Benefits of Upper Body Strength and a Free Workout

Think about how often you use your upper body to perform everyday activities such as reaching, pulling, pushing and lifting. The activities that you perform daily would be limited by an inability to perform those functions.

Think about how often you use your upper body to perform everyday activities such as reaching, pulling, pushing and lifting. The activities that you perform daily would be limited by an inability to perform those functions. Pin it now and download the free workout printable and exercise index.

Think about carrying a baby, lifting grocery bags, and reaching for something in a kitchen cabinet or on a shelf in the top of your closet and how much easier these activities are/would be with a strong upper body. Or, if you have a job that requires a lot of time sitting at a computer and the muscles in action to help you sit up straight, comfortably and lessening some of the negative affects of sitting for extended periods of time.

For the next few weeks Jen and I will delve into the how-to, tips and workouts for upper body strength training to have you not only beach body ready, but also feeling strong, confident and daily life ready.

Benefits of Upper Body Strength Training

  • Improves posture while sitting and standing.
  • Improves posture and form for physical activities.
  • Reduces the risk of injuries.
  • Improves speed, balance and strength which are generated through the muscles of the upper body.
  • Improves flexibility.
  • Building and strengthening the large muscles increases muscle tissue in the body which will help burn more fat.
  • A healthy and fit appearance.
  • Balances the major muscle groups.
  • Helps prevent and relieve upper back, neck and shoulder pain.

Major Upper Body Muscle Groups

Upper body strength training exercises target five major parts of the upper body; chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps and the back.

Pectorals major (Chest) – Large fan shaped muscle that covers the front of the upper chest.

Rhomboids (Mid-Upper Back) – Muscles in the middle of the upper back between the shoulder blades.

Trapezius (Upper Back) – Upper portion of the back, sometimes referred to as ‘traps.’ The upper trapezius is the muscle running from the back of the neck to the shoulder.

Latissimus dorsi (Middle Back) Large muscles of the mid-back. When properly trained they give the back a nice V shape, making the waist appear smaller.

Deltoids (Shoulders) The cap of the shoulder. This muscle has three parts, anterior deltoid (the front), medial deltoid (the middle), and posterior deltoid (the rear).

Biceps – The front of the upper arm.

Triceps – The back of the upper arm.

This workout will sculpt and strengthen biceps, triceps and shoulders.

Do this quick upper body workout 2 days a week, leaving a rest day in between. Do the prescribed number of reps for each exercise, choosing a weight that you can barely complete the last rep of your final set with good form.

Think about how often you use your upper body to perform everyday activities such as reaching, pulling, pushing and lifting. The activities that you perform daily would be limited by an inability to perform those functions. Free workout printable and exercise index.

Right click the image above to save the workout to your mobile device or download the workout to print.

Workout Download

EQUIPMENT NEEDED:

  • mat (optional)
  • timer
  • dumbbells

REMEMBER:

  • Brace your core.
  • Use proper body alignment and good form.
  • Reps and rest periods should be based on your fitness level.
  • Modify as needed to meet your fitness level by increasing/decreasing reps, weight and sets.
  • Gradually increase intensity based on your progress.

Don’t forget to warm up before your workout: Learn more…

It’s important to cool down after your workout: Learn more…

I am a certified personal trainer, but this workout was not created for your specific fitness level and needs. Make modifications as needed. Intensity and rest periods should be based on your individual fitness level. See your physician before beginning any exercise program. This web site is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice and supervision of your personal physician. 

