Because the arms are the most visible part of the upper body, some women think it makes sense to emphasize them over other muscle groups of the upper body. Many women believe that working their back, chest and shoulders will make them look bulky and unattractive. But this is far from the truth.
Women don’t add mass the way men do, especially if they work in higher rep ranges with intensity. You should not ignore the bigger upper-body muscles because training them with weights will offer the results you’re seeking. Working the chest, back and shoulders with weights will create a tighter, more toned upper body, more detail in your arms and a slimmer waist.
The key is to train the upper body twice a week, in addition to the rest of your training. One weekly session involves heavier weights but fewer reps, while the second focuses more on lighter weights but higher reps for detail. The workouts are similar, but different moves are included to help you achieve your goals.
Both workouts are included in this chart. When performing a move on the heavier-weight day, choose a weight and a strategy from our exercise description that’s appropriate for your fitness level, allowing you to complete the move for the desired reps with good form. On high-reps day, adjust your weights and strategy so that you’re able to complete the targeted number of reps.
Here’s one way you can do your upper-body program twice a week to gain upper-body strength and a more toned overall appearance.
- Monday: Upper-Body Program
- Tuesday: Lower-Body Workout
- Wednesday: Cardio and Abs
- Thursday: Upper-Body Program
- Friday: Cardio and Abs
- Saturday: Arms and Cardio
- Sunday: Rest
This move is great for a first warm-up move because it’s a gentle way to involve so many muscle groups.
- Squat down and place your hands on the floor.
- Walk your hands out until you reach a plank position.
- Then walk your legs forward toward your hands with straight legs, making sure to place your heels on the ground so that you feel a gentle stretch in your calves.
- Take two to three steps with each foot, then when you reach your hands, squat back down and perform the next rep.
Push-ups are a great move for defining the chest and triceps. Many women find regular push-ups to be difficult to perform, but there are many ways to make them easier but still effective.
- To emphasize triceps, place your hands on the ground under your shoulders.
- To emphasize your chest, place your hands a little wider than your shoulders.
- Hold your body in the plank position and lower down until your chest and chin near the ground.
- Make sure that you keep your body tight in one line throughout the move.
- Don’t allow your butt to sag or pike.
- Then press back up to the start position.
Bent-Over Lateral Raise:
This move works one of the key muscles of your shoulders, the rear delts, located between your shoulder and back, just above the backside of your armpit. Rear delts rarely get direct attention from many female exercisers. But they’re a crucial muscle for appearance and functionality.
- Bend over, keeping your back flat but maintaining the natural curve in your lower spine.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, raise your arms out to the side until they reach the T position.
- Hold the weights in this position (arms parallel to the floor) for a beat as you feel a contraction between your shoulders and back.
- Then lower the weight using control, feeling your rear delts working.
Related article: The Speedy Workout for Knockout Arms and Shoulders With 5 Exercises
This move targets the middle head of your delts. When you perform shoulder presses while standing, you also work your core. Having better-developed delts helps create the appearance of a leaner, more toned midsection.
- Stand and hold two dumbbells at your shoulders with your palms facing outward.
- Tighten your midsection and begin to press the weights overhead, emphasizing your shoulder muscles.
- Avoid locking out your elbows in the extended position, feeling a contraction in your shoulders.
- Then lower the weights using the power of your shoulders, feeling a stretch in them.
Rows are one of the best moves for bringing out detail in the back. They also give you just a bit of width, which helps the waist look slimmer. But inverted rows involve more lat fibers than regular rows and put less stress on the back.
- This move is a bit like an inverted push-up.
- Lie under the bar of a Smith machine or a barbell placed on a power rack, gripping it with your arms fully extended and with the backs of your heels in contact with ground.
- Hold your body in a plank position, making a 15- to 30-degree angle with the ground.
- Using your arms and back, pull your body up until your chest touches the bar.
- Feel the contraction in your upper back and hold that for a second.
- Then slowly lower yourself, feeling a stretch in your back.
- At home, you can perform this move by placing a stick between two sturdy chairs.
Performed correctly, hyperextensions help you create a more toned, longer and leaner look. You can also incorporate your glutes and hamstrings, but hyperextensions are ideal for strengthening your lower back and bringing out a more toned look in that overlooked part of the body.
- Place your heels under the pads of a hyperextension machine.
- While maintaining the curve of your lower spine throughout the move, bend at the waist and lower your upper body.
- Stop before you feel your lower spine start to round.
- Contract the muscles of your lower back and pull back up to the starting position.