What are the Best Upper Body Exercises?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

There are many types of upper body exercises. The best among them may depend on the specific needs of the person performing them. For example, one person may have a goal of toning his body, while another person’s goal may be to add muscle mass and strength. There are, however, some upper body exercises that are generally considered among the best for most people, including overhead presses, push-ups and arm curls.

Doing push ups with elevated legs is particularly difficult and works the upper body.
Doing push ups with elevated legs is particularly difficult and works the upper body.

Overhead barbell presses are among the best upper body exercises for working the shoulder muscles. To perform this exercise, a person begins by holding a barbell with two hands that are spaced evenly on the barbell. The exerciser lifts the barbell until it is level with his forehead, keeping his elbows bent. He then presses the barbell over his head, keeping his back straight and his abdominal muscles contracted. Finally, he lowers the barbell back to his starting position, repeating the exercise for at least a couple of sets of 10 to 12 repetitions each.

Push-ups are good for strengthening the upper body.
Push-ups are good for strengthening the upper body.

People often perform push-ups to not only work the chest muscles, but also to work the arms and legs at the same time. To begin a push-up, a person gets down on the floor on all fours. With his hands positioned just a little farther apart than his shoulders, he moves his knees back, so his weight is focused on his hands and his body extends straight out from his head to his feet. Keeping his feet close together and his abdominal muscles contracted, he pushes off with his hands and raises his body off the floor until his arms are straight. He then lowers himself back to the floor until his chest touches it.

Holding the plank pose for 30 seconds is a good workout for the upper body.
Holding the plank pose for 30 seconds is a good workout for the upper body.

Dumbbell arm curls are used to target the biceps, which are muscles in the upper arm. To perform them, a person stands with a dumbbell in each hand and his feet between a hip-width and shoulder-width apart. He then bends at the elbow and turns the palm of his hands upward, pulling the dumbbells up in front of him until they are at the height of his shoulders. The exerciser may do two to three sets of dumbbell curls, completing 10 to 12 repetitions in each set.

Dumbbell curls, seated or standing, are an effective way to build stronger biceps.
Dumbbell curls, seated or standing, are an effective way to build stronger biceps.

Dumbbell rows are among the best upper body exercises for a person’s back. To perform a bent-over dumbbell row, a person bends over with one knee and arm on a weight bench and the other leg positioned a bit to the back and side of the bent knee. He then lifts the dumbbell from the floor and pulls it up to his rib area. Finally, he fully extends his arm once more and prepares to lift the dumbbell again. This exercise works the latissimus dorsi muscles, which are the widest muscles of the back. The row may be repeated, with the exerciser alternating arms, for two to three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.

Some people do upper body exercises to help add muscle mass and build strength.
Some people do upper body exercises to help add muscle mass and build strength.
After a workout, a person should make sure to stretch their upper body.
After a workout, a person should make sure to stretch their upper body.
Chest presses with dumbbells can be used to strengthen the pectoral muscles.
Chest presses with dumbbells can be used to strengthen the pectoral muscles.
Curls help strengthen the biceps and other muscles of the arms.
Curls help strengthen the biceps and other muscles of the arms.
Inclined bench presses are good upper body exercises.
Inclined bench presses are good upper body exercises.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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