A well-rounded workout program should always include a selection of various upper body exercises that target all the main muscle groups, including the chest, shoulders, back, biceps, and triceps. When a workout program contains movements for each group, the result is great overall strength gains without the occurrence of muscular imbalances.

Since the body is constantly adapting to the exercise stress you throw at it, if you go into the gym day after day and perform the same old upper body exercises over and over, your progress is going to go stale. Instead, switch up your exercises from time to time in order to guarantee that your body is always responding and youíre continually making progress.

With each of the following descriptions of upper body exercises, you should keep in mind that the compound exercises are to be performed before the isolated ones. Most men will choose to use a rep range of 6-8 at a heavier rate for the compound movements, while bumping up the reps to 8-12 using slightly less weight for the isolated exercises.
Chest exercises

Ideally, you should include two different movements for the chest in each workout. As an added plus, the compound exercises listed below will also stimulate the triceps and the biceps to a small degree, reducing the amount of exercises needed for those muscle groups.

Compound exercises:
The bench press is the best-known chest exercise, and it can be performed with either a barbell or dumbbells on a flat, incline or decline surface. In addition to this, dips make for another good compound exercise and allow you to choose between a narrow, regular or wide stance. Finally, push-ups are a classic standby anytime you donít have access to a gym.

Isolated exercises: Adding one or two isolated chest exercises, such as the pec dec fly, cable crossovers or dumbbell pullovers, will round out your workout nicely. Be sure to really focus on squeezing only the pec muscles when performing these.
Back exercises

Moving on to the back, youíll want to perform an equal number of exercises as you did for the chest for this area of the upper body to ensure that you balance out your chest work.

Compound exercises: The best compound exercise for the back that allows you to lift a higher total weight is any variation of the row. Rows can be performed with dumbbells, a barbell, T-bar, or with cables in a bent-over or horizontal fashion. You can also use a wide grip, narrow grip or a reverse grip to work the biceps along with the back.

Other exercises that can be done for the back that especially hit the lats include pull-ups (close, wide and reverse grip) and cable pull-downs. Finally, hyperextensions are great for working the muscles in the lower back as well as for calling the hamstrings slightly into play.

Shoulder exercises

Developing strong shoulders will make a big difference in how broad you appear, so itís important to dedicate a good amount of time during your workouts to this body part. Some individuals will choose to perform shoulders on the same day they do chest since the shoulders are worked slightly when doing the chest exercises (especially the incline chest press), while others will work shoulders with back or on their own day altogether.

Compound exercises: The most popular compound exercise for the shoulders is a shoulder press, which can be performed with a barbell or a set of dumbbells. If using a barbell, you can perform the press moving behind the neck or in front of the neck for variety.

Another variation some people like is the Dumbbell Arnold Press, in which you rotate the arms as you progress, moving the weights from the front of the shoulders to the top position over the head.

Isolated exercises:
There are a number of isolated shoulder exercises you can perform to target specific muscles in this muscle group. Generally, most people are slightly weaker on these exercises, so do expect to see a slight decrease in the weight lifted.

The exercises to focus on include front and side lateral dumbbell raises, upright rows, shoulder cable flyes, and the reverse pec deck (or alternatively, reverse cable flyes). Biceps exercises


If youíre doing a good chest and back workout, chances are your biceps will get hit quite well with those exercises alone. If youíd like to add one or two isolated exercises for the biceps to really bring out definition thatís fine, just ensure it doesnít cause you to start overtraining.

Good bicep exercises to include are dumbbell or barbell curls, incline curls, hammer curls, concentration curls, single arm dumbbell or cable curls, or close-grip chin-ups. Triceps exercises

Finally, to round out your upper body workout, donít forget the triceps. These muscles actually comprises the largest part of the arm, so if you want to make your arms look bigger, you should focus more on triceps and less on biceps.

Compound exercises: Just like the biceps, the triceps will be worked whenever you do a chest workout (bench press and incline press both work the muscle) as well as when you do any type of shoulder pressing activity. If youíre lifting heavy on these, youíre getting a great head start on working this muscle.

Isolated exercises: To isolate just the triceps and bring out more definition, consider adding a close-grip bench press, triceps push-downs with a variety of grips, overhead dumbbell or barbell extensions, dips, bent-over triceps kickbacks, or the French Press. change it up


Make sure you arenít performing the same group of five exercises over and over again. Give one exercise at least two to three weeks to allow progression, and then move on to another that works the same musc