Workout Routines

The upper-body, big-muscle workout program

Work your shoulders, traps, and forearms to exhaustion to build an upper-body that will pop, whether it's in a winter sweater or at the beach.

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The Upper-Body Muscle Workout Program
Getty Images/Westend61
Getty Images/Westend61
Duration 30-45
Exercises 4-5
Equipment Yes

Sure, you don't get a lot of props for bulking up your chest, back, and legs in the fall and winter, when layers of insulation replace summer’s skimpy tank tops and tees.

But, no matter what time of year it is, your traps, shoulders, and forearms can still pop out and look powerful—whether it's under long-sleeve shirts and sweaters, or out for show at the beach. With this program, you’ll pack on muscle to these areas and get an upper body you'll want to show off all year round.

How it works

While this routine has plenty of legs and abs work, it particularly targets the upper-body muscles with exercises that train them heavy and hard. Hang snatch high pulls—an Olympic weightlifting move popular in CrossFit—will train your traps in a brand-new way, while rack pulls will add thickness to your shoulders and back.

You’ll also focus on the forearms—but by integrating them with other muscle groups for efficiency. Instead of wrist curls, we’re calling for hammers and farmer’s walks with a thicker dumbbell handle. This forces you to grip harder to hold on to the weight, firing up your forearm muscles without isolating them.

Directions

Perform each workout (Day I, II, and III) once per week, resting a day between each session.

Exercises marked “A” and “B” are alternated, so you’ll do one set of A, rest, then B, rest again, and repeat until all sets are complete.

Jeb Stuart Johnston, C.P.T., is a trainer in New York City. 

Day I Chest and shoulders

Exercise 1.

Snatch-Grip High Pull You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Snatch-Grip High Pull  thumbnail
8 sets
3 reps
E.M.O.M. rest
Get a stopwatch and start it just before you begin your first set. Perform all your reps, then rest as long as it takes for a new minute to begin.

Exercise 2.

Rack Pull You'll need: Barbell How to
Rack Pull Exercise thumbnail
4 sets
6 reps
90 sec. rest

Exercise 3A.

Incline Dumbbell Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Incline Dumbbell Press thumbnail
4 sets
12 reps
60 sec. rest

Exercise 3B.

Chest-Supported Row How to
Chest-Supported Row thumbnail
4 sets
15 reps
60 sec. rest

Exercise 4.

Six-Way Shoulder Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Six-Way Shoulder Raise thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
60 sec. rest

Day II Legs, traps, and biceps

Exercise 1.

Front Squat You'll need: Barbell How to
Front Squat thumbnail
3 sets
8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2.

Bulgarian Split Squat You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Bulgarian Split Squat thumbnail
4 sets
6 (each leg) reps
90 sec. rest

Exercise 3.

Inverted Row You'll need: Power Rack How to
Inverted row thumbnail
3 sets
10 reps
60 sec. rest

Exercise 4.

One-Arm Farmer's Walk You'll need: Dumbbells How to
One Arm Fat Grip Farmers Walk  thumbnail
4 sets
100 ft. (each side) reps
90 sec. rest
Wrap a towel around the dumbbell's handle to thicken the grip.

Day III Shoulders, chest, and arms

Exercise 1A.

Dumbbell Overhead Press You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Overhead Press  thumbnail
4 sets
6 reps
60 sec. rest

Exercise 1B.

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

Exercise 2A.

Single-Arm Pushdown You'll need: Cable Machine How to
Single-Arm Pushdown thumbnail
4 sets
15 (each side) reps
30 sec. rest

Exercise 2B.

Fat-Grip Hammer Curl You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Fat-Grip Hammer Curl thumbnail
4 sets
10 reps
30 sec. rest

Exercise 3.

Dragon Flag You'll need: Bench How to
Dragon Flag thumbnail
3 sets
12 reps
60 sec. rest
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