The members of our Armed Forces train to be functional and athletic above all else. But hey, these men and women also like to look good on the beach and at the pool. That’s exactly why Army National Guard specialist Chris Kellum designed this upper-body beach workout for – to pump and sculpt the upper body for those glorious shirtless days in the sun. That’s pretty functional, really.

Featured Trainer: SPC Chris Kellum is a sniper team infantryman in the Florida Army National Guard. A NETA-certified personal trainer and member of the Bravo Sierra team, his mission is to inspire others by incorporating fitness and military on his YouTube channel and documenting the process of transitioning to a warrant officer to go to flight school.

Equipment Needed: Dumbbells, barbell, weight plates, jump rope

Time Commitment: Around 40 minutes (depending on rest periods)

Post-workout Nutrition: When you’re done with the workout, you’ll want some protein and carbs shortly thereafter to kick-start the muscle recovery process. One intriguing (and convenient) option is The After Bar, a unique CBD-powered, plant-based protein bar that boasts a favorable protein-to-carb ratio specifically designed to be consumed after training. It tastes great, too.

Workout Overview: What we have here is a complete, no-nonsense upper-body routine that offers nice diversity. You’ll hit the largest upper-body muscle groups first with incline dumbbell presses (upper pecs), Pendlay rows (lats and middle back), seated dumbbell shoulder presses (delts), and rear-delt flyes. The last three moves blast the arms — triceps with skull crushers and close-grip presses, and biceps via seated dumbbell curls.

Variety comes through a 10-8-8-6 rep scheme using moderately heavy weights (70% of 1RM) on the first two exercises; partial ranges of motion on the shoulder press “triple set”; and a triceps superset (technically a compound set because both exercises hit the same muscle).

“This is a full upper-body workout designed to maximize your pump prior to heading out to the beach,” says Kellum. “This workout was created to minimize your time but maximize your results.”

Chris Kellum’s Upper Body Beach Workout

The Warmup
Exercise Duration
Jump Rope 3 minutes
Machine Fly 20 reps (light; approx. 50% of working weight)
Pass Throughs 20 reps
Deficit Push-Ups 20 reps


The Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Dumbbell Press 4 15-20, Final set is a dropset to total failure.
Pendlay Row 4 20**
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press “Triple Set” 3 20**
Rear-delt Flye 3 12
Dumbbell Skull Crusher
–Superset with–
4 8
Dumbbell Close-grip Press 4 8
Seated Dumbbell Curl 4 12
*Resistance: Use 70% of your estimated 1RM. For example, 120 pounds x .70 = 84 pounds (round up to 85 pounds).
**“Triple Set” protocol: Do the first 5 reps of every set in only the top half of the range of motion, the next 5 reps in the bottom half, and finish with 10 full ROM reps.

Rest Periods: On the first two exercises (incline dumbbell press and Pendlay row), Kellum recommends resting 60 to 90 seconds between sets. For all other exercises in the workout, rest 45 to 60 seconds between sets “to maximize the burn and pump,” he says. “Really focus on your rest periods to maximize your results. Leave your ego at the door, because you’ll be using lighter weight with minimal rest.”

Upper Body Beach Workout Exercise Notes

  • Jump Rope – If you don’t have a jump rope handy, mimic the activity by jumping in place without a rope.
  • Machine Flye – No machine? Do this move with dumbbells or resistance bands instead. Keep the resistance light.
  • Deficit Pushups – Push-ups performed with your hands elevated a few inches on individual weight plates, dumbbells, or other comparable implements (wooden blocks, yoga blocks, etc). This allows for a deeper range of motion at the bottom of each push-up rep.
  • Pass-Throughs – A shoulder mobility exercise using a wooden stick, PVC pipe, or resistance band. With hands wide and arms fully extended, slowly bring the stick/pipe/band overhead and back behind you as far as possible (even down to your glutes) without forcing the range of motion.
  • Incline Dumbbell Press – This exercise can also be performed with a barbell or on an incline press machine.
  • Pendlay Row – Named after the late, legendary weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay, this exercise is a variation of a barbell bentover row where the plates touch the floor at the bottom of every rep, with the torso roughly parallel with the floor throughout.
  • Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press “Triple Set” – Aside from the ROM protocol (first 5 reps top ROM, next 5 reps bottom ROM, last 10 reps full ROM), don’t let your elbows flare out to the sides. Keep them angled forward with your wrists turned in slightly; this will take undue stress off the shoulder joints.
  • Rear-delt Flye – This exercise can be done bent over with dumbbells or resistance bands, or on a rear-delt flye machine.
  • Dumbbell Skull Crusher + Dumbbell Close-grip Press superset – On a flat bench, do all reps of skull crushers, then immediately go into dumbbell presses with your hands inside shoulder-width and elbows in tight at your sides.
  • Seated Dumbbell Curl – Curls can also be done using a barbell (standing) or resistance bands.
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