5 Exercises for Men to Build Powerful Upper Body Strength

Upper Body Strength is Crucial (Westend61/Getty Images)
Upper Body Strength is Crucial (Westend61/Getty Images)

If you don’t incorporate weight exercises into your routine, we have some news: you’re missing out on a big part of what it takes to get strong and lean. But because it can be intimidating to ask for help from someone at the gym, we take our first step to gaining the knowledge and confidence to command those weights.

Just grab any heavy ones while you’re at it! Whether you prefer cardio or lightweight, these exercises will help you make a solid case for making a change.

Five Exercises For a Stronger, More Muscular Upper Body

To boost your strength, try these five strength-building exercises. As you grow stronger, you can keep building on this foundation of functional movements.

Perform 25 to 30 reps of each exercise in a workout that involves five sets of five to six reps. Take at least 90 seconds to two minutes between each set.

1) Hang Clean

The hang clean is a great exercise for building upper body strength. The movement involves pulling the bar from the floor to your shoulders. It's similar to the second half of the clean, which is a popular exercise in functional fitness competitions.

If you want to get stronger or improve your ability to perform explosive movements like sprinting or jumping, try out the hang clean.


How to do it?

  • To perform a hang clean, load an appropriate amount of weight on a barbell and stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Keeping your spine neutral and your lats flexed, extend your hips while shrugging your shoulders to pull the barbell up and drop yourself underneath it.
  • Catch the bar in your palms on your shoulders and turn your elbows up so they are pointing in front of you.

2) Dumbbell Pullover

If you’re looking to build strength and mobility, a dumbbell pullover is a great exercise. It targets the chest and triceps, but unlike the dumbbell chest press, it also works on your lats. Although it’s not as popular as other exercises, there are plenty of reasons why you should give it a try.


How to do it?

  • To begin, lie face-up on a bench with one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend your arms slightly and extend them above your chest so that the weight plates are forming a diamond in your hands.
  • Slowly lower the weights until you feel a stretch in your chest and lat muscles.
  • Reach back as far as possible while keeping good posture.
  • Engage your lats to lift the weights back to their starting position.

3) Lat Pulldown

Lat pull-downs can be useful for targeting latissimus dorsi, or "lats," because you can use heavier weights and/or more reps than on other back exercises.

Pull-up is a good exercise to do after a lat pulldown because they mimic the same movement but allow you to increase the intensity by adding resistance.


How to do it?

  • Sit on the bench facing the lat pulldown machine, using an overhand grip to hold the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your arms straight and your shoulders away from your ears, slowly pull the bar down to just below your collarbone.
  • Then slowly extend your arms back to their starting position.

4) Inverted Row

The inverted row is a great exercise for preparing for pull-ups. It's overlooked because it's seen as a less effective alternative to pull-ups and works mainly the back muscles, but it has other benefits too.

It can be scaled up or down depending on your ability level and doesn't cause stress on the joints as barbell lifts do.


How to do it?

  • Stand in a power rack, setting the bar at waist height.
  • Lower your body until it's almost touching the floor and then extend your arms straight out in front of you, so that your body forms a straight line from your head to your feet.
  • Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width, and pull it up toward the ceiling until it touches your chest.
  • Lower it back down without letting it rest on the floor and repeat.

5) Overhead Tricep Extensions

When it comes to triceps training, you can't go wrong with the close-grip bench press. Not only does this exercise target all three heads of the triceps, but it also works your chest, shoulders, and even some parts of your back.

This makes this one of the most effective triceps workouts for upper-body development.


How to do it?

  • To do the overhead dumbbell extension, set a weight plate on the floor in front of you and make a diamond with your hands.
  • Hold one end of the dumbbell in each hand by gripping the sides of the weight plate.
  • Bend your arms so that they’re extended overhead, keeping your elbows tight to your head.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and core tight as you press back up to start.
  • Performing this exercise seated is a good way to start, but once you get used to it you can try standing too.


Building upper body strength can help ward off injuries, increase power, and improve balance. Plus, it's impossible to deny that the stronger you get in this area, the more attractive you will be. So, if you want to look your best and feel good at the same time, make sure to put in some work on your upper body!

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Edited by Soniya
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