Upper Body Power and Strength Workout

This upper body workout focuses on building both power and strength with traditional and unique exercises for the chest, back, shoulders and arms. The workout includes power moves involving kettlebells (although you can always substitute a dumbbell if you don't have a kettlebell).

The power moves are designed to involve your entire body followed by weight training moves to focus on strength. This workout can be completed in about 30 to 45 minutes depending on your sets, reps and rest periods.


See your healthcare provider before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses, or other conditions and modify any exercise that causes pain or discomfort.

Using kettlebells is optional. Familiarize yourself with the basics of kettlebell training and how to get started with kettlebell training before trying exercises with kettlebells.

Equipment Needed

You will need a barbell, various weighted kettlebells and/or dumbbells, and a bench, step or exercise ball.

Workout Format

  • Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes with light cardio or warm-up sets of the exercises below.
  • Perform the exercises in each superset one after the other with brief rests in between exercises
  • Repeat each superset 2 times, with 30 to 60 seconds of rest in between.
  • For a harder workout, perform 3 sets instead of 2.
  • Modify the workout and exercises to fit your fitness level and goals.

Chest Superset

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Use dumbbells or kettlebells to complete these exercises to build strength in your chest muscles. It is helpful if you have access to a weight bench for this superset.

Turkish Get-Up

Lie down holding a kettlebell in the right hand, arm extended straight over the shoulder with the elbow locked. Keeping the arm extended and looking up at the weight, raise up onto the left elbow as you bend the right knee. Continue pushing up onto the left hand while crossing the left foot under the right knee. 

Push up until you're resting on the left knee and right foot, arm still extended straight up over the shoulder. Continue until you're in a standing position with the arm overhead. Lower back down the same way, arm extended, until you're lying on the floor, Repeat 8 times before switching sides.

Kettlebell Push-Up

Get into a push-up position and place your right hand on the handle of the kettlebell (harder) or on the bell part of the weight (easier). Lower into a pushup, going down as far as you comfortably can. Push back to start and repeat for 8 reps on the right and 8 reps on the left. 

Low and High Flies

Lie on a bench and hold medium-heavy weights over the chest. Lower the arms out to shoulder level, elbows slightly bent. Bring the weights back up, but at a lower angle so that the weights are over the hips. 

Lower the weights back down in a fly. Then lift them back over the chest. Continue alternating a regular fly with a low-angle fly for 8 reps (one rep includes both a regular fly and a low-angle fly). 

Alternating Chest Press Variations

Lie on a bench and hold medium-heavy weights with elbows bent. Straighten the arms and press the weights up and out at an angle into a Y-shape. Bring the weights together over the chest, lower back down and repeat for 8 reps. Complete the exercise with 8 alternating chest presses (one rep includes both the right and left arms).

Chest Circles

Lie on a bench and hold medium-heavy weights over the chest. Rotate the hands so that the pinkies face each other as you circle the weights down over the hips. Rotate the hands back as you circle the weights up over the chest (the thumbs should face each other). 

Continue the circles, alternating the thumbs facing each other and the pinkies facing each other for 8 reps.

Repeat the chest superset 1 or 2 times with a 30- to 60-second rest between sets.

Back Superset

Ben Goldstein

These exercises target the large muscles in your back, including the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids.

Renegade Row

Get into a plank position, on the hands and toes, keeping the core braced and the body in a straight line. Grab a moderate weight and pull the elbow up to torso level in a rowing motion. Lower the weight, lightly touching the floor, and continue rowing while keeping the plank position. Repeat for 10 reps and then switch sides. 

Horizontal and Vertical Rows

Prop the left foot on a step, supporting the body with the left hand on the thigh. Hold a medium-heavy dumbbell in the right hand, arm hanging down and the palm facing the back of the room. Engage the shoulder blades (rhomboids) to pull the arm up to shoulder level, perpendicular to the body.

Hold briefly and rotate the elbow so that it's next to the body, as in a regular (or vertical) row. Lower the arm on a slow count (4 counts down) and repeat for 8 reps before switching sides. 

Alternating Dumbbell Row

Hold medium-heavy weights and bend over until the back is parallel to the floor, back flat and abs in. Pull both elbows up in a rowing motion to begin the exercise. 

