8 Best Exercises for Upper Body

exercises for upper body

The most important benefit of upper body workout, is strengthening of the core muscles and abs, is that it helps burn calories faster. There are myriads of benefits for women by developing upper body strength. Especially for swimmers, runners, bikers and to be a successful athlete it is very important to strengthen the upper body. Most of the lengthy, gruelling workouts require good posture, which in turn keeps the unnecessary injuries at bay. The upper body strength will also help in exercises that focus on legs.

These best 8 exercises for upper body routine done three times a week will ensure complete body fitness.

#1. Push Ups

It is the best exercise that can be done by a newbie. Getting from zero push up per day to 100 push ups routine for beginners can be a daunting task as many consider it to be a strenuous exercise. Though doing a 100 push up would depend on weight, age, nutrition and sleep, it can be achieved if done in the following steps.

Kitchen Counter Push Up:

The best place to do your first set of push ups is using the edge of the kitchen counter.


How to: Rest your hands about shoulder width apart, shoulders down and back straight.

Optimal Volume (Reps/ sets): 5 sets of as many push ups with two minutes rest. 3 times a week.

Knee Push ups:


How to: Kneel all fours and walk your hands till your hips drop. Back straight and hands shoulder width apart. Feet crossed at the ankles or rested on the floor.

Optimal volume: 5 sets of as many push ups with two minutes rest. 3 times a week

Standard Push up:


How to: A good form is when the hips are in line with the body.

Optimal Volume: 1 set of 20 Push ups followed by 1 set of 20 knee Push ups.

Also Read: 5 Best Workout Methods to Boost Your Butt with Cardio

#2. Reverse Fly Back

Popularly known as flies or flyers, they work on the posterior Deltoid muscles on the back of the shoulders. They target the shoulder muscles and hence ease pain in the neck and shoulder. There are many different ways of performing reverse fly. Like incline bench reverse flyes, Cable machine reverse flyes, kneeling reverse flyes. The one we will concentrate for our routine is bent over reverse fly. This fly helps in working the muscle to fatigue, in turn aiding muscle growth.

Bent over Reverse Fly

This classic exercise requires a flat exercise bench and a set of dumbbells. This exercise helps in building muscular symmetry.


How to: Sitting on the edge of the bench with feet flat on the floor. Bend forward towards the knees; holding dumbbell facing the outside of each feet. Raise the arms with elbows slightly higher than the shoulders, laterally till they are parallel to the floor. The palms have to be facing the floor when the hands are raised. To complete the exercise lower the arms back to the sides of the feet.

Optimal volume: Perform eight to 12 repetitions.

#3. Dumbbell Pullover

Considered as the most effective exercise to add depth and thickness to torso. This exercise works all the muscle groups such as lats, chest, torso, shoulder and arms. The most important and main benefit of this exercise is they help expand rip cage. Along with building the upper body muscle, the stretch involved in the pullover also benefits in improving flexibility and range motion of shoulder and chest region.


Start with light weights and as you progress go up to 5-10 pounds; a flat exercise bench. You can also do this exercise lying flat on the floor or with head hanging over the edge of your bed or with a pillow under your head. Most importantly do not lock the elbows straight as it will lead to elbow joint damage. This exercise is very effective when done in the end of the workout sessions.

How to: Lie on the bench with head hanging over the edge. Holding the inner plate of the dumbbell lift it over the chest with elbows slightly bent. Breathe in and lower the dumbbell over and beyond your head till the upper arms are in-line with the torso. Breathe out while pulling the dumbbell over the chest.

Optimal volume: Start with 15 reps of 1-2 warm up sets.

#4. Overhead press

This one exercise will make your waist appear smaller and add curves to your upper body. When added to the upper body routine, it is the best exercise to gain strength and mass in your shoulder. In the upper body workout routine, it is recommended to use overhead press machine to establish base strength and stability. For best upper body workout with weights, this exercise can be done with dumbbells or a barbell. The exercise can be performed standing or in a seated position.


