5 Best Exercises to Increase Your Upper Body Strength & Size

A strong upper body is important for daily activities and movements. (Photo via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio)
A strong upper body is important for daily activities and movements. (Photo via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio)

While overall muscle strength is important, upper body strength has its own set of benefits. Training your chest, shoulders, back, and arms regularly is essential to keeping your entire upper body strong. Not only does this make daily activities and movements easier to perform, but a strong upper body is also linked to good posture, strong bones, and healthy muscles.

The good news is that upper body strength and size are totally attainable with the right exercises. These exercises help build strength, maintain muscle mass, regulate weight balance, and develop strong bones, thereby enhancing your overall quality of life.

To help you get started with your upper body training, we’ve compiled some of the best strengthening exercises that are sure to improve strength and increase the size of your shoulders, arms, chest and back.

Exercises to gain strength and size in your upper body

The following exercises can potentially help boost your upper body strength and size. It is important to note that the given exercises require weights such as a dumbbell and barbell – so, be very cautious with your movements and ensure to perform the exercises correctly.

1. Push-up


Push-ups are a great upper body exercise that helps improve bone density and reduces your chances of injuries. This is particularly important as you age. Push-ups have different variations, thus making the exercise ideal for beginners and pro-exercisers alike.

How to perform push-ups?

  • Start in a tabletop position. Keep your hands stacked under your shoulders, core muscles tight, and back straight.
  • Ensure that you maintain a straight line from your heels to your head. Now slowly lower your torso downward by bending your elbows until your chest touches the floor.
  • Press your hands to push back your body up again. Avoid bending your hips.
  • Repeat.

2. Bench press


The bench press is a staple exercise for upper body strength and size. While the standard bench press is done using a barbell, you can also use dumbbells initially.

How to perform bench press?

  • Lie on a bench and place your feet flat on the floor. Ensure that your butts, shoulders, and head are positioned straight on the bench.
  • Grab a barbell with both hands positioned slightly wider than your shoulder width. Keep your thumbs perfectly wrapped around your fist.
  • Brace your core muscles and push the barbell up with your arms extended straight. Now reverse the movement and lower the barbell to your chest while engaging your glutes.
  • Repeat.

3. Lat pulldown


Want to build a bigger back? Try this exercise. Lat pulldowns target the latissimus dorsi – the largest muscle in the back, and help to make them stronger and bigger. Plus, this exercise improves posture and promotes a healthy spine.

How to perform the lat pulldown?

  • Sit with your face towards the lat pulldown machine. Hold the bar using a wider grip and keep your knuckles up.
  • Now move your shoulders back and down, and engage your back to pull the bar down. Continue the movement until the bar reaches your upper chest.
  • Extend your arms to return the bar to its start and repeat the exercise.

4. Triceps dips


This exercise not only strengthens the muscles in the triceps but works on the upper body as a whole. It enhances the range of motion in your body and helps build massive strength in your shoulders, chest, and arms as well. The best part is that you can do this exercise anywhere – at home or at the gym.

How to perform triceps dips?

  • Sit on a chair or an exercise bench with your feet on the floor and your arms at your sides. Position your palms facing down on the sides of your hips.
  • Move towards the edge of the chair and then slide off while grabbing the seat. With your arms fully extended, knees slightly bent, and glutes hovering over the ground, lower your body towards the floor until your elbows get at a 90-degree angle.
  • Push your body up to the initial position while squeezing your arms at the top.
  • Repeat.

5. Deltoid raise


This upper body exercise targets the shoulders, triceps, and biceps.

How to perform the deltoid raise?

  • With your feet at a hip-width distance, stand upright and grab a dumbbell in each hand. Position your arms on the sides with your palms facing towards your thighs.
  • Slightly lean forward at your waist and lift your arms to the sides. Continue to lift your arms out until they get parallel to the floor and form a “T”.
  • Bring back your arms to the start and repeat the exercise.


For best results, aim to do the aforementioned upper body exercises at least thrice a week and include other strength training moves in your workout as well. Initially, start slow with fewer sets and reps, and gradually increase them as you progress further. Do not rush or train too much too quickly – instead, be mindful of your form and always take guidance from a certified trainer.

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Edited by Ruby Khanna
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