Seeing results from working out your upper body is one of the most satisfying things on earth. But it can be hard to find workouts that incorporate all parts of the upper body rather than just specific areas.
Finding all-encompassing workouts that challenge the main components of your upper body like your back, chest, shoulders, and arms is essential for looking buff and feeling fit.
Luckily, we’ve crafted a killer upper body workout that shouldn’t take you more than a half-hour to finish. With that said, you’ll be feeling the burn for long after. Let’s get to work.
What Makes a Good Upper Body Workout?
The more comfortable you become at the gym, the better you’ll be at crafting your own workout routines that feel best for you. In order to do that, it’s important to understand the basic movements of upper body workouts, as well as the muscles that they tend to work the most.
- Pushing movements: work the muscles in the front of your body. Vertical pushes towards the sky or horizontal pushes in front of you are great for working the chest and shoulders.
- Pulling movements: are better for areas on your back, like the latissimus dorsi (armpits to your lower back) or your traps (your upper back connecting your shoulder and neck).
Pretty much every upper body workout you do will incorporate a push or a pulling motion in some capacity. Knowing the muscle groups they activate can be important so you can balance your workouts with a structure that ensures each and every muscle gets the same amount of love.
A great upper body workout also uses compound exercises that work multiple muscles at one time. However, isolation moves that just work one area are equally important if you’re trying to pinpoint direct muscles that you want to bulk or tone.
Our workout has a nice combination of these two. Let’s hop right in.
Puttin’ In Work (Out)
To do this exercise, all you’ll need are some dumbbells. But if you want to take your resistance training to the next level, use your Gorilla Bow instead. Each of these workouts can be done with whichever one you choose.
We’re going to do about 12 to 15 reps of each exercise, moving from one to the next as a circuit. You’ll get a two-minute rest at the end of each round, and we’re going to do three rounds total. You can decrease the reps and increase the weight if you’re looking to build strength rather than tone.
So you know what you’re getting yourself into, here are the exercises:
- Chest press
- Bent over row
- Clean and press
- Lateral raises/flys
Try your best not to decrease your weight throughout the exercise. However, you should always lower the weight before compromising your form. Proper lifting technique prevents injury and leads to better results.
Starting off strong, a chest press will naturally target your pectoral muscles and act as a nice intro for the four exercises yet to come. However, they’ll also activate your deltoids (shoulders) and triceps.
Here’s how it goes:
- Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbells up against your chest with your palms facing down. If using the Gorilla Bow, place the band on the back of your shoulder blades and hold the bar against your chest.
- Push forward, extending your arms until your elbows almost lock. Keep your arms parallel to the floor.
- Slowly bring the weight back towards your chest. Repeat.
The great thing about the chest press is that it comes with plenty of variations. You can take this down to an incline press by putting your glutes on the floor and bending your knees. Put the resistance band under your butt and push the bar up at a 45 degree angle. This targets your anterior deltoids and upper chest muscles.
You can also take this down to the floor completely. By doing this, you’ll be forced to squeeze your pecs together on the way up, which can be great if you’re trying to bulk up your chest muscles quickly.
Bent Over Row
Now let’s compliment your push motion with some pulling motions to target your back. Rows are some of the best compound workouts that work your biceps, core, traps, and lats.
To do a bent over row:
- Feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and hinge your hips, pushing your butt back. Keep your spine straight and your core engaged. Stand on the resistance band.
- Hold the dumbbells or the Bow in front of you, so your hands are to the side of your thighs.
- Pull the weights up to your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body. Squeeze your shoulder blades for two seconds at the top of each movement, if you can.
- Slowly bring back down to starting position.
When rowing, it’s important to keep your chest up so you don’t start bending your spine. You can also do this row seated by taking a similar position to the incline chest press. Secure the resistance bands around your feet and pull the bar towards the lower part of your chest.
Alternatively, you can do an upright row that will focus more on the tops of your shoulders and a bit less on your traps. To do this, you won’t bend your body. Just stand straight up and pull the weights up towards your chest, sort of like you’re pumping a bicycle pump.
Clean and Press
Next up, we’re going to target those shoulder muscles and give your legs a little bit of love too. A clean and press is a two-part move that focuses on the deltoids, triceps, traps, and in this case, your quadriceps (front of thighs).
To do a clean and press:
- Feet shoulder-width apart, standing on the band if applicable. If using dumbbells, hold them at your sides.
- Squat down, keeping your spine straight while you push your butt back and bend your knees.
- With the Gorilla Bow, push the bar up over your head as you straighten out your legs and enter a standing position. If using dumbbells, use the momentum of your body to bring the weights up to your shoulders. At the top of the squat, push them up towards the sky.
- Slowly bring the weights back down and return to the squatting position.
These movements will look a bit different if using weights as compared to a Gorilla Bow, but the same muscles are being extended. If something feels unnatural, or you already did leg day, you can always eliminate the squat and just do a shoulder press.
Lateral Raises / Flys
You’re over halfway through, but we’re not stopping yet. Lateral raises are great for your shoulders, but they’re equally useful for your upper trap muscles and serratus anterior, which is the muscle along the ribs under your armpit.
This is another exercise with tons of variations, but we’ll do a standing lateral raise for now:
- Feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbells at your side. If using the bow, detach the resistance band and wrap both ends around your hands. Hold it straight out in front of you, hands aligned with your shoulders.
- Lift the dumbbells up with a slight bend in your elbow until your arms are parallel with the ground. For the band, pull opposite ends of the band away from each other so that your body makes a T shape and the band touches your chest.
- Slowly return the weights or band back to the starting position, making sure you engage your shoulder blades and chest.
Using dumbbells for this exercise will focus a bit more on the shoulders and the serratus anterior, whereas the bow fly will activate your chest and posterior deltoids (back shoulder). Either way, this is a great upper body workout.
You can do this on an incline bench as well to really feel the burn in your upper chest.
You’re almost there, so let’s finish off strong. While deadlifts are a great leg exercise, this is one of the best exercises for flexing the muscles of your lower back, known as the lumbar region.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Feet shoulder-width apart, standing on the resistance band if needed. Hold the dumbbells at your sides or the Gorilla Bow down at your waist.
- Squat down, keeping your spine straight at a 45-degree angle, pushing your butt back, and bending your knees.
- Without moving your arms, use your hips to lift the bow or the weights back into starting position.
You’ll feel the burn in your quads and glutes, but you’ll also feel some movement in the lumbar region, which is usually a pretty tough area to strengthen.
The Cool Down
Do that three times, and you’re on your way to upper body greatness. This is an all-encompassing workout that touches on all the major muscle groups in your upper body, and it even gives a little bit of love to your legs.
Feel free to change these workouts a little bit with your own variations. You can learn even more techniques to craft your own upper body workout with the Gorilla Bow All-Access Membership. This gives you access to a full library of pre-recorded and live classes so you can continue finding fresh ways to use your Gorilla Bow right from home.