Woman lifting dumbells with both arms

Upper Body Workouts

Upper body workouts target the chest, shoulders, arms, and back. Although fitness equipment, like dumbbells or kettlebells, is useful for many upper body workouts, many exercises, such as push-ups or tricep dips, can be performed with bodyweight.

If your goal is to increase your physical strength, working out your upper body is an important part of that process. In addition to building muscle, these workouts also can make everyday tasks such as lifting objects and carrying groceries much easier. Upper body workouts like those found here allow you to build muscle and strengthen your chest, back, shoulders, and arms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of upper body workouts?

    The upper body is made up of smaller muscle groups than the lower body, so you may wonder if upper body workouts are worth your time. But incorporating exercises that target your upper body will help increase your strength, improve posture, and reduce the risk of injury. In fact, research has shown that strength training in general also increases in lean body mass, metabolic rate, and bone density as well.

  • How often should I do an upper body workout?

    If your weekly routine consists of 2 to 3 strength training workouts, at least one should target the upper body. In fact, two upper body workouts a week may be necessary for those who want to optimize results. Research indicates that when training major muscle groups—like the upper body—you should plan to train at least twice a week to maximize muscle growth.

  • How much weight should I use for strength training?

    The weight recommended for use in a strength training session varies from person to person. Choosing a weight to use depends largely on your experience level and goals. If you’re a beginner, start with a lower amount of weight. For example, you may use 1- or 2-pound dumbbells to perform bicep curls as a beginner, but find that you can quickly graduate to 5- or 10-pound weights as you get more comfortable.

  • What are the primary upper body exercises?

    Upper body exercises include staples like push-ups, pull-ups, bicep curls, overhead press, chest press, tricep extensions, rows, and more. These are exercises that target the upper body muscles, including biceps, triceps, chest, back, and shoulders.

  • How will upper body workouts impact weight management?

    Strength training burns calories, which can help with weight loss or weight management. It also helps build muscle, which burns more calories—even at rest. What's more, a new systematic review and meta-analysis show it is possible to lose about 1.4% of your entire body fat through strength training alone. If your goal is to lose weight, pair strength training with a balanced diet for the best results.

  • What does an upper body workout include?

    An upper body workout can include a variety of exercises and depends largely on the equipment available to you. You can do a lot of upper body exercises with bodyweight or dumbbells such as front raises, kickbacks, and rows. But if you do not have access to these tools, you can use common household items, such as soup cans or water bottles, in place weights for some exercises.

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Page Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Effects of resistance training frequency on measures of muscle hypertrophy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2016 Nov;46(11):1689-1697. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0543-8 PMID:27102172

  3. Wewege MA, Desai I, Honey C, et al. The effect of resistance training in healthy adults on body fat percentage, fat mass and visceral fat: A systematic review and meta-analysisSports Med. 2022;52(2):287-300. doi:10.1007/s40279-021-01562-2