Contrary to Hollywood movies, having a strong upper body involves more than having huge rippling biceps. You also don’t have to be able to do 100 pull-ups to have a strong upper body. But what is important is working all the different upper body muscles, including your triceps, back, shoulders, and pectoral muscles.
But like starting any new workout routine, it’s important to incorporate exercises that will work multiple muscles. It is always better to do fewer exercises that have more impact and will cause better results than it is to have more exercises that don’t engage the muscles to get the most out of your workout. For all these exercises you should start with 3 sets at 15 reps each.
Traditional pushups are beneficial for building upper body strength. They work the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders. Using proper form, they can also strengthen the lower back and core by engaging (pulling in) the abdominal muscles. Pushups are a fast and effective exercise for building strength.
Not only do pushups increase upper body strength, toning your chest, shoulders, and triceps—they also work your entire core (I’m talking abs, back, and glutes!), plus internal stabilizer muscles like your pelvic floor. That is, as long as you’re nailing your form. Push-ups are a great exercise movement to help improve upper body pushing strength. They can help to build muscle mass, strength, and endurance, depending on how you vary volume, sets, and reps.
2. Overhead Tricep Extensions
The overhead tricep extension is an isolation exercise that works the muscle on the back of the upper arm. This muscle, called the triceps, has three heads: the long head, the lateral head, and the medial head. The three heads work together to extend the forearm at the elbow joint. It’s comparable to performing tricep extensions with your elbows at your sides. Both versions are excellent for isolating the triceps. It’s also a great way to work on stability at the shoulders and core.
The main benefit of the overhead triceps extension is the hypertrophy (the process of enhancing muscle growth) of the triceps that comes with the motion. Unlike other triceps exercises, the triceps extension activates all three heads of the triceps, which means that your entire triceps will become stronger through this exercise.
3. Lateral Arm Dumbbell Raises
Lateral raises work the trapezius muscle in your upper back as well as the deltoid muscle group in your shoulders—particularly the anterior and lateral deltoids. It is an effective shoulder-strengthening movement designed to isolate the lateral head of the deltoid muscle. Performed regularly and correctly, this can help you develop stronger, broader shoulders, enhance muscle growth and increase your range of motion.
Despite the basic movement of the exercise, if not done properly, you run the risk of not engaging the muscles properly or worse injuring yourself. To ensure proper form, keep your back straight, brace your core, and then slowly lift the weights out to the side until your arms are parallel with the floor, with the elbow slightly bent. Then lower them back down, again in a measured fashion – you’ll find it all the harder if you avoid speeding up.
4. Front Arm Dumbbell Raises
Front dumbbell raises primarily target the front of the shoulders, known as the anterior deltoid. This muscle is used in shoulder flexion. Front dumbbell raises also work the lateral (side) deltoid and the serratus anterior, along with the upper and lower trapezius, and biceps.
The dumbbell front raise strengthens primarily the shoulder (deltoids) but also works the upper chest muscles (pectorals). It is an isolation exercise for shoulder flexion. This exercise will help you build strength and definition in the front and sides of your shoulder.
For lateral and front raises, take the amount of weight you would use for a dumbbell biceps curl and divide it in half. Use this as a baseline only. Try one rep. If it’s too easy, go heavier, or if you can’t complete the rep, go lighter.
5. Bent Over Rows
The bent-over row primarily works the latissimus dorsi (the large wing-like muscles in your back), the middle and lower trapezius, the rhomboids, and the posterior deltoids. These are the prime movers that are responsible for the movement in the exercise.
Bent-over rows are a simple full-body exercise that will make it easy to build muscle in your back. They’ll sculpt your back muscles while also chiseling out your shoulders. While they work out your full body, they’re an exercise that you might want to fit into your upper body workout.
6. Bicep Curls
Bicep curls are a good exercise for muscle growth for the shorter head of the bicep. This muscle is what produces that muscle peak that a lot of people look for when they think of the biceps. So, while hammer curls activate mostly the long head of the bicep, a traditional bicep curl activates the shorter head of the bicep.
When your brachialis, deltoid, extensors, and flexors are engaged and working in unison, they can all contribute — not just to a set of defined upper arms, but to forearms and shoulders as well.
7. Bent-Over Lateral Raises
The rear lateral raise, also called the bent-over lateral raise, is an exercise that increases the strength and hypertrophy of your rear deltoids. These are the small muscles found on the backs of your shoulders.
Using bent-over lateral raises can increase pulling and pushing strength, and overhead stability, and help you look even stronger from behind.
8. Arm Circles
Arm circles are a calisthenics exercise that forces your trapezius, deltoids, and the muscles of your upper arms to contract and relax. This can help improve muscle tone and can help you build muscle over time.
This is also used a lot of time when you do a kinetic warmup. While it may seem unintimidating, this warmup gets your blood moving and can help to build muscle tone in your shoulders, triceps, and biceps. They also work on your upper back muscles.
What do you guys think of these slimming and toning arm exercises? Let us know in the comments below!