How to Build Your Upper Body Muscles

Building muscles is part nutrition and part exercise. Now, while you need protein in order to build muscles, this macronutrient can’t really target a specific part of your body. Well, at least not without some help.

You see, when working out, you’re really breaking your muscle fibres. Then, during the recovery stage, the protein you’ve consumed (through meals or as supplementation) is sent to help rebuild these broken strains. The upside of this is the fact that these muscles re-grow stronger and bigger than they were before. This is the oversimplified muscle-building process.

Next, it’s important that upper-body is a broad term and it consists of:

  • Trapezius
  • Deltoids
  • Rotator cuff
  • Pectorals
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Rhomboids

Or, to simplify things a bit: Back, shoulders, and arm muscles.

Now, while getting a good night’s sleep, proper hydration, and proper nutrition are prerequisites for adequate muscle-building, in order to activate a specific muscle group, you need exercises that will target a specific region. With this in mind and without further ado, here are some of the most efficient upper-body exercises.

1.      Barbell bench press

The barbell bench press is the go-to exercise when it comes to working your upper body. Aside from being the most iconic gym exercise (as well as the unofficial strength index across the globe), it’s also great for your chest and triceps muscles. Just keep in mind that you want to learn how to do this exercise properly and have a spotter for safety reasons. Also, keep in mind that how wide you grab the bar and where you guide it may determine the part of your chest and triceps muscles that it hits.

2.      Push-ups

Another great exercise for your chest is definitely a push-up. Now, this exercise hits muscle groups that are similar to that of a barbell bench press, the biggest difference is in the fact that it’s a calisthenic exercise. In other words, it can be done anywhere and at any time. Also, seeing as how it’s a bodyweight exercise, the likelihood that you’ll get injured or sprain something while doing it is nearly non-existent. Also, the width of your hand placement and even the alignment of your hands may affect whether you hit your triceps or chest muscles more.

3.      Bent-over row

The bent-over row is the most efficient way for your lower back, which means that you can’t effectively build a decent core without it. For this, you might need some additional equipment. For instance, any decent squat rack will have a placeholder for a barbell to help you become more efficient with your bent-over row. Keep in mind that this rack is a universal workout tool, seeing as how it can be used for pull-ups and chin-ups, as well (more about this later).

One more thing you need to understand is that bent-over rows are a great exercise for those who still can’t do a pull-up. Sure, it’s a lower-back exercise but it activates your upper back, as well. Not to mention that your core plays a key role in your ability to actually do a pull-up.

4.      Pull-ups

Pull-ups are the best exercise for your upper back and biceps. Other than this, they’re incredibly empowering, seeing as how the majority of the global population can’t even do a single pull-up. The biggest challenge regarding this exercise is the fact that crossing this threshold may be a bit difficult. It requires a combination of low body weight and high upper body strength. Still, there are some exercises like negative pull-ups that can help you get there a lot faster. Either way, it’s an exercise that should definitely end up on your list (eventually).

5.      Chin-ups

Chin-ups are probably the best bicep exercise out there. Just take a look at all the gymnasts, who barely ever do dumbbell curls, yet, have some of the most aesthetic arms of all the athletes. The main reason why chin-ups are underrated is that they seem like a simpler version of pull-ups, because they also have a steep beginner’s curve, and due to the fact that dumbbell curls are more common. The key thing, however, lies in starting out early and not quitting.

6.      Dips

Lastly, you have the dips which are the key exercise for your triceps (as well as your chest). Now, in order to summarize, with a pull-up and dip set for your wall, you can easily get to work on a huge portion of your upper body. You can work your chest and triceps (via dips), your upper back muscles and biceps (via pull-ups), and even focus more on your biceps (via chin-ups). If you add some basic lower-back exercises (like the bent-over rows) or get yourself a kettlebell, you’ll cover virtually everything.

In conclusion

Now remember, in order to maximize the effect of your regimen, you can improve nutrition and, overall, try to lead a healthier lifestyle. That being said, it’s also important that you get enough rest between the training sessions (remember what we said in the introduction about your muscles being built while you’re resting).

Lastly, make sure that you master the technique of each individual exercise that we’ve mentioned. The right form will minimize the likelihood of an injury (which causes downtime in your workout routine), as well as target some muscle groups that would otherwise go unattended. If you abide by these few simple rules, the above-listed exercises will be more than enough.

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