Full Upper Body Workout Routine to Build Mass and Strength Both

When it comes to building strength and power, you’ve got to try all sorts of workout techniques like supersets, drop sets, etc. and find out what works well for you.

Here I have come up with a full upper body workout routine that includes strength, supersets, and cardio finishers which will boost your upper body strength.

Muscles Involved In Upper Body Workout Routine


Best Way To Train The Chest

The muscles we should target within our chest training are the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.

Prioritizing those two muscles, you’ll ultimately get the chest you desire.

Most guys are dogged upon building the upper chest. Whether you can target your upper chest in your workout is yet to find but the truth about training the upper chest is:

A portion of the pectoralis major called the clavicular head is basically what we call an upper chest. It’s not a separate muscle group.

As it is a peculiar part of the pec major, its muscle fibers are oriented at a different angle. So regular chest exercises are not enough to hit that muscle and make it respond.

According to Research, certain exercises like the flat bench press or the decline bench press, emphasize the primary portion of the chest muscle, whereas others, like the incline and reverse-grip bench press, emphasize the smaller upper portion.

Unlike other muscle groups, pectoral muscles are hard to isolate because all the effective chest exercises that emphasize one muscle also involve the other to some degree.

Nevertheless, one of the most important facts that one should focus while building a chest is that for the ideal chest development, a lot of emphasis to the clavicular head of the “upper chest” is necessary.


Best Way to Train Your Back

The main muscles in your back:

  •  Trapezius (traps)
  •  Rhomboids
  •  Teres major and minor
  •  Infraspinatus
  •  Latissimus dorsi (lats)
  •  Erector spinae (iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis muscles)

The upper portion of your back includes the trapezius, rhomboids, teres muscles, infraspinatus, and lats, which is combinedly called as thoracic spine.

All the back exercises we perform, are centered up building:

  • Well-developed traps.
  • Rhomboids that create deep “valleys” when flexed.
  • Wide, long lats for V-taper looks.
  • Well-developed teres and infraspinatus muscles
  • Thick erector spinae that turns the lower back into a “Christmas tree.”

Most of the newbies in bodybuilding take back workout for granted because you don’t see back in a mirror. But let me tell you this is a huge mistake if you also do.

It can create muscle imbalances that will give you a weird look, and it can also increase your risk of injury.

That’s why many weightlifting coaches recommend that you pull at least as much as you press, if not more, and that’s why you should involve a good amount of back training in your upper body workouts to balance the pressing.


Best Way To Train The Shoulders

The primary three muscles that you should target while training shoulders are:

  •  Anterior deltoid 
  • Lateral deltoid 
  • Posterior deltoid

(Unless you are an experienced weightlifter, it’s not that necessary to emphasize your rotator cuff muscles despite the fact that they are also important to muscle groups.)

The most crucial thing about building boulder shoulders is you have to give full attention to all three deltoids, and especially the lateral and posterior muscles as with lagging lateral and posterior part you cannot give that rounded appearance to the shoulders.

Incorporate all kinds of exercises like lateral raise, rear delt raise, military press, dumbbell press, Arnold press, etc.. in your workout routine.

Because building jaw-dropping shoulders are rarely possible with a single exercise, you have to inculcate in mind the idea of three deltoid muscles and proper exercises to put primary stress on each one of them.


Best Way To Train The Arms

The major arm muscles that you see in your arm are:

  •  Biceps
  • Triceps 
  • Forearms.

The biceps (more precisely, the biceps brachii) consists of two heads which look like this:

Another muscle that helps flex the elbow is the biceps brachialis, which lies just beneath the biceps brachii.

Although it’s not as obvious as biceps brachii, it gives the shape and overall look of your arms by popping up your “biceps peak,” and helps distinguish your biceps from the triceps. Next is the triceps.

As you can see, this is a three-headed muscle that, unbeknownst to many, makes up about 2/3 of the size of your arms. Here is the thing—the easiest way to add volume to your arms nothing but training your training.

Until and unless you see the distinctive “horseshoe” shape in your triceps, your arms will always be incomplete.

To achieve that—target those three heads of your triceps with various exercises.

Finally forearms.

Think forearms as the calves of the upper body. The 21-inch upper arm with twig-like forearms will look funnier than the funniest thing in the world.

It is often ignored muscle (unless you’re looking to strengthen your grip) which is okay for the reason that:

Your forearms will naturally develop alongside the other various exercise that requires strong gripping like dumbbell rowing, curls or anything else.


Best Way To Train The Core

Finally, here is the apple of everyone’s eye: The core.

