5 Best Exercises to Add to Your Upper Body Workout

A man and woman doing an Upper Body workout

When working out, knowing how to target certain muscles can be the hardest part. Finding the most effective exercises can help give your workout that extra push and get you the results you’re looking for. We’ve got five of the best exercises to help you raise the bar on your next upper body workout. The best part? You can do these upper body moves from home with minimal equipment!



Push-ups are a staple of exercise and strength building. We’ve all heard of the traditional push-up, but did you know there are variations that target different areas of the upper body? Standard push-ups target the chest, shoulders, triceps, core, and lats, which is why they’re fundamental to an upper body workout.


  1. From a plank position, place your hands on the ground directly under your shoulders.
  2. Tighten your core, and while keeping your back flat, lower your body by bending your elbows.
  3. Once you reach a 90-degree angle with your elbows, push your body back into the starting position.


Bicep Curls

Our next upper body workout move is bicep curls. This move focuses on developing the biceps, or front arm muscles, but they also help promote shoulder stability. For this move, you will need dumbbells or two household items you can lift of equal weight.


  1. Start in a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart with a weight in each hand. You’ll start with your arms down at your sides and palms facing away from your body.
  2. Lock your elbows at your sides, and while keeping your back straight, slowly pull the weights up towards your shoulders by bending the elbows.
  3. Slowly lower the weights back down to your start position and repeat.


Dumbbell Bench Press

A bench press is similar to a push-up in form, but it also works out the same upper body muscles. This upper body workout will hit your chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles. To do this move, you will need a weight for each hand and a flat bench to lay on.


  1. With your back flat against the bench and a weight in each hand above the chest, raise your arms straight above your chest.
  2. Bend the elbows to bring the weights down until your elbows form a 90-degree angle.
  3. Hold in the lowered position, and then press us and in until your arms have fully extended and repeat.


Lateral Raise

The lateral raise is an upper body workout that will target your shoulders, biceps, and triceps. Like previous moves, this one requires a weight for each hand and will be done from a standing position. This upper body move is effective for strengthening the shoulders as it isolates the deltoid muscles.


  1. Start in a standing position, a dumbbell in each hand, and arms down at your side.
  2. Keeping your arms almost completely straight, lift the dumbbells up and out on both sides of the body until the elbows reach shoulder height.
  3. Slowly lower the weights until they are resting at your sides and repeat.


Bent-Over Row

The bent-over row has been considered one of the best muscle building exercises for the back as well as the shoulders. You can do this move with a barbell, dumbbells, resistance bands, or other household alternatives.


  1. Starting in a standing position and a dumbbell in each hand, bend over to a 45-degree angle. Hold the weights at your sides.
  2. Keeping your back straight, lift the dumbbells straight up until they are at the sides of your ribs, activating the shoulders at the top of the movement.
  3. Slowly lower your arms to the starting position and repeat.


Incorporating these moves into your upper body workout routine can help you get the fitness results you’re looking for. Whether you choose to work out alone or in a group fitness class, the Y is here to help! We offer various cardio, strength training, and other fitness classes to meet your needs. Are you looking for a little more one-on-one attention? Our personal trainers’ experience and knowledge can help you develop a workout plan to help you reach your goals. Contact us today to learn more about the health and fitness options available at the Y.