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  • Writer's pictureAdam Morris

Top Exercises for Upper Body

As a Personal Trainer I often get asked which are the best exercises for building different muscle bodyparts and believe it or not it's actually a more complex answer than you would think.

The deep truth is the best exercises for building a specific muscle group are the ones that you feel comfortable with, have no joint pain, can connect with the desired muscles mentally to feel them working and are able to progress in the overall weight, reps and/or sets used.

That being said, there are a handful of exercises with each body part that have become staples/go to exercises when I'm training clients. They are as follows for the Upper Body (Lower Body will come next week):



Dumbbell Chest Press - Rotating the wrists slightly is nicer on the shoulders plus if you get stuck you can just drop the weights by your sides.

Floor Press - Under used and under rated! Helps keep the shoulders tight and packed in to allow better stability.

Incline Smith Machine Chest Press - Again, very good stability and usually okay on the shoulders due to the angle.

Cable Chest Flyes - Good for getting the 'squeeze'.



Dumbbell Shoulder Press - Just like the Chest Press version, a slight twist and an adjustable bench will allow for a smooth motion.

Lateral Raises - Control the movement and don't swing.

Cable Rear Delt Flyes - Brilliant for total control and feeling the muscles work throughout the whole exercise.

Single Arm Landmine Shoulder Press - Great for those with limited overhead range of motion.



Deadlifts - Using blocks, a squat stance or even a trap bar can often be more optimal for people. Play around and see what feels best.

Lat Pulldown - Aim to get a slight lean back, aim towards your collar bone, but stop as the bar, attachment gets to your nose/mouth. Too many people use excessive range of motion here.

Chest Supported Row - Either with a machine or dumbbells, the chest supported nature of the exercise keeps things tight and strict

Cable High Row - Use a rope attachment a pull your hands towards your chest. Great for the upper back.



Seated Hammer Curls - Squeeze your tricep at the bottom of each rep to take momentum out of it.

EZ Bar Curls - EZ Bar is normally nicer on the wrists for a lot of people.

Reverse Curls - Makes sure you hit all three possible wrist positions.



Cable Extensions - Elbows are the only joint that moves here.

Cable Kickbacks - Position of the elbow means even greater tricep work.

Dips - Lots of ways to progress these.


Now there are PLENTY of other really good exercises for these bodyparts, but these are a selection of my most preferable exercises to use with clients.

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