How to: Stand straight with feet hip-width apart holding two dumbbells in the sides at shoulder height with palms facing forward. Breathing out, engage the core and press your arms overhead till the elbows are straight. Breathe in and lower the arms slowly to the shoulder height.

Optimal Volume: Start with 3- 4 set with 8 to 15 reps each. Use more repetitions and lighter weights to improve muscular endurance. For muscular strength use fewer repetitions and heavier weights.

#5. Overhead Triceps extension

Triceps extensions help to work on Triceps muscle imbalance and while rehabilitating from an injury. These exercises use just one joint and hence are called isolation exercises. Isolation exercises are used for specific muscle growth. Triceps extensions also help in strengthening elbow joints. They can be performed using dumbbell, barbell, and cable machine or using exercise band.


How to: Can be done sitting on a high-back weight bench or Standing with feet hip-width apart. Hold the dumbbells with both hands and extend arms overhead. Lower the weights by bending the elbows

Optimal Volume: Start with 2 set with 10 reps each.

#6. Bicep Curls

The most popular isolation workout is to tone the arms. Tighter biceps contribute to toned and defined look of the arms. Bicep muscles help the flexing action of the arms at the elbow joint. Bicep curls make daily tasks like lifting beverages, picking up a child an easier task.


How to: Stand upright with dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length, with elbows close to the torso, palm facing forward. Breathe out, contract your biceps, curl the weights; keeping the upper arms stationary. Continue till the dumbbells reach the shoulder level. To increase the intensity, hold the contracted position for a second more. Inhale and lower the dumbbells to the starting position.

Optimal Volume: Start with 3 sets of 15-12-10 reps

#7. Planks

The popular core strengthening exercise is also a no-excuse exercise. All that needs to be done is hold the body off the floor. This exercise looks deceivingly easy, as the tough part is not getting the form right, its holding the form that requires endurance and strength. Plank exercise not only tones belly by working the deep inner core muscles, it also reduces back pain as it strengthens the back muscles. Plank stretches collarbones, shoulder blades, hamstrings and shoulders. They also help in releasing tension stiff and tensed muscles.


Planks most importantly improve posture as it becomes easier to maintain an upright posture while sitting and standing. There are different types of planks exercise such as side plank, full plank, elbow plank, raised leg plank. To get the best results from a plank care must be taken not to let the hips, shoulder, and head to drop. Hands should not be placed too close. Proper breathing must be maintained. It is better to hold the right form for shorter period.

How to: Place elbows under the shoulders with wrist in line with the elbows. Push the body up. Breathing normally, holds the position by contract stomach, and squeeze thigh and gluteal muscles.

Optimal Volume: Hold the plank position for 20 secs – 30 secs. Do the same for three reps with one minute break in between each plank.

#8. Squats

One the most important exercise women’s should do. The best exercise to work on outer things, hamstrings, quads, core and glutes. Most importantly it works the core muscles. These muscles help improve posture, which in turn will make you look leaner and longer. In women the upper back muscles are usually weak leading to rounded shoulders. Just by working on the lats, the posture gets a better definition. Squats works out the overall upper body strength by working on the biceps, back muscles and shoulders. Care must be taken not to cross the plane of the toes. Thighs have to be parallel to the ground. There are different ways of doing squats like chair squats, wide stance squats, ball squat, and assisted squat.


How to: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and toes slightly turned outwards. Breathe in and with back straight, slowly bend at the knees and from the hips. Breathe out and return to the standing position.

Optimal volume: Aim for 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions.

The immediate reward of an upper body workout – it will leave you feeling stronger. In the long term, you will notice stronger and better looking abdominal muscles, and trim legs. The workouts will improve your posture which will definitely improve your confidence manifold. With better metabolism and stored body fat being burnt, you will look less hunched over and more like an athlete.