21-Day Workout Plan for a More Muscular Upper Body

Build a stronger, more muscular upper body in just three weeks.

Bodybuilder with a muscular upper body working out his arms with a cable crossover exercise
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  • Skill level

    Intermediate

  • Type

    Balance, Muscle Endurance, Power, Strength Training

  • Skill level

    Intermediate

  • Type

    Balance, Muscle Endurance, Power, Strength Training

Stop training legs. Normally we’d never make this suggestion, as it can lead to an embarrassing muscular imbalance between the upper body and lower body. But for a short time, it’s the best way to promote rapid gains in the muscles that’ll be on display most as the summer season comes to a close. This program is all about developing muscles in the areas that garner the most attention: chest, back, shoulders, and arms. So you can build and sculpt a muscular upper body with this upper body workout plan. In three weeks time build your upper body muscles and have your friends wonder how you built such an impressive and muscular upper body. 

How to Build a Strong Upper Body in 21 Days:

By laying off leg work, you’ll greatly enhance your ability to recover from workouts. Squats and deadlifts are tremendous total-body muscle builders, but they take a toll on everything from your joints to your nervous system, making it harder to train intensely again without taking several days to recover. You don’t have that kind of time if you want to get ripped before Labor Day, so we’re telling you to give up heavy leg work altogether for the next three weeks. This will allow you to train your upper body more frequently and with greater intensity, making for the fastest possible gains. However, if you insist on training legs, do one workout per week of light lower-body exercises, such as leg extensions and leg curls—but no barbell training.

In fact, we’re banning the conventional barbell completely during this period. Instead, you’ll use dumbbell and body-weight exercises that stimulate muscle without unnecessary nervous system and joint stress. By training with so-called “easier” exercises, you’ll be able to handle progressively more volume, pushing your muscles further and further (albeit safely) over a three-week period, forcing them to grow to keep pace.

However, more volume doesn’t mean doing 15 sets for chest in one day. By hitting each target muscle— chest, back, shoulders, bi’s and tri’s—each workout, you’ll train them two or three times as often as you do now. It doesn’t matter that you’re doing only three or so sets for one area per session—they’ll add up over the course of the week. Furthermore, you’ll train them in a fresh or near-fresh condition every time, so they can handle maximum poundage and therefore give your muscles maximum stimulation. 

21-Day Upper Body Workout Directions:

Perform workouts A, B, and C in sequence, resting a day between each, for four total sessions per week. That means after you complete C, restart the cycle with A again within the same week. See the train- ing schedule on the bottom of the page for a calendar of all your training days.

Every workout includes training for the chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps. Each time you repeat a workout, add three total sets to it. Spread them out among the body parts. For instance, you can add one set to the dumbbell bench press if you feel your chest needs more work, but then you must also add a set to the high-cable rope row, and possibly the EZ-bar curl.

Keep muscle balance in mind and be honest with yourself about your weak points. Do not add all three sets to one exercise. Each time you repeat the work- out, add at least one of the three sets to a different exercise. On the days in between, you may perform the cardio of your choice (but no more than two days per week of high-intensity interval training). 

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The Plan

  • Skill level

    Intermediate

  • Type

    Balance, Muscle Endurance, Power, Strength Training

Week 1
  • Day 1

    Workout A

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout A

  • Day 2

    Off or Cardio

    --

    --

    No

    Off or Cardio

    You can perform the cardio of your choice, but no more than two days per week of HIIT.

  • Day 3

    Workout B

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout B

  • Day 4

    Off or Cardio

    --

    --

    No

    Off or Cardio

    You can peform the cardio of your choice, but no more than two days per week of HIIT.

  • Day 5

    Workout C

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout C

  • Day 6

    Off or Cardio

    --

    --

    No

    Off or Cardio

    You can perform the cardio of your choice, but no more than two days per week of HIIT.

  • Day 7

    Workout A

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout A

Week 2
  • Day 1

    Off or Cardio

    --

    --

    No

    Off or Cardio

    You can perform the cardio of your choice, but no more than two days per week of HIIT.

  • Day 2

    Workout B

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout B

  • Day 3

    Off or Cardio

    --

    --

    No

    Off or Cardio

    You can peform the cardio of your choice, but no more than two days per week of HIIT.

  • Day 4

    Workout C

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout C

  • Day 5

    Off or Cardio

    --

    --

    No

    Off or Cardio

    You can perform the cardio of your choice, but no more than two days per week of HIIT.

  • Day 6

    Workout A

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout A

  • Day 7

    Off or Cardio

    --

    --

    No

    Off or Cardio

    You can perform the cardio of your choice, but no more than two days per week of HIIT.

Week 3
  • Day 1

    Workout B

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout B

  • Day 2

    Off or Cardio

    --

    --

    No

    Off or Cardio

    You can perform the cardio of your choice, but no more than two days per week of HIIT.

  • Day 3

    Workout C

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout C

  • Day 4

    Off or Cardio

    --

    --

    No

    Off or Cardio

    You can perform the cardio of your choice, but no more than two days per week of HIIT.

  • Day 5

    Workout A

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout A

  • Day 6

    Off or Cardio

    --

    --

    No

    Off or Cardio

    You can perform the cardio of your choice, but no more than two days per week of HIIT.

  • Day 7

    Workout B

    60-90 min

    6

    Yes

    Workout B