The most noted muscle of the core is the rectus abdominis, which is what we’re referring to when we talk about “abs.” There’s no one who would say “no” to abs.

And if there is one thing that requires you to be “fit” more than any other, it’s to have abs.

However, having merely well-developed rectus abdominis cannot be called a well-developed core because there’s more than that to it.

There are several other muscles that complete the look, including the obliques, transverse abdominis (TVA), and serratus, if properly developed.

Regardless of how many crunches you do, in order to get your abs visible, it’s more than just necessary to have a lean body.

It is found that to have pronounced abs in men requires you to have 10% body fat.

While in women, you can have abs visible at around 20% body fat.

There is a misconception that you don’t have to train your core muscles separately as exercises like the squat, deadlift, and overhead press engage them. This is mostly false.

Similar to arms, you need to train your abs and core directly to get the cut, chiseled look you desire.

 Basic Science of Effective Upper Body Training

There is a huge selection of exercises when it comes to training your upper body.

You have options like bodyweight exercises, machines or free weights to choose from.

The thing is you have to try many different techniques until you find out which one actually works for you. That is you are achieving your goals.

Try using lighter weights for more reps or heavier weights for fewer reps. Experiment on your body by training its upper body once, twice, or thrice per week, or even more frequently. Find out what works for you.

Keeping science aside, the basic or primary key for muscle growth is to progressively overload your muscles and increase tension levels in your muscles.

Now, the evidence-based information is what you’re here for. So let’s get ahead.

In order to provide you some idea about the best way to build muscle and lose muscles at the same time, here are some tips for you:

Do a lot of heavy compound weightlifting

You’ll find various sources mentioning the benefits and downsides of both: isolation vs. compound exercises.

As a matter of fact, there has never been a scientific study that actually compared them in a realistic training framework until Paoli et al. in 2017 compared the effectiveness of isolation and compound exercises for muscle growth, strength development and endurance.

When looked closely, the results show that those who did compound weightlifting achieved more muscle growth and better fat loss to boot.

The higher training intensity and longer rest in the compound lifters may have been responsible for the greater strength development and hypertrophy.

Overall, this is a very interesting study, but it leaves us with as many questions as answers.

It’s not like there’s a single secret soup to gain muscles and lose fat, but decades of scientific and incidental evidence have shown that compound weight lifting is the most effective approach to boosting your gains.

Make sure your weekly volume is right

Volume = Sets x Repititions

So, by “weekly volume,” I am referring to the total number of reps that you perform for each major muscle group each week.

You should track your training to make sure that you’re overtraining the muscle groups or under-training it. Either one of these can obstruct you from reaching your goals.

The most essential thing about training volume is:

  • With heavier weights, go for lower volume.
  • With lighter weights, go for higher volume.

It’s as simple as that.

It holds true because of the fact that our muscles take longer to recover from heavy weightlifting that lighter lifting.

That’s from me.

Now read what research says:

The subject of optimal training volume is rather complex but here’s what you need to know:

Research shows that when you’re using weights in the range of 60 to 85% of one-rep max, the optimal volume appears to be in the range of 60 to 180 reps per major muscle group per week.

For example, while the bench press primarily trains the pecs and triceps, it also heavily involves the anterior deltoids, which means you don’t need to do as much direct shoulder training to give them the volume they need to grow bigger and stronger.

It has been suggested that high volume, moderate-to-high intensity resistance exercise programs utilizing short rest intervals primarily target muscle hypertrophy with secondary strength increases.

Conversely, high-intensity, low-volume programs utilizing long rest intervals primarily target muscle strength increases with secondary improvements in muscle hypertrophy.

In any case, it has been speculated that muscle hypertrophy may increase generously over a higher range of reps and volume combinations.

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Don’t worry, you won’t have to do 3-hour upper body workouts a few days per week. Rather, Find a bunch of compound exercises that engages various major muscle groups simultaneously, enabling you to pile on volume over your whole upper body a lot quicker than you can with isolation exercises.

Alright, now that you’ve learned about the training philosophies and ideas about upper body workout and muscle hypertrophy, let’s talk about the exercises which are supposed to be the best.

