What are the Different Types of Upper-Body Exercises?

Alison Faria

Upper-body exercises are designed to tone muscles and build strength. Basic upper-body workouts include exercises for the shoulders, arms, chest, and back. Warming up for five to ten minutes before each exercise can help prevent injury.

Doing push-ups can help strengthen the upper body.
Doing push-ups can help strengthen the upper body.

Chest presses are often included in upper-body exercises. Lay down on a workout bench, exercise ball, or the floor. Holding a hand weight in each hand, bend your elbows slightly, then push the weights straight above your chest. Then bend your elbows, returning the weights to just above your chest. Push your arms up again, without the weights touching. Repeat the process 12 to 16 times.

Upper-body exercises can help prevent back and neck strain.
Upper-body exercises can help prevent back and neck strain.

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Push-ups are one upper-body exercise that works multiple body areas at once: torso, triceps, and shoulders. Some people prefer to remain on the floor to do push-ups, while more advanced exercisers like to place their legs on an exercise ball for more intensity.

Kickbacks work to tone the triceps.
Kickbacks work to tone the triceps.

To perform a push-up, place your hands on the floor at a distance slightly wider than your shoulders. Lower your torso to the floor by bending your elbows until they reach a 90-degree angle. Then, push back up and repeat. People are usually encouraged to begin with a couple of push ups, then gradually add more as muscles become stronger.

Workout benches are often used for upper-body exercises.
Workout benches are often used for upper-body exercises.

Back extensions are upper-body exercises designed to build muscle strength, but also to relieve muscle stress. Begin by laying face down on the floor with your hands either clasped behind your head or behind your back. Using your back muscles, lift your upper-body slightly, with minimal strain to your neck and head. If possible, hold this position for a count of four, then lower. Beginners generally start with only a couple repetitions to prevent back and neck strain.

Dumbbell curls are a popular exercise for building up and toning the biceps.
Dumbbell curls are a popular exercise for building up and toning the biceps.

Workout benches are often used for upper-body exercises as well. One exercise performed on a bench is the incline bench press. Start by elevating the incline part of the bench to 45 degrees. Sit on the flat area and lean back. With an overhand grip, remove the weight bar from the overhead rack. Lower the bar until it is just above the middle of your chest, then press it upward and slightly back so that it aligns with the rack.

Do a couple of repetitions of upper-body exercises using a workout bench, being careful not to cause muscle strain. If your muscles start to feel weak, that is an indication to stop and rest. Advanced users might want to add weights to the bar, but beginners should start with the weight of the bar itself.

Incline dumbbell bench presses primarily work the upper chest and shoulder muscles.
Incline dumbbell bench presses primarily work the upper chest and shoulder muscles.

Discussion Comments

nextcorrea

I seem to have a really weak lower back. Any time I have to do work outside or lift a bunch of things it seems to hurt.

Can anyone recommend some good lower back exercises that I can do?

backdraft

@vigilant - I feel the same way about chin-ups. They have been the backbone of my workout for almost two years now.

Just like the push-up there are all sorts of variations and they target all the muscles in the upper body. I can't believe how strong I feel now that I have gotten into the routine of doing pull-ups. Its like my body weight is nothing.

vigilant

The push-up is one of the best all over upper body exercises that you can do. It works the arms, shoulders, back, chest and core all in one simple motion. Plus, there are dozens of variations on it that you can do to target different muscle groups

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