Build your upper body strength
One of the things gyms don’t want you to know is that building upper body strength doesn’t require tons of equipment or a fancy membership. All you need is a pair of dumbbells for most of these exercises that strengthen your chest, back, shoulders, and arms. Opt for a combination of the following moves that focus on the chest and back so that you can avoid overdeveloping or strengthening one more than the other.
Flat dumbbell bench press
Michael Bambino & Co.
For this classic upper body exercise, lie on your back on a flat bench with your feet firmly on the floor and your arms extended over your chest, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your palms should face forward.
- Slowly bend your arms to lower the dumbbells down and outward until they are on either side of your chest.
- Extend your arms straight up and over your chest again, pressing back up to the starting position. Pause briefly at the top before repeating for 8-12 reps.
What it does: Strengthens the muscles in your chest, the front of your shoulders, and the back of your arms.
Form tip: Don’t lower the dumbbells too deep, or you’ll risk injuring your shoulders. You should feel a nice stretch in your chest and still be able to see your knuckles and thumbs in the bottom position. The width between your hands determine if you’re using more chest (wide grip) or triceps (narrow grip)—and this goes for the other chest upper body exercises, too.
How many reps should you do? For all of these moves, it depends on how heavy your weight is. I typically recommend 8-12 per set, 3-4 sets with a 60-90 second rest in between. Once you can easily achieve 12 reps, bump up your weight.