Best Chest Exercises

  • Barbell Bench Press ( Flat+Incline )
  • Close-Grip Bench Press
  • Reverse-Grip Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Bench Press( Flat+Incline )
  • Dips

Best Back Exercises

  • Deadlift
  • Conventional Deadlift
  • Hex Bar Deadlift
  • Sumo Deadlift
  • Barbell Row
  • Dumbbell Row
  • T-Bar Row
  • Pull-up
  • Chin-up
  • Lat Pulldown (Wide- and Close-Grip)
  • Seated Cable Row (Wide- and Close-Grip)

Best Shoulder Exercises

  • Seated or Standing Military Press
  • Arnold Press
  • Dumbbell Front Raise
  • Dumbbell Side Lateral Raise
  • Dumbbell Rear Lateral Raise
  • Barbell Rear Delt Row
  • Cable Face Pull

Best Biceps Exercises

  • Barbell Curl
  • E-Z Bar Biceps Curl
  • Alternating Dumbbell Curl
  • Hammer Dumbbell Curl
  • Chin-Up

Best Triceps Exercises

  • Close-Grip Bench Press
  • Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Press
  • Lying Triceps Press
  • Triceps Pushdown
  • Dip

Best Core Exercises

  • Captain’s Chair Leg Raise
  • Cable Crunch
  • Hanging Leg Raise
  • Air Bicycle
  • Ab Wheel Rollout

If you have any how-to or why-to related queries, then click on a specific one you want to know about. It’ll redirect you to the more detailed illustration of that exercise.

This listicle data consists of more free weight exercises than cable or machine exercises. Now, it’s your mission to master these moves and upgrade your current level of the upper body.

The Muscle Building Workout Routine: Upper Body

ExerciseSetsRepsRest (min)
Bench Press 36-82-3
Rows (Any)36-82-3
Incline Dumbbell Press38-101-2
Lat Pulldowns210-151
Lateral Raises310-121
Triceps Pushdowns310-121
Dumbbell Curls312-151

Guidelines To Perform Afore-mentioned Exercises

Here’s a way to make these exercises work as effectively as possible.

  • Use the same weight each set for each exercise. For example…

DO:  100lbs, 100lbs, 100lbs.

DON’T:  95lbs, 100lbs, 105lbs.

  • Increase the weight by a small amount from the next session if you feel you can. Continue this process of progression as often as you can.
  • Perform the exercises in the given order as far as possible.

Strength-Building Workout Routine: Upper Body

Weight: Moderately challenging

Rest period: 90 sec between each superset

Superset No.1

Weighted Wide Grip Pull-Ups  5 x 3-5 reps

[Use Chain or Dumbbells in your feet]

[Reach your head over the bar and locking all the way down]

Plyo Push Ups  5 x 3-5 reps

[Explode as high as you can and clap both hands]

Superset No.2 

DB Seated Press  4 x 8 reps

[Lower Elbows up to only 90° angle]

[Don’t clang the weights at the top]

Dumbbell Lying Chest Press  4 x 10 reps

[Focus on the chest, no clanging at the top]

[ Inhale ↓ Exhale ↑ ]

Superset No.3

Single Arm Dumbbell Rows  3 x 10 reps (per side)

[Use Challenging Weight]

[Lower your arms all the way down]

DB Cleans  3 x 8

[Cleans not curls]

[Go heavy]

Exercise No. 7 

Bodyweight Dips  4 x 10-15 reps

[Go down to only 90° angle]

[Controlled motion]

[ Inhale ↓ Exhale ↑]

Exercise No.8

Burpee Tabata Finisher  8 x [20-sec Work + 10-sec rest]

[Don’t have to go all the way down]

[Fast and controlled motion]

[ Inhale ↓ Exhale ↑ ]

Seems tough? Don’t worry, it’s super effective too.

So, try incorporating these supersets into your routine to build massive upper-body strength and power.

Bear with me because the most important tip on building muscle mass or strength is on its way. Let’s headstart it with an example of a horse.

The horse is one of the strongest animals on earth. The tremendous amount of energy that it has, where is it from?

The answer, though obvious, is none the less surprising: Feed (and a little sunlight), and nothing more.

Genetics and training do matter somehow in the outcome of the performance, but without the energy and tissues derived from the horse’s diet, there wouldn’t be any performance at all.

Most people know that high protein intake is necessary to maximize muscle growth but don’t know that caloric intake also plays a major role.

Many of you may already have got the point. At face value, just remember to:

*Make sure you’re eating enough food.

The Takeaway

My final words on full Upper Body Workout Routine : 

I anticipate you have learned something from the article. I hope it helps you to gain a significant amount of upper body strength and muscle mass.

*It’s not an overnight thing.*

So, have a clear vision of who you wanna be, target your goal, implement what you learn, break the wall and get past of it, bang the iron and grow beyond the limits.


Aaron Reiner

Aaron is a fitness blogger, founder & editor of Prosfitness. He has been lifting weights & writing about fitness for over 3 years. He has been a contributor for several health and fitness publications.

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