EXERCISE INDEX

Tricep Dip (1) Stand with your back to a bench or chair. Bend your legs and place your palm on the front edge of the bench. (2) Position your feet in front of you so that most of your body width is resting on your arms. (3) Keeping your elbows tuck along side your sides, bend your arms and slowly lower your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. (4) Your hips drop straight down toward the ground. (5) Hold for a beat, then exhale and straighten your arms back up to the starting position. Be careful not to lower your body too far. Do not lean forward or away from the bench. Targets: triceps

Bicep Curl (1) Holding dumbbells in both hands palms facing inward, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. (2) Rotate the palms facing outward and lift the weights toward your shoulders (flexing elbows), in one fluid continuous movement reverse the motion, bring the weight down to fully extend the elbows, bringing the arms to the starting position. Targets: biceps

Upright Row (1) Stand with a slight bend in the knees, feet hip width apart. Place a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your body. (2) Keeping the dumbbells close to your body, raise them to your shoulders, bending your elbows out to the sides. Pause. (3) Slowly lower them to the starting position. Targets: deltoids

Tricep Kickback (1) Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. (2) Bend over at the waist so your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Bend both elbows so that your upper arm is locked at your side and parallel to the floor. Your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor. (3) Keeping your upper arm still, straighten your arms behind you until the end of the dumbbell is pointing toward the floor with your palms facing in toward your body. Hold for a beat and inhale, slowly lowering your arms back to the start position. Repeat. Keep your abs tight and your back flat. Do not let your upper arm move during the entire exercise. Targets: triceps

Shoulder Press (1) Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand just outside of your shoulders, with your arms bent and your palms facing each other. (2) Set your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent. (3) Keeping your core braced press the weights upward directly over your shoulders until your arms are completely straight and elbows locked. (4) Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Targets: front deltoids, middle deltoids, triceps

Hammer Curl (1) Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms at your sides. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let them hang at arms length next to your sides. (2) Turn your arms so that your palms face inward, toward each other. (3) Exhale, and without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can. (4) Pause, focusing on squeezing your biceps. (5) Inhale, then slowly lower your arms to start position completely straightening your arms down by your sides. Remember: Stand up straight, shoulders back, and use slow and controlled movements. Be careful not to swing the weights. Targets: biceps

For more upper body strength, you might also like: Short Sleeve and Tank Top Upper Body Workout

I would love to chat:

Do you prefer to strength train upper or lower body? What is your favorite upper body exercise?

Let me know if you have any questions about the workout or if you have a specific fitness related topic you’d like to know more about.

Check out Inspired To Be Fit every Monday in the month of May for a total of 10 free workouts and information on equipment, exercises and progressions to build and strengthen the upper body.

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54 Comments

  1. I’m one of those who stop doing exercise due of backpain problem. I still lift up some heavy things but with some adjusment here and there. I think I could follow this exercise, with lowering the intesity, and make some adjustment.

  2. Your 15 min upper body circuit sounds fantastic!! I’m definitely going to start implementing it into my regular routine–thanks!

  3. I need you to come wake me up every morning and we do this. lol. Seriously, I need to get on a workout regimen!

  4. i secretly love pushup and biceps and triceps. Is that weird? nah, sign me up! pump me up!

  5. I probably could use with a bit more upper body strength, but I feel like I am constantly picking up my kids all the time – so that has to count, right?!

  6. I dont know what Ive been doing at the gym lately, but my shoulders are always sore. I love that you mentioned posture… I think its so important. I grew up doing Ballet so I kinda pride myself on my good posture.

  7. I agree with Marcia- as a runner, I tend to not want to push the legs too much and definitely prefer working upper body or core more. When I read improves posture, I immediately sat up- that’s something I need to work on!

  8. I definitely need to work on improving my posture. Hopefully I can do some of these exercises post-pregnancy!

  9. I can’t decide which I prefer. I love upper and lower body strength training equally. That said I sometimes slack on lower because I’m saving my legs for running.

  10. You’re so right about the importance of giving the upper body love during workouts. I feel like women in general tend to be more drawn to core exercises, legs, etc. But like you said, our upper body is used for so much! I remember Blogilates Cassey Ho once mentioned in a video: build your upper body so you can carry all the groceries in one trip! Lol that always stuck with me

  11. I’d love to increase my upper body (and lower body). Well all my body. I really need to work out more.

  12. Love this awesome upper body workout – hits all the major players in such a short amount of time – my kind of workout!!

