The Best Upper Body Workout Routine

Looking for the best upper body workout routine? Wondering which exercises to do? Or what order to do them in? Or how many sets/reps to do for each?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. The beauty of an upper body workout for beginners is that it bundles different muscle groups and teaches them how to work together. The upper body includes all of the muscles above the waist – the abs, obliques, pectorals, shoulders, neck, trapezius, upper and lower back, biceps, triceps, and forearms. Strengthening all of these muscles is important because they make you fitter, more athletic, and better able to contribute to life. Stronger muscles also help keep you balanced, protect your spine, prevent injuries, and keep you safe in training and life situations. 

Best Beginner Upper Body Exercises

Before starting, it’s important to do a dynamic warm-up to prepare your body for the work ahead. Ready to get started with this fun, efficient, and straightforward upper-body workout for beginners? Here’s what you need.

  1. Bench Press:

The bench press is one of the most popular, beginner-friendly gym exercises, and many people use it to strengthen and develop their chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Muscles trained: Chest, anterior deltoids, and triceps.

Equipment: Barbell or dumbbells and a bench

  • Lie on the flat bench and reach up to grab the barbell evenly with a grip slightly outside shoulder width level.
  • Make sure your thumbs grasp the barbell. Bring your shoulders back, place your feet flat on the floor, and dig your glutes into the bench.
  • Take a breath, lift the barbell, bring it over your chest, and lower it in line with your chest.
  • Once the bar touches your chest, push through to raise it back to the top.
  1. Barbell Bent-Over Row:

Bent-over rows are an excellent movement with a fantastic overloading potential for strengthening and developing your entire back musculature.

Muscles trained: Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, erector spinae, posterior deltoids, biceps, and forearms.

Equipment: Barbell

  • Stand in front of the barbell, bend forward, and grab it with an overhand grip, having your thumbs envelop the bar. Your hands should be roughly shoulder-width apart.
  • Take a breath, bring your shoulders back, and lift the barbell off the floor.
  • While keeping your torso as parallel to the floor as possible, make sure your lower back is neutral, and take a breath.
  • Row the barbell toward your stomach without using momentum.
  • As the bar touches your belly, slowly release it to the starting position without changing your torso angle.
  1. Overhead Press:

Overhead presses are a compound exercise that strengthens and develops our shoulders while also improving our stability and core strength.

Muscles trained: Medial and anterior deltoids, upper chest, triceps, and core.

Equipment: Dumbbells or a barbell

  • Position the barbell at collarbone height. Grab it evenly with your hands roughly shoulder-width apart. Make sure your thumbs envelop the barbell, too.
  • Tuck yourself underneath the barbell with a staggered stance, take a breath, and push up to lift it.
  • Take a couple of steps back to clear enough room with the barbell near your upper chest.
  • Take another breath and push through your elbows until the barbell is above your head and your arms are straight. Exhale as you slowly bring the barbell back to the starting position.
  1. Lat Pulldown:

Lat pulldowns are a fantastic accessory movement that helps you further develop your back and improve its width. It is an excellent exercise to add to a beginner’s upper body workout.

Muscles trained: Lats, rhomboids, biceps, and forearms.

Equipment: Lat pulldown machine

  • Set the appropriate weight, grab the bar evenly with a grip slightly outside shoulder width with palms facing away from the body, and sit down.
  • Make sure your thighs fit snugly underneath the machine’s pads.
  • Bring your chest out and shoulders back, take a breath, and pull the bar down to your upper chest.
  • Pull until the bar taps your upper chest and release it slowly until your arms straighten.
  1. Triceps Rope Pushdown:

The rope pushdown is a humbling and incredibly effective exercise you can do to strengthen and develop your triceps.

Muscles trained: Triceps

Equipment: Cable station and rope attachment

  • Start with a lighter weight and grab the rope attachment near the bottom with both hands.
  • Keep your elbows bent and to your side as you take a step or two back to lift the weight off the stack.
  • Bring your shoulders back, take a breath, and extend your elbows as you bring your hands down and to your sides, splitting the rope.
  • Hold for a moment as your elbows extend fully and slowly release the weight to the starting position.
  1. Hammer Curls:

The hammer curl is a variation of the traditional movement that offers great bicep development while also strengthening the forearms.

Muscles trained: Biceps and forearms

Equipment: Dumbbells

  • Take a dumbbell in each hand, and stand tall. With your arms to your sides and palms facing your body, bring your shoulders back and take a breath.
  • Curl both dumbbells without changing your wrist position until your hands are slightly higher than your elbows.
  • Hold the top position for a moment and slowly release both dumbbells to the starting position as you exhale.
  1. Seated Cable Rows:

The seated cable row is an excellent assistance exercise that adds strength and thickness to your back musculature.

Muscles trained: Lats, rhomboids, erector spine, trapezius, biceps, and forearms.

Equipment: A seated cable row machine

  • Adjust the weight of the machine and sit down.
  • Grab the handle with both hands, place your feet on the machine’s platform, and bring yourself back to lift the weight off its stack.
  • Bring your shoulders back, take a breath, and row the handle toward your upper stomach.
  • As the handle taps your belly, hold it for a moment, and release it gradually while exhaling.

As for how much weight you should use for these moves? A good rule of thumb is to choose a weight that is challenging enough that the last couple of reps feels difficult: Your form shouldn’t falter, but you also shouldn’t feel you have loads more reps in the tank. Remember, a workout routine does mean you have to do tons of exercises. Progress comes from consistency and continually challenging yourself to lift more weights or complete more reps.

As far as workout structure goes, putting together effective workouts is not a big deal. All you have to do is follow some basic rules, be mindful of the overall layout, and learn how to sequence exercises. Wizard Athleisure [1] 2 in 1 short and T-shirt will make a good pair for your workout routine.


  1. Welcome to the world of Wizard Athleisure. We are an ethical active-wear and lifestyle brand with a focus on technology, sustainability, and empowering our diverse audience.
  2. Guillem Ros,
  3. Amy Marturana Winderl, C.P.T. and Christa Sgobba, C.P.T.

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