Working your upper body isn't all about looking good while flexing. Strong, stable, injury-free arms and shoulders are just as important (if not moreso). While isolation exercises like biceps curls target specific muscle groups, to build functional strength, you need compound exercises.
And regardless of your fitness background, you can level up your workouts by combining two exercises in one move. Combining two upper-body exercises forces your body to engage more muscle groups, which ultimately improves the efficiency of your workout.
Below, Jake Harcoff, NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist at AIM Athletic, demonstrates six of the most efficient two-in-one exercises that will get your arms, chest and shoulders looking like Captain America's in no time.
Try These 6 Combination Upper-Body Exercises
1. Landmine Pull and Press
- Load one side of a barbell and place the other end into a landmine attachment or in the corner of a bench or wall.
- Stand facing the bar with the plate centered between your legs and grab the end of the barbell sleeve with the hand closest to the unloaded side of the barbell.
- Hinge at your hips.
- As you stand up, perform a high pull with the arm holding the barbell, bringing the weight up toward your chest.
- Once at the height of the pull, rotate your body slightly toward the barbell, switch hands and perform a press with the previously free arm, lifting the weight over your head.
2. Dumbbell Curl and Press
- Standing with feet shoulder-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs.
- Without swinging the weights, perform a dumbbell curl with both arms, lifting the weights from your thighs to your shoulders without moving your elbows.
- Without dropping the weights, shift your weights out to the side and flip your wrists so that your palms face away from your body.
- Press the dumbbells directly over your head.
- Reverse the movement back down to the starting position.
3. Dumbbell Low Fly and Around the World
- Start in an athletic stance with dumbbells in both hands at your sides.
- Begin by supinating the dumbbells and raising them to shoulder height, while at the same time bringing them towards the midline of the body.
- Once at the top position, pronate your hands and abduct your arms until they are at the sides of your body. With control, lower both dumbbells to your sides.
- Retrace each step of the movement, beginning with a lateral shoulder raise, then adducting your shoulder back to midline.
- Supinate the dumbbells and return them to the starting position.
4. Front Plate Raise and Triceps Extension
- Grab a weight plate with your hands at the 9 and 3 o'clock position, resting it on your thighs.
- With almost straight arms, and without swinging, raise the plate until it's directly over your head.
- Bend at the elbows, and with control, lower the plate behind your head.
- Bring the plate back above your head again.
- With almost straight arms, lower the plate with control back to the starting position.
5. High Cable Pull and Press
- Begin kneeling on your right knee in front of a weighted pulley or resistance band. Grab the cable or handle with your right hand.
- In your left hand, hold a dumbbell at shoulder height with your palm facing your body.
- Pull the cable toward the side of your body while rotating and pressing the dumbbell overhead at the same time.
- With control, reverse the movement back to the starting position.
- Complete the intended amount of reps before switching sides. Remember to also switch knees.
6. Incline Bench Press and Skull Crusher
- Sit on an inclined bench with dumbbells in your hands at chest height and a neutral grip.
- Keep your forearms pointing to the ceiling as you press the dumbbells straight up, until just before your arms lock out.
- At the top, bend your elbows and lower the dumbbells toward your shoulders, keeping your upper arms pointing upward.
- Extend the dumbbells back to the top position so that your forearms are pointing at the ceiling.
- Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
- Repeat for the intended amount of reps.