How to Increase Your Upper Body Strength

Last modified on :

Franz Rivoira
Your guide to this Review is Franz Rivoira

How we review products

This post contains affiliate links, and we will be compensated if you buy after clicking on our links

increase upper body strength

In order to lead a healthy life many people believe you need to eat right and do a lot of running or biking (cardio) to burn off calories and increase cardiovascular fitness. While both of these practices are key to a healthy lifestyle, there is one more that needs to be added to the mix: strength training.

Strength training will not only improve your health, it will eventually lead to a better looking body and better self-esteem.

One of the major areas you need to focus on when it comes to strength is your upper body and in order to be successful you need to know what to do.

To start off, you must know what muscle groups you will be working out because you want to be able to hit all of them so you can possess muscular balance.

The major groups you need to focus on when working out your upper body are your back, shoulders, and chest with secondary muscle groups being the triceps, biceps, and your abs. Some people may be confused as to why your abs are included, but the reason is simple: if your core is strong, then the rest of your muscles will be much easier to train.

Below are some exercises that will focus on the three primary upper body muscle groups as well as the secondary muscle groups. Remember to practice proper gym safety when performing these exercises to include wearing weight gloves and utilizing spotters when needed.

Also, these exercises should be difficult to complete but they should never hurt. If they hurt, stop immediately.

Chest Strength

There are countless exercises and gym equipment exercises one can do in order to improve their chest strength and in reality it all falls down to personal preference.

In order to ensure a proper balance of strength one should try to hit the middle, upper, lower, and outer portions of the chest which can be conducted in three to four exercises.

If you are looking for exercises you can do without weights, the old fashioned push-up is the best place to start. To hit the upper part of your chest do some incline push-ups.

The easiest way to do these is to get a coffee table (wood is better than glass) and put your hands shoulder width apart on the table and perform push-ups. You should feel the burn in the upper portions of your chest. To get the lower part of your chest do decline push-ups with your feet on the coffee table and your hands on the ground at shoulder width length. Doing just these three exercises at home are relatively easy and the strength gains not only in the chest but in the arms as well will be noticed quickly.

For the gym goers, the standard bench press, decline bench press, and incline bench press will do the same thing the push-ups do but with heavier weight; which has been shown to grow muscle and strength much quicker.

Other exercises to do are the dumbbell bench press, cable chest fly, the pec deck, and the countless variations of dumbbell chest flies. The fly exercises and the pec deck focus on the outer regions of the chest; an area often overlooked by many individuals attempting to boost their muscular strength.

Shoulders Strength

Working out the shoulders is probably the easiest or one of the easiest muscle groups to work out in terms of range of motion and amount of energy needed to accomplish the exercises.

Some of the most beneficial exercises for shoulders are the dumbbell shoulder shrug, the shoulder press (angled or vertical), and dumbbell raises. The thing with shoulders is that many of your back and chest exercises actually work the shoulders out at the same time. If you are doing the bench, incline bench, and decline bench for chest, then adding the shoulder press and shoulder shrugs will make sure your shoulders get a complete work out.

Back Strength

The thing with the back is that there are dozens of machines at the gym to work your back out but people often choose not to work their back out at all or more commonly, they work it out too hard and injure themselves.

You must remember that it is fairly easy for you to pull muscles in your back; especially if you are an individual not use to working labor-intensive jobs where you use your back muscles. Conduct proper research and practice all back exercises with lighter weights until you get the form down correctly or you will regret it later.

The list of back exercises is extensive and include a lot of your rowing exercises (cable, dumbbell, and machine rows), a lot of you cable pull down exercises, and the dreaded pull-ups.

The thing with pull-ups is, you need to have a strong core to assist in pulling your lower body weight up but the pull-up; if done properly; will hit a significant majority of the muscles in your back all at once.

You can knock out back exercises and cardio all at one time if you go on over to the rowing machine at your gym and knock out 30 minutes on it. Although it will only increase your strength slowly, it will get you use to using the rowing motion and train your body for increased weight to come.

Abs Strength

ab workout

Like the back, there are countless ways to gain muscular strength in your abs; a.k.a your core; but like your back, you can injure your abs relatively easily if you don’t pay attention to what you are doing.

The things with your abdominal muscles is that there are more than just the muscles in the center of your stomach. Like your chest, you have the upper, center, lower, and outer (oblique) abdominal muscles and you need to hit all of them in order to maintain proper muscular balance and increase your overall muscular strength.

Remember that a strong core will make working everything else out much easier.

The classic sit-up or crunch is a good mainstay and starting point for working out your core. Include some oblique crunches to hit your oblique muscles and throw in some reverse crunches where you bring your knees into your chest to hit the lower muscles.

Other good exercises to try include the incline and decline sit-ups, cable crunches, flutter kicks, planks, and leg lifts. Of course as your abdominal muscles get stronger, you can start holding weights as you do these exercises to increase your workload.  A home ab machine could also be used if you prefer.

Triceps Strength

female using theraband

You will find that having strong triceps is an integral part of having an overall strong upper body. While you are doing your bench presses and shoulder work outs you will be working out your triceps in as a secondary benefit, but some primary focus on these muscles is key to overall strength.

The favorites of gym goers and body builders across the world include the triceps pull down, triceps push down, overhead dumbbell raise, and the interestingly named skull crusher. Make sure to not overwork your triceps and save these exercises toward the end of your workout program, because you need fresh triceps to perform your chest, shoulder, and back exercises.

Biceps Strength

how to increse upper body stength 2

Every man wants large arm muscles so they can “flex” and show off the “guns” and when you are looking for a strong upper body, you will gain these if you so choose; with training and time.

Hitting your biceps should be one of your final exercises in your workout program because like your triceps, you utilize your biceps throughout your workout. You must be carefully not to overexert your biceps though because if you do, bending your arms the next few days after your workout can be pretty tough.

The best exercises for your biceps that will increase your upper body strength are the common barbell curl or dumbbell curl.

Unfortunately these can become boring to people and many people don’t have the form down correctly so they aren’t getting the most gain from their efforts. If you are new at working out, stick with the cam or cable curls until you get the form down and then switch to the free weights. Other variations of the barbell curl to include the hammer curl, preacher curl, reverse curl, and concentration curl can be added into routine to liven it up a little.

In truth there are hundreds of variations of exercises one can do in order to increase their upper body strength and finding out which ones work best for you can take a little time.

The list above is just a few of those thousands but the key to take away from this article is that in order to achieve upper body strength, you need to make sure to hit your chest, back, shoulders, abs, triceps, and biceps. Whatever combination of exercises you choose to hit these muscle groups is up to you but hitting each of them is essential.

If you have been working out for a while and want to know how to improve you can read this article on how to increase your big 3 lifts by 30% safely.  Similarly, if you have been training for a while but are not seeing the gains you expect you might find some answers in 7 mistakes that sabotage your muscle gains.


  • Franz Rivoira

    Franz is an expert in watches and grooming. He has extensive knowledge of mechanical watches and loves exploring the details that make each one unique. He's also passionate about helping men look their best and shares tips on grooming, including achieving a perfect shave or maintaining a healthy beard. Franz is a go-to source for anyone looking to elevate their style game. Linkedin: