7 Best Upper-Body Workouts for Beginners

Build a strong upper body with these easy exercises. (Image via unsplash/James Barr)
Build a strong upper body with these easy exercises. (Image via unsplash/James Barr)

When you're new to the gym, it's hard to build a great body and get strong without having a clear plan in mind. Sometimes, a blueprint to success is all you need. However, you don't need to complicate things.

Massive machines and lifting stations can grab your attention in the blink of an eye, but they're often reserved for more experienced lifters. You can build a great upper body with just a few simple exercises, good nutrition, and adequate recovery.

Best Upper Body Exercises For Beginners

1) Lat Pull-Downs

Lat pull-downs are an all-time favorite exercise amongst newbies and seasoned professionals alike. It isolates your latissimus dorsi, otherwise known as your lats, and is a key exercise when forming a well-shaped back. Wide lats can help your body look more proportionate and aesthetic, and also give you a killer V-taper. It can also help with overall back stability and improves your spinal health.

Lat pull-downs can build a huge, thick back, allowing you to capitalize on your 'newbie gains', helping you grow a substantial amount of muscle.


2) Dumbbell Curls

To target your entire upper body, you'll need to grow your biceps as well. This will help you craft a strong, well-rounded physique. Dumbbell curls will do just that for you. This exercise provides the best contraction for your biceps, allowing you to achieve a deep range of motion. It will help you grow your biceps optimally while also giving you a great pump.


3) Barbell Rows

Barbell rows are a great upper body compound exercise that targets your entire posterior chain. It engages your lats, traps, upper back, and lower back. If you're looking to gain strength and build muscle in each part of your upper body, barbell rows are ideal. What's great about them is that there are different grips that serve different purposes. You can use an underhand grip to target your lats, and a wide neutral grip to target your traps and rhomboids.


4) Push-Ups

Push-ups may seem like a beginner's nightmare, but there is no greater upper body workout for you to do if you've never set foot in a gym before. Push-ups can build incredible amounts of muscle if performed correctly and can build the strength you need to perform other, more complex chest workouts.

As you grow, you can even ramp up the difficulty. Try incline or decline push-ups, clap push-ups, one-handed push-ups, or try supersetting them with burpees. Push-ups are incredibly versatile and useful for building a strong, impressive upper body. They can be your best friend in the gym, provided you perform them correctly.


5) Tricep Push-Downs

There is no feeling more satisfying than a good old tricep pump. To build a strong upper body, you need strong triceps, as they will fill out your arms, making you look bigger and more muscular. The burning sensation that you feel when you complete a set is all you need to power through your workout.

Tricep Push-Downs are the best exercise for isolating your triceps. You can squeeze your muscles as much as possible, allowing you to contract your muscles effectively. This causes your triceps to stretch completely, resulting in muscular wear and tear (the good kind), which helps to build muscle.


6) Lateral Raises

Almost every fitness professional will tell you that the best way to blow up your shoulders is to do as many lateral raises as you can. Lateral raises target your entire deltoid region and are the best exercise for muscular hypertrophy, which is a must for building an aesthetic upper body. Lateral raises can also help improve the overall flexibility and mobility of your shoulders, which makes it a great exercise to include in your routine.


7) Shoulder Press

The Shoulder press is a remarkably well-known upper body compound lift that mainly targets your shoulders, but also your chest and triceps. A shoulder press can improve shoulder strength and stability. It also engages your core and requires your abs to remain flexed.

Shoulder pressing builds enormous amounts of muscle if done correctly, however, several people struggle with the form. It's important to start light and work your way up to a heavy weight in order to keep your spine intact. A slow, steady, and progressive overload is the key to building strong and healthy delts.



Building an upper-body may seem overwhelming initially, owing to the availability of excessive amounts of machines and a sheer lack of strength training knowledge. As you build your knowledge and muscles, you'll understand the use of each machine and learn how to master them.

Until then, it would be wise of you to stick to the basics until you're comfortable to move to the big leagues. Work on your form and keep educating yourself about the art of fitness, and you'll have an enviable upper body in no time.

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Edited by Sabine Algur
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