Upper body used to be my least favorite thing to work on in the gym. Well arms were, I was all about shoulders and back. I don’t know what really happened, but within these last couple months, I’ve been loving working on my arms! Probably because I discovered some exercises I really love that aren’t just bicep curls. Because is it just me or do those get boring real quick?
One of my goals this year is to have some real definition in my bicep muscles. And lucky for me, I build upper body muscle really easily. To reach that goal, these six exercises will be staples in my workout routine.
First off I’m much more a fan of tricep exercises than bicep exercises. Personally, I’ve always found them easier and more fun. I feel like there are more tricep exercises than bicep exercises, too. Or maybe I just haven’t dug deep enough.
Anyways, this one is super easy and a great way to get you started with the cable machine.
Basically all you do it set the pulley to the highest setting on the tower and remove the handle attachment. Grab the top of the clip where it attaches to the actual cable, and slowly pull your arm down so it’s straight by your side.
I recommend using the least amount of weight as possible. I can just now use the 10 lb setting, so these may be difficult at first. But they get easy the more you do them! Just wanted to add that note so you don’t feel like a dweeb when you try these out and can barely do the lowest setting because girl I was there once, too.
You can also do these with a straight bar attachment. That way you’re using both your triceps, and will be able to add more weight as well.
Another tricep move! As with the last one, you can do these either single arm or with both arms.
Grab a dumbbell (if you’ve never done these before I recommend a 5 lb dumbbell) and raise your arm straight up above your head. Place your other hand either on your tricep or your armpit for balance. Slowly bend your arm with the weight backward until your forearm is touching your upper arm and then slowly raise your arm up again.
If you don’t have access to dumbbells you can also use water bottles or even canned foods. I’ve totally used water bottles before. Just saying.
Grab a dumbbell (I’d say at least 12.5) and create a triangle facing towards you with your fingers with the dumbbell’s handle in the middle. Raise the dumbbell above your head and keep your elbows close to your head and not pointing sideways. Slowly lower the dumbbell down behind your head and raise it back up.
You can also use a medicine ball or plate for this as well. (Or even a textbook if you’re at home!)
Related: How to Get Motivated to Hit the Gym
Crossbody bicep curls
Okay, so I know I was complaining about bicep curls earlier but these are different than the average curl so stick with me here.
Instead of hanging your arms at your sides with your forearms facing forwards and raising your arms up from the elbow, your forearm is facing your body you move the weight across your torso.
Sounds confusing so here’s a quick video:
Grab a plate (I’d start with the 10 lb) and hold it like a steering wheel. Slowly raise it up so your arms create greater than a 90 degree angle and then lower it back down.
These work your shoulders, which is very important in upper body workouts because if your biceps/triceps are bigger than your shoulders it’s going to look a little wonky.
Again, you could also you a medicine ball or even just a dumbbell.
Single arm shoulder presses
Grab a dumbbell and hold it so your arm is creating a 90 degree angle. Use your other arm to steady your core, and slowly raise your arm with the weight until it’s straight and then back to the 90 degree angle. Then repeat with your other arm.
This is definitely one of the more awkward named exercises out there, but luckily it’s not as awkward to perform.
Set a pulley on a cable tower to shoulder level and attach a rope attachment. Grab the rope with both hands and arms straight. Back up a couple steps and then pull the rope towards your face. As you do this your elbows should go outwards so when you’re at the top of this exercise your upper body creates a mini t.
Again, sounds confusing so here’s a clip:
*These exercises require a gym to perform.
If you don’t have access to gym equipment, you can always replace dumbbells with household items (water bottles, canned foods, textbooks, etc.).