Strength training - upper body

Doing some exercises that work on your upper body, specifically, will bring hidden benefits. Don't forget the basics - things like warming up and down, and staying properly hydrated - but whatever your current levels of activity, a few simple exercises will help you to:

  • Improve your posture and co-ordination
  • Burn calories and raise your metabolism
  • Improve shape and definition of your upper body
  • Reduce your risk of injuries

Bench presses

What are we doing?

We're strengthening your chest and backs of your arms, your pectoral muscles and triceps. At the gym, you'll use a bench press - but you can also do this exercise on the floor at home, using a barbell or dumbbells.

  • Lie with your back flat (or on your press machine) with your feet on the ground.
  • Grip the bar or dumbbells across your chest.
  • Slowly exhale and push the bar or dumbbells away from you, to the side, until your arms are straight, but not locked.
  • Pause briefly, inhale and bring the bar/dumbbells back to your chest.

Shoulder presses

What are we doing?

We're working on your shoulders, backs of your arms and upper back, your deltoids, triceps and trapezius muscles.

  • Start with the bar or dumbbells in front of your shoulders.
  • Raise the bar/dumbbell above your head until your arms are extended.
  • Pause and then return to the start position.

Lat pull-downs

What are we doing?

We're strengthening the muscles in your back, front of your upper arms and forearms, your latissimus dorsi, brachioradialis and biceps. Try not to rock backwards and forwards as you do this exercise.

  • On a gym machine (bench), put any pads in place then take hold of the bar with an overhand grip, arms fully extended.
  • Sit and lean backwards slightly.
  • Slowly exhale and pull the bar down in front of you to your upper chest.
  • Pause, then inhale and return the bar to its starting position.

Seated row

What are we doing?

We're working on the strength of your latissimus dorsi, brachioradialis and biceps, muscles in your back, front of your upper arms and forearms.

  • Sit on a gym machine (bench) in an upright position, against the pad if there is one.
  • Grip the bar and as you exhale pull it in to your lower chest.
  • Pause briefly then return to the starting position.

To find out more about ways to improve the efficiency of this training, read our extended guide to strength training for legs.

Find out more about Strength training - legs.

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