Exercising your upper body is an excellent way to tone up your arms, back, shoulders, and even your breasts. Women have 50% less upper body strength compared to their lower body, so it’s important to give your top half the attention it deserves! 

Many women neglect their upper body because they fear that they’ll instantly hulk up by lifting weights – but this is definitely not the case! Women only produce one-tenth of the testosterone that men produce and building large muscles like a bodybuilder requires intense muscular training and a specialised diet. 

Along with helping you achieve an overall lean look, strengthening your arms, chest, back and shoulders will assist in making everyday tasks so much easier! Having a strong upper body helps stabilize your shoulder girdle and upper spine, allowing activities like pushing, pulling, lifting and twisting to be carried out with more ease – think carrying heavy groceries or twisting open that stubborn jar! By powering up your top half you’re also improving your posture and preventing back pain. 

Sculpt and strengthen your arms, chest, back and shoulders with this functional upper body workout: 

[Click the arrows on the video below to watch each exercise]

Ensure that you have warmed up before you begin!


– Perform each exercise one after the other with little to no rest period in-between.
– Repeat the circuit 4 times.
– Rest 30 to 90 seconds between circuits/rounds
– Choose weights that you can comfortably perform the set amount of reps with. This weight should be challenging but never compromise your form throughout the set. 


1. Push-ups (use a kneeling form if you’re not comfortable with a standard push-up) 

  • Start in a high plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and feet together.
  • Keeping your core tight and back straight, lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor (tip: squeeze your glutes for extra stability).
  • Pause, then push yourself back up into the starting position.
  • That’s one rep.


2. Alternating Dumbbell Bicep Curls 

  • Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, held at your sides. Your elbows should be close to your torso and the palms of your hand should be facing your thighs.
  • While holding your upper arms stationary, curl the right weight upwards as you rotate the palm of your hand until it’s facing forward. At this point continue contracting your bicep as you breathe out until your bicep is fully contracted and the dumbbell is at shoulder level – hold this contracted position for a second.
  • Slowly bring the dumbbell back to the starting position as you breathe in.
  • That’s one rep.
  • Now repeat this process on the other side. 


3. Tricep Kickbacks 

  • Begin with a dumbbell in each hand next to your torso. Keep your back straight with a slight bend in the knees and bend forward at the waist. Your torso should be almost parallel to the floor and your spine neutral. Keep your upper arms close to your torso and parallel to the floor – there should be a 90-degree angle formed between your forearm and upper arm.
  • While keeping your upper arms stationary, exhale and use your triceps to lift the weights until your arm is fully extended – squeeze your triceps at the top of the contraction
  • Now, inhale and slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
  • That’s one rep.


4. One-arm dumbbell row 

  • Begin with a dumbbell in your left hand. Place your right leg on top of the end of a flat bench, bend your torso forward from the waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor, and place your right hand on the bench in front of you for support.
  • Breathing out, pull the dumbbell straight up to the side of your chest, keeping your upper arm close to your side and keeping your torso stationary. Focus on using your back muscles while performing the movement – pause, and squeeze your muscles at the top of the contraction.
  • Breathing in, lower the dumbbell straight down to the starting position.
  • That’s one rep
  • Repeat this process on the other side


5. Shoulder Taps 

  • Start in a high plank position with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart and your core tight.
  • Bring your left hand up to tap your right shoulder – try your best not to sway too far over to the side.
  • Now return your hand to the ground, assuming the starting position.
  • That’s one rep.
  • Repeat this process on the other side.
  • Remember to keep your core tight throughout the exercise so that you can maintain your balance.


Music from: www.freemusicarchive.org


Do you enjoy training upper body? Let me know in the comments below!


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