A lot of people have misconceptions about what they need to do in order to improve the strength of their upper body. Sure, in every gym, you’ll meet those who work biceps curls 24/7, however, if this is the ultimate biceps exercise, why aren’t you seeing more professional gymnasts doing it? The truth is that there are other exercises, those that can give you more in terms of functional strength, as well as make you look better wearing a tight t-shirt. With that in mind and without further ado, here’s what moves you need to do in a gym for your upper body strength.
1. Bench Press
The first exercise that comes to mind when it comes to working your upper body is definitely the bench press. In fact, it’s probably the most iconic exercise in the entire gym. When done properly, it works your chest muscles, as well as your triceps. Keep in mind that this is a potentially dangerous exercise (especially when pushing your limits). This is why you might want to go for a spotter, as well.
For those who are looking to make a home gym, instead of buying a bench press setup, you might want to pick a system that provides more versatility. For instance, you could get a powerful power rack and a bench. By combining these two, you will get the functionality of the original bench press but also, equipment that you can use for other exercises (squats, deadlifts, bent-over rows, overhead press, etc.).
2. Bent-over row
The bent-over row should be your go-to exercise for the lower back (although every exercise can be a lower-back exercise if you do it bad enough). The reason why we picked this particular exercise instead ofa deadlift is due to the fact that a deadlift works your entire body (with a lot of stress and energy going to your quads), whereas bent-over row is far more upper-body-centric.
It also goes without saying that this is a dangerous exercise if done improperly. So, look up the proper technique online, stand in front of the mirror with the barbell and try to access just how similar your posture is to the exercise you just saw. Even better, find someone with experience to help you out.
3. Pull-ups and chin-ups
The main reason why we put these two exercises together is due to the fact that they have a common denominator. First, they both require a pull-up bar. Second, a lot of people will have a hard time doing a single rep (at least, at first). However, they are the best exercises for your back and biceps muscles. Pull-ups put more stress on your back, while chin-ups work your arms a lot more.
If you’re having trouble getting started, you might want to start with negative pull-ups/chin-ups. The way this works is simple, you jump so that you find yourself in the final position of the pull-up/chin-up, and then try putting up as much resistance as possible while coming down. Other than this, you can also strengthen these muscles via a lat pulldown machine.
Push-ups are a perfect exercise for both your chest and your triceps. Depending on your hand placement (regular push-ups, diamond push-ups, etc.) you will work either your chest or your triceps more. Either way, both of these muscle groups will benefit.
Fun fact, while the majority of people focus on biceps curls in order to increase the volume of their arms, you need to understand that triceps are 2/3 of your arm’s girth. So, if you want to rock that t-shirt this summer, it becomes pretty clear what you have to do.
5. Overhead press
The overhead press is definitely one of the best exercises for your shoulders (if not the best exercise). Now, the reason why we single out this exercise is that it’s a compound movement that targets all of your muscle shoulders, whereas some other exercises target one out of three shoulder muscle regions.
Needless to say, depending on whether you’re lowering the bar behind your head or towards your collarbone, you’ll target a different muscle group. Also, the fact that you need to maintain balance while doing this exercise ensures that your abdominal muscles and your core are working, as well. Just make sure that you master the proper posture and technique before adding more weight to the barbell.
The main reason why people choose machines over free-weight exercise, as well as why they choose biceps curls over chin-ups is that they’re easier to pull off. All free-weight exercises require a lot of balance and a proper technique, which is something that a lot of gymgoers do not possess. Moreover, seeing as how you need to balance in the process, they also require more strength. However, by persevering and mastering the technique, you’re looking toward far more significant gains.