Our Editors independently research, test, and rate what we feel are the best products. We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.
For many of us, our upper body is much weaker than our lower. It makes sense, too! We are always using our lower body: to walk, climb the stairs, hike, play basketball, ski – pretty much everything! However, our upper body gets many less opportunities to be active and to strengthen it, we must go out of our way to do so. Here are 5 workouts to strengthen your upper body effectively and relatively quickly.
Probably the most convenient upper body exercise for everyone is the pushup. You don’t need any equipment to do them, and even if you’re a beginner, you can modify them to work for you.
- Get down on the floor on all fours (ideally on a yoga mat or exercise mat). You’ll want your hands to be in a straight line down from the shoulders. Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
- Next, extend your legs behind you. Engage your core as if you were doing a plank with your arms straight. If you aren’t quite ready for this, you can instead keep your knees on the ground.
- Lower your body until your chest is almost touching the floor (but never let it touch). For maximum muscle and strength building, try to lower yourself slow enough that you can count 5 seconds on the way down, and 1 second on the way back up. The faster you push back up, the faster you’ll build that explosive strength.
- Remember to always keep your spine straight, your elbows in towards your sides, and extend elbows at the top of the pushup.
2. Battle Ropes
Battle ropes are one of the biggest trends of the last few years, but we’re sure they’re going to stick around for a while judging by how fun and effective they are to use. The great news is that they’re no longer just to be used in the gym! Many battle ropes are affordable yet effective for at-home use.
One of the most popular exercises you’ll see people performing with these ropes is the “Wave”, which will burn the biceps and front shoulders like crazy. Simply keep your elbows tight at your sides, moving your arms up and down, alternating almost as if you were playing the drums. This creates the “waves” that the name refers to.
Too easy for you? Try doing “Double Waves” where you’ll move your arms simultaneously up and down. This will require not only upper body strength but core strength as well.
Do you want to focus more on your shoulders and trapezii? Then try “Circles”, where you will move each arm in a circle, alternating once again. Choose to move them inward or outward, depending on what part of the shoulder you’d like to address.
3. Slam Ball
Slam balls are an incredibly versatile piece of exercise equipment, as you can use them for pretty much everything. One of the most popular ways to use them is by simply tossing them at concrete walls, or using a training partner and throwing it between the both of you. This kind of training is perfect for generating a lot of strength rapidly, as you have to really use power to do so.
However, there are other great exercises to try if you want to expand possibilities even further.
Try the “Squat Throw to Sprint” which you should do 3 sets of 5 reps (or more if you can).
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping the ball between your feet. Squat down until you can pick up the ball, then simultaneously pulling it to your chest as you jump up as fast as you can. As you reach the top of your jump, move the ball up and throw it forward with both hands.
As you land, run as fast as you can towards the ball, then repeat in the other direction. Make sure to keep proper form, keeping your back in its natural shape, with your head looking forward, and your core engaged.
Ah, yes, the classic dumbbell workout for toning the upper body! Dumbbells (or kettle bells) are undoubtedly one of the most effective ways of gaining strength. They’re easy to handle, but for some, can be intimidating. We highly recommend purchasing a pair of adjustable dumbbells. These are a great investment as you won’t “outgrow” them as quickly. You can start on a lighter weight, and add more as your strength increases.
One of the quickest ways of doing so is by doing “push-pull” workouts. For example, you can train your back and chest one day, and your biceps and triceps another. Our back and biceps work together to “pull”, and our chest and triceps “push”. Combining complementary exercises really maximizes your potential.
3 sets of dumbbell chest presses until failure, superset with 3 sets of dumbbell rows. So, you’ll do one set of chest presses, one set of dumbbell rows, then repeat 2 more times.
5. Rowing Machine
Want to get in some cardio and build up your upper body strength? Then you absolutely need to get yourself a rowing machine! Remember when we were talking about “pulling” muscles? Rowing machines engage exactly these muscles, focusing on the middle and upper back, rear deltoids, and biceps. If you want to burn some fat, work your heart, and tone your muscles then this machine really can’t be beat!
Now that you’ve had the opportunity to take a look at the top 5 workouts to strengthen your upper body, which one will you perform first? The great thing about these is that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one! Try them out and see which you gravitate towards most. We hope that this guide has helped you out, and that you enjoy seeing your upper body become even stronger! Thanks for tuning in and we’ll see you again shortly!