15 Exercises to Target Your Upper Body

15 Exercises to Target Your Upper Body

When working out, it’s important to think about balance! That means training each body part equally and not just focusing on the glutes. Ladies, I’m talking to you!

If you want to progress with your workout programme, training your upper body is just as important as training your lower body. It’s also a great way to create the illusion of a smaller waist by building out your back/shoulder muscles. Hello hour glass figure!

So, in order to help you achieve that balance, we’ve come up with a list of 15 exercises to work your upper body. For some of these exercises you need simple dumbbells, for some you need gym equipment, and for others you don’t need anything at all!




IdealFit single arm rowTrainer Lindsey single arm row

Get into a lunge position and rest your left arm on your left leg. Bend forward at the hips so that your upper body is parallel to the ground. Your right arm is straight and perpendicular to the ground, holding a dumbbell weight. Draw your right elbow back tightening your back muscles. Switch arms and repeat.


IdealFit underhand rowIdealFit underhand row

Grip barbell or dumbbells with an overhand grip so your palms are facing back. Making sure that your back remains straight, lean forward at the hips so that your body is at about a 45 degree angle to the floor. Your torso shouldn’t quite be parallel with the ground. Keeping your elbows close to your body draw your weights back. Your hands should be about level with your belly button. Squeeze your back muscles to use them to draw the weights back. Hold for a beat or two and return to starting position.


With your knees slightly bent, bend slightly forward at the hips to create a 45 degree angle. Extend both of your arms towards the floor, your palms should be facing each other. Draw your weights up towards your waist keeping your elbows close to your body. Hold with your back muscles contracted for a few seconds and then slowly return to starting position.


Using the lat pulldown machine, take a wide grip on the bar and sit up straight. Pull the bar down towards your chest making sure your chest remains stationary and your elbows stay pointing down and not back.


Place your dumbbells on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Get into plank position and grip your weights. Tighten your back muscles as you draw your elbow back until the weight reaches your waist. Slowly return the weight to starting position. Repeat the same number of sets on both sides.


Lay down on your stomach with your arms and legs extended straight. Keeping your glutes tight, raise your arms and legs as high as you can, and hold for a few counts, really feeling your lower back muscles activate. Then release and lower your arms and legs back to the floor.


Lay crossways on a bench so that your back is resting on the bench but your hips are hanging below chest level. Grip one of the dumbbells with both hands and stretch your arms behind your head, lowering the dumbbell until you feel the stretch through your chest. Without locking your elbows, keep your arms straight and raise the dumbbell over your chest. Repeat.





Start in a standing position, a dumbbell in each hand and your hands at your sides palms facing your legs. Keeping your upper arms stationary draw both dumbbells up towards your shoulders rotating your wrists so your palms face your shoulders.


Start in a standing position, a dumbbell in each hand and your hands at your sides, palms facing your legs. Start with your right arm, and keeping your upper arm stationary, draw the dumbbell up towards your shoulder rotating your wrist so your palm faces your shoulder. Slowly return to starting position and repeat on your opposite arm.


Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your feet about hip width apart. Let your arms hang at your side with your palms facing in towards your legs. Keeping your elbow and upper arm stationary, draw your weights up towards your shoulder. At the top of this exercise your elbow should be fully bent and your palms should still be facing each other. Slowly return to starting position.


Sit on the edge of a bench, chair, or stability ball with knees slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Grip your dumbbell with an underhand grip and brace your elbow on your inner thigh just behind your knee. Place your other hand, without a weight, on the opposite knee to steady yourself. Pressing your elbow into your thigh, curl the weight up towards your shoulder, then slowly return to starting position. Repeat the same number of reps with both arms.





Rest your left knee and hand on a weight lifting bench. Keep your back parallel to the ground and keep your right upper arm parallel to the ground. Tighten your right tricep and extend your right arm backwards so that it is straight and parallel to the ground. Slowly return your arm to a contracted position.


Stand with your back to a chair or bench. Place the heel of your palm on the edge of your chair or bench, elbows pointing back. Relax your knees and legs so that your arms are holding up your body. Now “dip” your body and bend your elbows until they form a 90 degree angle. Return to starting position and repeat.


Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Grip your weight with both hands and hold it behind your head. Extend your arms until weight is overhead. Slowly return to starting position.


Grab a dumbbell and hold your arm over your head. Your bicep should be next to your ear and your forearm should be over your head but not resting on your head. Your palm should be facing forward. Keep your upper arm in place (kind of like your bicep is glued to your ear without actually touching your ear) and contract your tricep muscle to straighten your arm. Slowly return to starting position. Repeat the same amount of reps on both arms.


Don’t forget about your diet!


Whilst working will help you to achieve the lean, strong physique you desire, your diet is paramount to achieving your goals. That includes ensuring you refuel your body with the correct muscle-building nutrients it requires after a training session. Taking protein after working out will help to build and repair the muscle that was broken down during your workout, so make sure to get your protein-packed refuel meal in after your upper body workout!

Lindsey Mathews

Lindsey Mathews

Head Trainer

Certified nutritionist, personal trainer and head ambassador at IdealFit.

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