What comes to mind when you think about upper body workouts? Lots and lots of push-ups? Men flexing for selfies in the gym mirror? But there's a lot more to targeting your arms, chest and upper back than just showing off your "guns."
One way of looking at these workouts is dividing them into two main parts — push and pull. The "push" involves exercises like the bench press and chest fly, as you're pushing the weights away from your body. On the other hand, exercises like the bent-over row, lat pulldown and pull-up are pulling exercises, as you're pulling the weight toward you.
Keep reading for more motivation to hit the weights (or use your own body weight) to target your arms, chest and back as well as some workouts that help you do just that.
Importance of Upper Body Workouts
In general, upper body workouts are important because they strengthen the muscles that help you lift, push and pull objects in your everyday life. And if you're doing your workout correctly and including a warm-up session with mobility and a cool-down with static stretching, you're also helping prevent injury. A strong upper body also helps improve your posture.
When it comes to the pushing and pulling aspects of upper body workouts, both are equally important for balance body. If you fail to work both sides of the body — in this case, front and back — you're increasing the likelihood of creating muscle imbalance that can lead to tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, stooped shoulders and lower back problems.
Pushing movements, in particular, target the muscles of the chest, front of the shoulders and backs of the arms, while pulling movements target the muscles of the back, back of the shoulders and biceps.
You don't have to do both types of exercises in a single workout session, though. Some people like to break things up so that one day is a pull workout and the other is a push workout. But since this is a more advanced training split, if you're just starting out, it's important to make each workout a well-rounded session — usually one that hits all major muscle groups from a variety of angles and positions.
The Best Upper Body Exercises
Now that you're convinced you should be doing upper body workouts, the next logical question is what are the best exercises to target the muscles in your chest, back and arms. Here are some to start with, as well as how to progress your workout as you get stronger.
- Bent-over row
- One-arm row
- Inverted row
- Bench press
- Incline bench press
- Shoulder press
- Chest fly
- Biceps curl
- Hammer curl
- Triceps extension
- Skull crusher
- Arnold press
- Rear delt raise
- Lateral raise
- Front raise
- Triceps dips
- Lat pulldown
Read more: 5 No-Equipment Upper Body Exercises
How to Build an Even Stronger Upper Body
Once you've got the basics down, give some of the following workouts a try and read up on how to effectively plan your upper body workouts.
How to Join the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge
1. Sign Up for Daily Emails
There are two main places this challenge is taking place online — your inbox and our Facebook group (more on that in a second). So first, make sure you've entered your email to sign up for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. (Yep, even if you're already signed up for our regular daily newsletter.)
Every day, we'll be sending you your daily workout and a healthy recipe to try, along with fun extras like workout playlists, motivational quotes, self-care tips and other fitness and nutrition information to make 2019 your best (and healthiest) year ever!
2. Print Out Your Calendars
Isn't it so satisfying to check things off of your to-do list? Each day during the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge, you're accountable for two main things: working out and eating healthy.
To help keep you on track for the entire month, we created two calendars — one with each day's workouts listed and another with each week's nutrition goal and healthy recipes. Print them out and check off each workout and day of healthy eating as you complete it.
3. Join Our Challenge Facebook Group
For daily support, motivation and camaraderie with LIVESTRONG.COM team members, join our Facebook Group for the Get Strong in 2019 Challenge. We'll share recipes, tips, motivations, pictures and more! Plus, we'll answer all your questions.
4. Share Your Journey on Social Media
Are you on Instagram or Twitter? So are we! And we'd love to see photos and updates of your progress. When you post to social media, be sure to use the hashtag #GetStrongChallenge. That way, you can also connect with other Get Strong challengers!