners should choose 1 or 2 exercises, 1—2 sets and do 12—15 repetitions.
- Intermediate should choose four exercises, 2—3 sets and do 6—12 repetitions.
- Advance should try variety of exercises and do 2—3 sets of each. Use enough weight to complete desired number of repetitions.
It is consider as one of the best upper body exercises for weight loss. This exercise works the major muscles of chests, shoulders and triceps. It also produces growth and muscle-strength.
- Lie on a flat bench with your feet on the floor for balance.
- Lift weight directly over the chest.
- Keep elbows bent at 90 degree angles.
- Press arms up straight.
- Don’t lock your arms.
- Slowly lower back to starting position.
- The classic bench press starting positions.
- Position of the hands on the bar should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
- This distributed the stress so that the pectorals do a major part of the work, with minimal front deltoid and triceps involvement.
- Notice that as the weight is lowered to the chest, the hand position is such that the forearms end up perpendicular to the floor.
- In this case it gives the best overall results, developing the complete pectoral muscle-inner, outer, and through the middle.
The purpose of this exercise is to develop the mass of the pectorals. The function of the pectorals is to pull the arms and shoulders inward across the body.
- Lie on a bench holding dumbbells at arm’s length above, palms facing each other.
- Lower the weight out and down to each sides in a wide arc.
- Stretch the pectoral muscles to the maximum.
- The palms should be facing each other.
- Bend your arms.
- Bring the weights back up to the starting position and then contract the pectorals.
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Incline Dumbbell Flys.
It is the same except it is done on an incline bench. Incline dumbbell presses develop upper chest muscles. The more incline the bench is the more the upper chest muscles work.
- Take a dumbbell in each hand.
- Lie down on an incline bench.
- Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height.
- Palms should face forward.
- Lift them straight up overhead.
- Slowly lower them back to the initial position.
- Another variation will be that you begin with palms facing each other and twist your wrists as you lift so that the palms face forward at the top.
- After this twist those back to starting position as you bring down the dumbbells.
- One can vary the angle at which one trains for good results. Starting from a steep angle to a flatter angle is a better option than the other way round.
Decline Dumbbell Presses.
It is also one of the best upper body exercises. This exercise works on lower pectorals. (Chest muscles)
- Lie on a decline bench.
- Hold dumbbell in each hand.
- Hold the weight at shoulder height.
- Palms should face forward.
- Lift the dumbbells together straight up at the same time over head.
- Slowly bring down the weight under control to the starting position.
Straight Arm Pullovers.
This exercise develops the chest muscle and expands the serratus anterior muscle (rib cage).
- Place a dumbbell on a bench.
- Lie across the bench with only your shoulders on it and your feet on the floor.
- Hold the dumbbell with your both hands.
- And raise it directly over your chest with both palms pressing against the underside of the top plate.
- Keep your arms straight and slowly lower the weight down making an arc.
- Take the weight behind your head stretching your chest and rib cage.
- Drop your hips towards the floor for maximum stretch.
- Now lift the weight back up in an arc to the starting position.
- Do not lift your hips back up and keep your hips lowered down towards the floor.
- Repeat and get maximum stretch of rib cage and chest muscles.
Back Muscles. (Best Upper Body Exercises)
Back muscles are made of latismuss dorsi located at each side of back and makes you extend, rotate and pull your arms toward your body.
- This muscle runs the length of your back from the neck till your bottom.
- It enables you to flex, extend your upper body and helps you rotate as well.
- The rhomboids (major/minor) are between shoulder blades.
- They enable you to rotate, elevate and retract shoulder blades known as posture muscles.
Reasons To Train.
- When we build mass and shape upper back our waist line appears smaller.
- Chest and back muscles can bear heavy weight and hence effectively burn more calories.
- Back work out should be done on alternate days thrice a week.
- But if you train very heavy then you need to train twice a week.
- For toning 1—3 sets and 15—18 repetitions are recommended.
Lat Pull Down.
Lat pull down machine is great for targeting the lats. It is also consider as best upper body exercises for beginners.
- Use a long bar.
- Grasp it with a wide over hand grip.
- Sit on your seat with your knees hooked under the support.