  13. Oh goodness, there is no way I could pick between upper and lower body. I enjoy lifting both areas! Granted leg day knocks me on my butt like nothing else can, but I love strengthening and working my arms, then seeing the changes and progress in their shape. I love sexy shoulders and backs!

  14. With my back severely weakened, I really could do with trying some of these. My upper body has lost some muscle tone. But don’t worry, if it hurts… I’ll stop.

    1. Start slowly and listen to your body. It sounds like you’re already doing both 🙂

  15. I really need to work on this, and I admit it is something that I have neglected for a while, This is nicely outlined, and I will be referring back to this post. These are great to get started

  16. I lack upper body strength but that is partly because of my weak core which is due to chronic back and spine issues. It can be very painful to exercise.

    1. I”m sorry to hear that Ana. I don’t know your specific limitations but these exercises are easily adapted for a variety of fitness levels.

  17. Posture is something I need to improve on. That is why I need to try these upper body exercises sometime!

  18. For someone who doesn’t work out at all, would you recommend this? I need to start doing something.

    1. Hi Terri, without knowing more about you (e.g., health history, special health concerns, etc.) I can’t say if this is a good start for you specifically. In general, yes it’s a good beginner workout. The time is short, the exercises are basic and the level of intensity is easily adjusted. Email me if you’d be interested in working together. Having help when you’re just starting out greatly improves your chances for lifelong change. Not to get all preachy. I love this stuff and get carried away. haha

  19. Just this morning I was telling my mom that I need to work on upper body strength! Thanks for this workout 🙂

    1. Christina, this workout will definitely build strength and it’s only 15 minutes. Boom!

  20. Upper body is my favorite day! I love working my back and arms especially. Thank you so much for sharing this and I love the workout ideas!

    1. You’re very welcome Joanne. Love the look toned and defined back and arms. Being good for me is a bonus 🙂

  21. I think this would be a great workout for my arms. It is so hard to get rid of the flab on the undersides of my upper arms.

    1. That’s a tough spot. This workout will definitely help and it’s only 15 minutes. Boom!

  22. I love upper body workouts! They’re so important to balance out all the work my lower body gets, plus I love the look of strong arm and shoulder muscles.

  23. I <3 working upper body! My favorite for sure and a huge help carrying groceries, a baby, and diaper bag at one time!

  24. Lower body is much more fun for me to train that my upper body, however, I do like a good bicep and back workout.

  25. I’m really bad about exercising. I was in great shape until about 5 years ago when I developed severe asthma, allergies to just about everything and severe acid reflux AND positional vertigo. Since then, I am super sedimentary – boo on me

    1. You can get back in shape! I have exercise induced asthma so I get the struggle. Email me if there’s anything I can do to help get you started.

  26. I really needed this because I have absolutely no upper body strength. I recently got back into yoga after many years of being inactive and I have the hardest time when it comes to holding myself up. Thank you for this! It will help tremendously!

    1. It’s awesome that you’re getting back into yoga Trish. Keep going and you’re upper body will build strength. Can you tell I love yoga 🙂

  27. Upper body workouts are my favorite! I will give yours a try!

    1. Deborah I look back and laugh when I think about being a new runner. Weights? What are weights? All I want to do is run. haha

    1. That’s great you’re getting back into weights Dixya. Start slowly and with low weight.

  28. I really need to implement more of these types of exercises into my daily routine. I often hold my stress in my shoulders/neck – so this would help relieve that!
    Karen | GlamKaren.com

  29. This is super informative. Upper body strength is something I’m always working on myself. I joke that my big goal was to carry all the groceries in one trip! Now my new goal is probably to be able to to a pull up!!!

    1. I always try to carry in all the groceries in one trip. haha A pull up is an awesome goal. The first time I was able to do one I felt like such a bada$$.

  30. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    Upper body strength is definitely were I lack. I try to work on it, but wimp out because it hurts so much whenever I try to build those muscles up.

    1. Hi Robin. If it hurts that much maybe you’re starting out too heavy or too many reps. Keep trying 🙂

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