Has your training (and your gains as a result) hit a plateau? Don’t worry, it happens to everyone. Even the most avid of squat-rack-regulars will occasionally hit a wall that can seem almost impossible to smash through.

This list of upper-body exercises will help you build the upper body you’ve always wanted. Plus, you can do them from the comfort of your own home — all you need for this upper-body dumbbell workout are dumbbells (or resistance bands) and a bench or stability ball.

Luckily, they’re not the only effective exercises for molding chest, arm, shoulder, and back muscles. By diversifying your iron-pumping portfolio, you can work even more muscle groups to create the best upper body workout for your goals.

1. Bent-over row:

Benefits: No one can ever do enough rows. By offsetting many of the postural issues associated with sitting hunched over a computer all day, rows can help eliminate back pain and correct your posture, giving your entire body a visual lift.

Bent-over row

How to:

  • Stand tall, holding a set of dumbbells at your sides, with your palms facing your body.
  • (You can also use a resistance band: Loop the band around each foot. Hold the left handle in your right hand and the right handle in your left hand so that that the band forms an “X.”)
  • Keeping your back flat, core braced, and knees slightly bent, bend at the waist so that your back is just above parallel with the floor.
  • Your arms should hang toward the floor.
  • Row the dumbbells to the sides of your ribs, squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
  • Pause, then slowly lower your arms back down, and repeat.

Related article: Back To Back Dumbbell Exercises To Build Full Body Strength And Burn Fat

2. Arnold press:

Benefits: Arnold Schwarzenegger was smart in the gym, and this exercise remains a weight room favorite after decades. Why? Because it hits all three sections of the deltoid muscle at one time: the anterior (front), medial (side), and posterior (rear).

Arnold press

How to:

  • Hold two dumbbells in front of your chest with your palms facing toward your body, keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Press the dumbbells up above your head, rotating your palms out so that when you reach the overhead position, they face away from your body.
  • Reverse the motion to lower the dumbbells back down, corkscrewing your hands so your palms end facing your body, and repeat.

Related article: 7 Advantages Of Dumbbells And Why You Should Ditch The Barbell

3. Dumbbell bench press:

Benefits: For those who struggle with push-ups, the bench press allows you to train the pecs, triceps, and shoulders in a different way. For push-up masters, the bench press allows you to use more than just your body weight to work these muscles, which is vital to adding significant strength or definition.

Dumbbell bench press

How to:

  • Lay with your back on a flat bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand directly above your chest.
  • Raise your arms straight above your chest, palms facing forward.
  • Bend your elbows to lower the dumbbells until your upper arms are parallel with the floor.
  • Pause, then press up and slightly in so that you end with your arms fully extended, and repeat.

Related article: Did You Know That You Can Make Full Body Gains Using Just A Dumbbell? This Workout Will Show You How

4. Pullover:

Benefits: This move might look simple, but there’s actually a lot going on — specifically when it comes to building your lats and pecs. Bonus: You’ll feel your core fire up with every rep, too.


How to:

  • Lay with your back on a flat bench, holding a set of dumbbells.
  • With your feet planted on the ground and your core engaged, extend your arms to the sky, holding the dumbbells together above your chest.
  • With a slight bend in your elbows, slowly lower your arms overhead until your biceps reach your ears.
  • Slowly bring your arms back to above your chest and repeat.

Related article: Can I Build Solid Muscles Using Only A Dumbbell? This Workout Will Give You Rock Hard Abs

5. Dumbbell rear-delt fly:

Benefits: Speaking of the delts, the posterior delt (aka rear delt) is sorely undertrained — this is one reason shoulder injuries are so common. If you only train the section of the delts you can see head-on, you’ll alter the shoulder positioning. This limits certain movements and causes the joint to work inefficiently.

Dumbbell rear-delt fly

How to:

  • Stand tall or sit on a bench, holding a set of dumbbells down at your sides.
  • Keeping your back flat, push your hips back to hinge forward if standing, and lower your chest until it is almost parallel with the ground.
  • Allow the weights to hang straight down at arm’s length, palms facing each other.
  • Maintaining a slight bend in your elbows and keeping your back flat, lift the dumbbells to the side by squeezing the shoulder blades together.
  • Stop when the dumbbells are in line with your body.
  • Pause, then slowly lower the dumbbells back to start, and repeat.

Related article: 10 Home Bodyweight Exercises To Hammer Your Delts and Traps In To Shape

6. Standing biceps curl:

Benefits: Apart from building the biceps — everyone’s favorite vanity muscle — biceps curls are actually excellent for promoting shoulder stability. The trick is to focus on keeping your shoulders stationary with very rep.

Standing biceps curl

How to:

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding two dumbbells at your sides, palms facing away from your body.
  • Keeping your back straight and your elbows locked at your sides, slowly curl the weights as close to your shoulders as possible.
  • Slowly lower back to start and repeat.

Related article: Want Bigger Better Biceps? Incorporate These 6 Curling Moves For Bursting Size

7. Skull crusher press:

Benefits: Biceps may get most of the glory when it comes to arm muscles, but the triceps occupy more upper-arm mass. Not only does this move help you build tris that’ll pop, but the press action also activates the shoulders.

Skull crusher press

How to:

  • Stand holding a single dumbbell with both hands by its weighted ends at shoulder height, with your elbows tucked.
  • Press the weight straight overhead.
  • Without moving your upper arms, lower the weight behind your head.
  • Reverse the movements to return to the starting position, and repeat.

Related article: Upper-Body Push Workout For Better Delts, Pecs And Triceps With This One Routine

8. Seated overhead triceps extension:

Benefits: Round out the tricep exercises with this exercise. It isolates the tricep muscles, making the most out of every rep.

Seated overhead triceps extension

How to:

  • Seated at the end of a bench, hold one end of the dumbbell with both hands behind your head, arms bent at 90 degrees.
  • Keeping your back flat and your elbows tucked, slowly push the weight up, stopping just short of full extension.
  • Pause, and then lower the weight slowly back down, and repeat.

Related article: Build A Colossal Chest With This 3 Exercise Workout That Takes Under 10 Minutes To Do

9. Floor chest fly:

Benefits: This move targets the chest muscles in ways other exercises like push-ups and bench presses can’t. And you don’t even need a bench — just a set of dumbbells!

Floor chest fly

How to:

  • Lay with your back on the floor, your knees bent and your feet flat, holding a pair of dumbbells directly over your chest with your palms facing each other.
  • Allow a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells out to your sides, creating a wide arc with your arms until your upper arms lightly touch the floor.
  • Pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to the top, and repeat.