- Pull the bar down smoothly until it touches the top of your chest, making the upper body do the work.
- Extend the arms again.
- For variation do lat pull downs behind the neck and close grip pull downs.
- Grasp handles medium close grip.
- Pull down to your upper chest.
- Draw shoulders down and back.
- Stick the chest out.
- Bend over at the waist until torso is parallel to the floor or at a 45 degree angle.
- Abdominal muscles should be kept contracted.
- Do not lock your knees, keep them soft.
- Hold the weights down and don’t lock the elbows.
- Bending the elbows and pull the weights up until the elbows reach the same level as your torso.
- Try to relax the shoulders and don’t let it touch your ears.
- Lower the weight and repeat 1-3 sets of 15-18 repetitions.
- Switch sides.
- Abdominals should stabilize the lower back.
Do with the ball or bench for support.
This exercise develops the back and lower lats. It is a compound exercise and so it works on entire back muscles.
- Hold the handles and sit with your feet placed against the cross bar.
- Knees should be kept slightly bent.
- Lean forward slightly and hold the handles.
- Sit far enough so that your lats are stretched properly.
- From this position pull the handles back towards your body.
- Handles should come close to your stomach.
- Feel the muscles stretch.
- Stick your chest out.
- Your back should arch.
- Try to contract your shoulder blades together as you bring the weight towards you.
- Don’t sway back and forth.
- Sit upright and don’t lean backward when the weight comes close to you.
- Keep the weight under control.
- Slowly come back and repeat.
- It’s a variation of bent over rows.
- It allows one to try heavier weights.
- It engage the entire back muscle.
- Keeps abdomen contracted throughout execution.
- Stand with hip distance apart.
- Keep your hands a bit wider than shoulders on the bar.
- Bend forward at the waist until you are at 45 degree angle.
- Keep your shoulders back.
- Look forward and keep your shoulders back.
- Start by taking the weight down in front of the knees.
- Bend the elbows and contract the navel, following the line of the legs.
- Bring the elbows just past the torso and squeeze the back.
- Lower down and repeat for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
One Arm Dumbbell Rows (With A Twist).
- It is another one of the best upper body exercises for women. In a split-stance, bend at the waist and place one hand on the front thigh for balance.
- Hold weight in right hand and lower it down.
- Bring it forward just a bit instead of straight down.
- Bending the elbows, pull the weight up until the elbow is up to the torso, hips square.
- At the top of the movement twist at the torso to bring up and behind the back.
- Lower down and repeat.
- Then switch sides.
- The twist is at the torso level not the hip.
Arms-Biceps and Triceps. (Best Upper Body Exercises)
It is one of the major muscle group which gives you an eye catching look. So, you must train this muscle with upper body exercises.
Biceps brachii and brachialis muscles help flexing elbow and rotating forearm so palms face up and down. Brachii has long and short heads and crosses shoulder joint at different places.
It attaches to shoulder blade and its insertion is in your forearm just below joint. The brachialis, larger and stronger elbow flexors lie deep beneath the bicep brachii crosses the elbow joint.
Selection of weight depends upon individuals level of fitness. Select suitable weight that is challenging for you.
Warm-up with aerobics before lifting and remember to stretch before work-out.
24 hours of rest is essential before you train them again. Beginners should start with 1-2 exercises and 1 set should consist of 15 repetitions. Intermediate and advance trainers should start with 3-5 exercises, 3-5 sets and perform 6-8 repetitions for muscle building.
For muscle endurance in case of advance exercisers 2—3 exercises should be selected. 2—3 sets need to be completed. Repetitions should be 12—18.
- Hold weights in hands palms facing out and elbows slightly bend.
- Bring the weight up towards your shoulder.
- Keeping your elbows still and controlled, slowly lower back.
- But don’t straighten the arm completely.
- Keep tension on the muscle.
- Don’t use momentum.
- Can use a barbell, dumbbell, machines, incline curls, preacher curls etc.
- It is also consider as one of the best upper body exercises with dumbbells. At first sit on a bench grasp a dumbbell.
- Place the back of an upper arm on the inner thigh and lean into a leg to raise the elbow a bit.
- Raise dumbbell to front of the shoulder.