Keeping the left arm in place, lower the right arm towards the floor. Squeeze the back to pull the arm back up and then lower the left arm. Continue alternating rows on each arm for 10 reps (one rep includes both the right and left arms). 

Barbell High Row

To complete a barbell high row, hold a medium-heavy barbell with hands wide and tip forward until the back is parallel to the floor, abs engaged and back flat. Squeeze the upper back to pull the weight towards the chest. 

Lower and repeat for 15 reps. Keep the abs tight and bend the knees as needed to support the lower back.

Repeat the back superset 1 or 2 times with a 30- to 60-second rest between sets.

Shoulder Superset

Upright row.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein 

These exercises will help strengthen the muscles in your shoulders (including the anterior, posterior, and medial deltoids). 

High Pull

Hold a medium kettlebell in both hands, feet hip-width apart. Squat down, keeping the arms straight, the torso upright and the abs braced. Thrust the hips up and stand while drawing the kettlebell up and bringing the elbows up and above the shoulders. 

Keep the weight close to the body and use the power of your hips to pull the weight up, rather than your arms. Lower down and repeat for 12 reps. 

Negative Overhead Press

Hold a heavy barbell with hands wider than shoulders, elbows bent and bar in front of the chin. Press the weight overhead, without arching the back, on one count. Lower the weight down for 4 counts. Hold briefly and repeat for 10 reps.

Arnold Press with Alternating Overhead Press

Sit and hold medium-heavy weights with elbows bent in front of the body, weights facing the chest. Press the weights up as you rotate the hands out. Hold that position and lower the right arm. Press the right arm up and then lower the left arm. Press the left arm up and lower the weights, rotating the hands back to start. Repeat for 8 reps.  

Upright Row

Use dumbbells or a barbell to complete an upright row. Hold a medium-heavy weight with hands close together and pull the weight up to mid-chest, leading with the elbows and focusing on the upper back and shoulders. Lower and repeat for 12 reps. 

Repeat the shoulder superset 1 or 2 times with a 30- to 60-second rest between sets.

Biceps Superset

Ben Goldstein

The biceps muscles on the front of the upper arm will get stronger with these exercises.

Hammer Curl with Power Squat

Hold heavy weights in both hands. Swing the weights back slightly as you squat, powering the weights forward into a hammer curl while squatting as low as you can. Stand up as you lower the weights and repeat for 12 reps. 

Negative Barbell Curls

Hold a medium-heavy barbell with hands resting just outside the hips. Lift the weight into a curl on one count. Lower the weight back down slowly for 4 counts. Repeat for 12 reps (one rep is both the right and left arms).

Alternating Dumbbell Curls

To do a basic biceps curl, hold heavy weights, palms facing out. Curl the right arm up, bringing the weight toward the shoulder. Lower back down and repeat with the left arm. Continue alternating sides for 12 reps.

Repeat the biceps superset 1 or 2 times with a 30- to 60-second rest between sets.

Triceps Superset

Tone It Up

This last superset will strengthen all three heads of the triceps muscles on the back of your upper arm.

Triceps Push-Ups

Lie on the ball, positioning it under the mid-upper thighs. Place the hands shoulder-width apart and place them just below the chest.

Bend the elbows and keep them close to the body and facing the back of the room as you lower down into a push-up in a see-saw motion (i.e., don't bend at the hips). Push back to start and repeat 15 reps.

Close-Grip Bench Press

Lie on a bench and hold a heavy barbell with hands about shoulder-width apart, palms face out. Bend the elbows, keeping them close to the body, and lower them to just below the torso, bringing the bar to a hover over the ribcage.

Contract the triceps to push the weights back up, keeping the weight centered over the torso. Repeat for 12 reps.

Triceps Kickback

You can do a basic triceps kickback with a band or weights or challenge yourself with a one-legged version. To do a kickback on one leg, stand on right leg taking the left leg straight out behind you, both leg and torso parallel the floor. 

Bring the right elbow up next to your torso while holding a weight and, maintaining your balance, extend the elbow until the arm is straight by contracting the triceps. Maintain this position for 12 kickbacks before switching sides.

Repeat the triceps superset 1 or 2 times with a 30- to 60-second rest between sets.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."