Workout Routines

The best upper-body workout

Make enormous gains fast with this intense arms, chest, back, and abs routine.

by
Triceps Dip
Nastasic / Getty
Nastasic / Getty
Duration 30
Exercises 4-6
Equipment Yes

If you were to look at some of the most effective muscle-building and strength-building programs, the total number of reps for the main exercises usually add up to around 25.

So to make the most of your workouts and add slabs of muscle to your bi's and tri's, shoot for this number of reps—and your gains will add up, too.

This workout offers two different approaches, listed here as Option A and Option B.

Option A

This option is more slanted toward beginners or people looking for a slightly less-intense upper-body workout.

How it works

A moderate number of low-rep sets provide a blend of intensity and volume, which has always been associated with size and strength gains. Almost any combination will work: five sets of five, six sets of four, or eight sets of three all allow you to put some work in with big, challenging loads.

Directions

The first time you perform the workout, you’ll hit 25 reps for the main lifts by completing five sets of five, as shown. If you repeat the workout, perform six sets of four reps. In the next session, do eight sets of three. Do not perform this workout more than twice a week, and allow at least three days before repeating it. On each lift that you use the 25-rep rule for, spend the first three or four sets warming up so that only the last two are done with heavy weights.

Forced reps, dropsets, static holds, and various other bodybuilding techniques all have their place for building muscle. But you shouldn’t place a priority on any of these techniques over simply aiming to increase your strength. If you’ve spent years trying to trick your muscles into new gains with fancy programs that ignored the basics, it’s time you learned how to add weight to the bar.

Option B

Option B ups the ante a bit. It's a powerful, max-effort workout that you must build up to before attempting to execute.

How it works

The max effort method is probably the most powerful strength-building protocol available, and it’s a mainstay of powerlifters and football players. It’s also very simple to do: Keep adding weight to the bar until you reach the heaviest load you can handle for a given number of reps. After you max out your bench press, you’ll train the rest of the body heavy using exercises that help you to keep driving up your bench press and overall upper-body strength. As your strength increases, so will your muscle gains. And then we’ll revisit those forced reps.

Directions

Perform the paired exercises (marked A and B) as supersets. So you’ll do one set of A and then immediately do a set of B, rest, and repeat for the prescribed sets. For the remaining exercises, complete all sets for the move before going on to the next one.

The best upper-body workout Option A: The moderate workout

Exercise 1.

Barbell Overhead Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Overhead Press thumbnail
5 sets
5 reps
90 sec. rest

Exercise 2.

Incline Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Incline Bench Press thumbnail
5 sets
5 reps
60-90 sec. rest

Exercise 3.

Dip You'll need: Dip Station How to
Dips thumbnail
-- sets
50 reps
60 sec. rest
Perform as many sets as needed.

Exercise 4.

Pullup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Exercise: How to do an Eccentric Pullup thumbnail
-- sets
50 reps
60 sec. rest
As many sets as needed.

The best upper-body workout Option B: The max-effort method

Exercise 1.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
-- sets
Work up to a 3-rep max reps
As needed. rest
Perform several warmup sets, keeping your reps to five or fewer. Gradually work up to the heaviest weight that you can perform three reps with (this should take at least five sets). Be sure to use a spotter or use a power rack with spotter bars.

Exercise 2.

Neutral-Grip Floor Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Neutral-Grip Floor Press thumbnail
4 sets
8, 8, 6, 5 reps
180 sec. rest

Exercise 3.

Dumbbell Row You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Row thumbnail
2 sets
8, 20–25 (each side) reps
120 sec. rest

Exercise 4A.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lateral Raise  thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
0 sec. rest

Exercise 4B.

Seated Dumbbell Clean You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Seated Dumbbell Clean  thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
90 sec. rest

Exercise 5.

Zottman Curl You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Zottman Curl  thumbnail
3 sets
8 reps
60 sec. rest
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