5 Exercises for a Simple Upper Body Workout

Following on from our five exercises for a simple lower body workout, we’ve done the same for the upper body. A lot of muscles make up the upper body, so it’s important to hit as many as you can in just five moves to create a balanced physique.

We’d suggest performing each of the following moves for three sets of 10 repetitions. Once again, to get stronger, utilise progressive overload, as mentioned in the lower body workout.

Incline Bench Press

One to work your chest muscles. Using an incline of about 30-45 degrees on the bench will help to target the upper chest muscles, which often are underdeveloped compared to the rest of the chest.


  1. Set the bench around 30 degrees and lie back.
  2. Place your hands on the bar wider than shoulder-width apart and palms facing up.
  3. Keep your core engaged and lift the bar out of the rack, lowering to your chest and pressing it until your hands are above your shoulders and your arms are straight (not locked).
  4. Slowly lower the weight back to your chest and repeat. Note: you should use slightly less weight than on a standard bench to start with. You can also use dumbbells instead of a barbell.

Lat Pulldown

Now you’ve worked the chest; it’s time to work your back. The back is a big area made up of lots of different muscles. People often overlook the back as it doesn’t have ‘mirror’ muscles. Still, you should train your back at least as much as your chest and slightly more, particularly if you have poor posture.


  1. Sit at the lat pulldown machine and ensure the pads are snug on your thighs. Keep your torso upright and your chest out, and grab the bar with palms facing away.
  2. Retract your shoulder blades and pull the bar just lower than your chin. You don’t want to go too low, and your shoulders round forward.
  3. Think about squeezing your shoulders together when your pull the bar down. Pause at the bottom of the rep and then slowly return the bar to the start position and repeat.

Note: you can experiment with different width grips to focus on other areas of your back.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Now to target those shoulder muscles. To do this, we’re going to do a dumbbell shoulder press which mostly hits the front and middle deltoids but will recruit the rear delt too. You can use a barbell for this exercise. However, dumbbells will ensure your dominant side doesn’t do extra work.


  1. Stand tall, with dumbbells by your shoulders and palms facing out but slightly toward each other. Tighten your core and tense your bum. This helps stop your back arching at the top of the exercise.
  2. Staying tall, extend your elbows, pressing the weights over your head. Pause at the top briefly and then slowly lower and return to the start position.

Bird Dog

An exercise that targets your core and can start to help you create those coveted sculpted abs. It also challenges your balance, so it’s a win-win.


  1. Begin on all fours in a tabletop position. Your knees should be under your hips and your hands under your shoulders.
  2. Engage your core and bum to maintain a neutral spine and keep your shoulder blades together.
  3. Simultaneously raise your right leg and left arm while keeping your hips and shoulders parallel to the floor.
  4. Hold the position for a second, then slowly return to your starting position. Then repeat on the opposite side. If the exercise seems too hard, start by raising one limb at a time.

Face Pull

Last but not least is a face pull. We’ve already targeted your chest, back, shoulders and abs, so now it’s time to target those smaller muscles around your shoulders and back. A face pull is an excellent antidote for modern life which sees us sitting in front of the telly or computer and on our phones regularly. It will help strengthen the upper back and improve your posture.


  1. Using a cable machine, attach the rope and set the cable just above head height.
  2. Grab either end of the rope with your hands and palms facing the floor.
  3. Pull the handles towards your face and out to the side. Your elbows should be roughly parallel to your shoulders and your arms at about 90 degrees. Think of squeezing your shoulders together. You should feel this in the rear of your shoulder and middle to top of your back.
  4. Slowly return to the start and repeat.

Aim to perform this routine once or twice weekly, alternating with the lower body workout. You can also add bicep and tricep exercises into the routine before the face pull. Still, if you don’t have time or are too worn out to add those in, the bench press will work your triceps, and your lat pulldown will work your biceps.