Upper Body, Workouts

Sun’s Out, Guns Out – Upper Body Pump

Upper Body Pump

We may be half way through August, but that doesn’t mean we’re too far into tank top season to work on building a strong, shapely and defined upper body! Disclaimer for any ladies reading: contrary to what fitness magazines may have told you, you won’t be able to accomplish this with “toning moves” or tiny pink dumbbells (more on that topic).

Instead, get ready to lift heavy and hit all of your major upper body muscles – chest, back, shoulders and arms – in this circuit-style weights workout comprised of figure-sculpting, multi-joint exercises. You’ll be flexin’ in no time – this way to the beach, anyone?

Warm Up

  • 5 mins on treadmill @ 0 incline, 6 mph
  • 5 mins on treadmill @ 0 incline, alternating 9.5-10 mph for 20 sec & 6 mph for 40 sec

Warm Up Variation: While the running serves to get your heart rate up, if you prefer a more upper-body focused warm up, try the rowing machine: 5 mins at moderate intensity followed 5 minutes alternating 20 sec high intensity with 40 sec moderate intensity

Superset – Dumbbell Rows & Presses

The first round of exercises is a superset series of the classics: one-arm dumbell rows, bench press and shoulder press.

The strategy here is to start with the biggest muscle in the superset (back) and work your way to the smallest (shoulders) without a break between exercises, keeping the intensity high and ensuring you get the most out of your workout in the shortest amount of time. Remember to challenge yourself with the heaviest weights you can for each exercise (note: you may need different weights for each exercise in the superset as back is typically stronger than chest, chest stronger than shoulders, etc.).

For 3 sets, performing each exercise back-to-back without break:

  • 10 x one-arm dumbell rows on the left side + 10 on the right
  • 10 x bench press
  • 10 x shoulder press

BONUS: Try your first superset with a moderate weight to warm up and gradually add weight with each set.

Superset – Upright Rows & Pullovers

Next up is a superset of upright rows with a barbell and pullovers with a dumbbell.

These compound movements give you a major bang for your exercise buck – in addition to hitting shoulders, I usually feel the upright rows in my chest, and the pullovers I can usually feel in my lats, triceps, chest and even abs.

For 3 sets, performing each exercise back-to-back without break:

  • 10 x upright rows with barbell
  • 10 x pullovers with a dumbbell

BONUS: Try the same strategy as the exercise series above, starting with a moderate weight in your first set to warm up and working your way up to a heavier weight with each set. If you can’t get to 10, that’s okay – the idea is that you should be lifting to failure with each set.

Superset – Cable Crossovers

Now that you’ve already hit nearly all of the major muscles in your upper body, it’s time to burn them out with a superset of cable crossovers, alternating the work between crossovers for chest and for reverse cable cross for back (<<< sadly bodybuilding.com didn’t have this one, so these are the best instructions I could quickly find! Refer to the top two photos in the link for this particular exercise).

For 3 sets, performing each exercise back-to-back without break:

  • 10 x cable chest crossovers
  • 10 x reverse crossovers for back

The last few reps of each set should be REALLY tough at this point. If you can’t get 10 reps, that’s okay, just go to failure. Given the compound nature of the exercises, they require work from multiple muscles that you’ve already been pushing to the brink – but remember, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you! Push, push, push and learn to love the burn 🙂