Workout Routines

The Upper-Body Workout to Get Maximum Results in Minimum Time

Building a chiseled chest, back, arms, and shoulders doesn't have to mean hours of training every day. Maximize your upper-body day with this routine.

by
Bench Press
Drazen_ / Getty
Drazen_ / Getty
Duration 60-90 min.
Exercises 8
Equipment Yes

We might have different fitness goals, but the same theme exists for most of us: progression. Sure, a blessed few can develop chiseled muscles with little to no effort. I’m talking the average Joes—those who are serious about hard work but don’t have the luxury of spending several hours a day in the gym.

Most of us can't afford to build our lives around the gym, but we want a practical way to fit the gym into our lives. Between work, family, friends, and responsibilities, we're lucky to find just two or three days a week to train. Therefore, it's important to achieve maximum efficiency with every moment we spend wrestling with dumbbells, barbells, cables, or machines. That means choosing the right exercises to get the job done and making every move work for you.

This workout is designed to maintain the momentum you’ve worked so hard to attain, stay on target, and give yourself the time (even when you don’t have a lot of time) to get the most out of your upper-body workout.

Whether you’re a beginner or a competition-level athlete, this routine will help you get a high-efficiency workout in minimal time.

The Upper-Body Workout to Get Maximum Results: Quick Tips

  • You'll notice many of the exercise sets are prescribed with varying rep ranges. This is so you can properly stimulate the various types of muscle fibers in different ways, shocking them and bringing growth and development.
  • Choose weights that will enable you to complete each set with 1 or 2 reps left in the tank. (Because some of the sets change reps, you will likely want to change the weights as necessary.) We want to shock the body, but not to the point that it can’t recover for the next workout.
  • Bench Press: For maximum stimulation of the chest, position your torso on the bench with a slight arch in your lower back. Hold your ribcage high and shrug the shoulders down and back.
  • Incline Smith Press: Vary the incline of the bench from workout to workout, or set to set, from 30 degrees to 45 degrees to 60 degrees. This will help you target different motor units. For this variation, set the bench so the bar comes down to your clavicle under your neck.
  • Wide-grip Pullup: Vary grip widths and the angle of your torso when pulling to fully activate all muscle fibers of the back.
  • Underhand-grip Smith Machine Bentover Row: Put a step under the bar so you can fully stretch at the bottom and adjust foot position accordingly. Keep your torso bent at an angle of about 75 degrees and pull the bar into the lower abdomen to best stimulate the belly of the lats. Pause at the top of the contraction and at the bottom of the movement to take out momentum and keep the strain on your musculature.
  • Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press: Use a bench with back support and keep your torso upright throughout the set. Don’t arch your back too much as it will put too much strain on your lower back and put too much focus on your chest. Bring the dumbbells just below your chin before driving them back to the top.
  • Seated Lateral Raise: Raise the dumbbells to a level where your upper arms are a little above parallel to the floor. At the top pause for a second for peak contraction and to fully activate the shoulders.
  • Close-grip Pushup: To keep chest activation to a minimum and target your triceps, make sure your hands are a little closer than shoulder-width. Keep feet firmly planted and your chest down until it touches the floor; then, pause and explode back up in a controlled manor.
  • Deadlift: For complete back development, vary the range of motion from just above knee height to as low as your mid-shin. It’s best to stick with one range of motion per workout.

The Upper-body Workout to Get Maximum Results

Exercise 1.

Bench Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
15, 10-12, 7-9, 4-6 reps
45-60 sec. rest

Exercise 2.

Incline Smith Machine Bench Press You'll need: Smith Machine How to
Incline Smith Machine Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
10-12, 7-9, 4-6 reps
45-60 sec. rest

Exercise 3.

Wide-Grip Pullup You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Wide-Grip Pullup thumbnail
3 sets
To failure reps
45-60 sec. rest

Exercise 4.

Smith Machine Bent-Over Row How to
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
7-9, 7-9, 4-6 reps
45-60 sec. rest
Use an underhand grip

Exercise 5.

Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press
Seated Dumbbell Overhead Press thumbnail
3 sets
10-12, 7-9, 4-6 reps
45-60 sec. rest

Exercise 6.

Seated Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells, Bench How to
Seated Lateral Raise thumbnail
3 sets
10-12, 7-9, 7-9 reps
45-60 sec. rest

Exercise 7.

Close-Grip Pushup
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
To failure reps
45-60 sec. rest

Exercise 8.

Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Deadlift  thumbnail
3 sets
8-10, 7-9, 4-6 reps
45-60 sec. rest
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