- And lower the arm until it is almost extended fully.
- This variation puts your arm at a difficult angle.
- So you may find you will need less weight.
- Hold weight palms facing each other with elbows slightly bent.
- Keep your abdominals engaged.
- Keep torso steady.
- Bring weight towards shoulders. Keep elbow steady.
- Slowly lower weight back down.
- Do not straighten the arm.
- Keep tension on muscle through out.
- This exercise targets biceps and fore arm.
- Stand on one leg for more challenge.
- You can use alternating arms or one arm at a time.
It is made up of a long head that originates at scapula, a lateral head which starts at back of the arm (humerus) and short head that starts on the humerus a bit lower than lateral head.
This muscle helps in extending the elbow.
One should not neglect triceps, If you work on biceps. Otherwise you can have muscle imbalances and injuries.
In order to push anything you need strong triceps. When you pull anything you need strong biceps.
It should be worked thrice a week on non-consecutive days.
Beginners can start with 1-2 exercises, 1 set comprising of 14-18 repetitions.
Intermediate and advance (muscle building) must do 3-5 exercises, 3-5 sets of 6-8 repetitions. For endurance intermediate and advance participants should perform 2—3 sets of 2—3 exercises comprising of 10—16 repetitions.
Tricep kick Backs.
- Hold weight in hands and bent over till torso is parallel to the floor.
- Bend your elbows and pull them even with back.
- Straighten arm behind you.
- Thereafter, squeeze the triceps and slowly lower back down.
- You may also use one arm at a time.
- Use of cables offers variety.
- Sit or stand.
- Hold a dumbbell with both hands with elbows bent behind the head to 90 degrees.
- Straighten the arm.
- Squeeze the triceps.
- One can use medicine balls, plate and also use one arm at a time.
Tricep Press (Skull Crushers).
- Lie on a bench and hold a barbell with hands shoulder width apart palms turned outwards.
- Bend elbows to 90 degrees lowering the weight towards the head.
- Squeeze the triceps to push back to starting position.
- For variation dumbbells and cables can be used.
- Sit on a bench with hands right next to your hips.
- Bring hips in front of bench.
- Thereafter, bend elbows not lower than 90 degrees.
- Push back up without locking elbows.
- If you suffer from wrist and shoulder problems skip this exercise.
Close Grip Bench Press.
- Lie down on a bench.
- Hold a barbell with narrow grip.
- Palms should face outward.
- Lower the weight down towards the rib cage.
- Bring elbows below the body.
- Squeeze the triceps to push back the weight up.
- Hold a barbell with an under hand grip.
- Hands should be close.
- Place your forearms on the bench but wrist and hands should hang over the end.
- Elbows and wrists the same distance apart.
- Bend your wrists and lower them towards the floor.
- Now let the weight roll down out of the palms of your hands.
- Roll the weight back up into the hands.
- Contract the forearms and lift the weight as much as possible.
- Forearms should stay fixed on the bench.
- Similarly reverse wrist curls with barbell may be done with an over hand grip.
Frequently Asked Questions.
1. What are the home exercises for upper limb nerve electrical stimulation?
The best home exercises for upper limb nerve electrical stimulation are as follows:
- Tricep elbow extension.
- Unilateral arm training.
- Bilateral arm training.
2. I have disc problem in L4 and L5, can I do dumbbell exercise for my arm and upper body?
Yes, you can do dumbbell exercise for your arm and upper body. But start with light weight. Then gradually increase weight according to your capacity.
“Fitness begins when life begins, and it has to never end. Because there always will be room for improvement”. For fitness to be a habit of life, it has to start early in your life. It is always important to focus equally on each muscle parts of the body, either it is lower or upper body parts. Because, an attractive body must have equal growth. So, with these best upper body exercises you can also achieve an healthy upper body.
Freaktofit has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, educational research institutes, and medical organizations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and up-to-date by reading our editorial policy.
- Rectus abdominis muscle; https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/rectus-abdominis-muscle
- Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Humerus; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534821/
- Latissimus Dorsi Muscle; https://www.physio-pedia.com/Latissimus_Dorsi_Muscle
- Biceps brachii muscle; https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/biceps-brachii-muscle