Top 10 Most Effective Upper Body Exercises For Women

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The fact that women lack natural upper body strength is not a secret. In fact, most health and fitness professionals agree on the notion that unlike men, whose upper body strength is often equal to their lower body strength, on average, women’s upper body strength equals only about 50% of their lower body strength.

For example, most men who can bench press 100 pounds can also leg press 100 pounds. However, the average woman, who can leg press 100 pounds, will only be able to bench press 50 pounds, max.

The Importance of Upper Body Strength

Making matters worse is the fact that, unlike men, women loose a great deal of their upper body strength as they age. Experts believe that this is mainly due to hormonal changes that contribute to muscle loss. In an effort to help improve women’s health, an overwhelming amount of research has made a compelling case for the fact that all women, especially those over the age of forty, must incorporate a certain degree of weight training into their regular workout routines. That is because, besides the aesthetic benefits, women who engaging in a moderate weight training program also enjoy the wide array of health benefits this sport has to offer.

The Top 10 Health Benefits of Weight Training For Women

  1. Increased overall physical strength
  2. Increased overall bone density
  3. Increased overall physical endurance
  4. Increased overall balance and coordination
  5. Lower overall body fat percentage
  6. Lowered overall risk of arthritis related complications
  7. Lowered overall risk of developing heart disease
  8. Lowered overall risk of developing diabetes
  9. Lowered overall risk of developing breast cancer
  10. Lowered overall risk of developing hormone related depression

Though the sport of weight training can also help boost women’s metabolisms, and help stop diet plateaus by burning significantly more calories than any other form of exercise, the number of women who have embraced this sport is low. This is mainly due to the fact that a lot of women believe that the sport of weight training will cause their muscles to “bulk up”. This fear of developing a bulky physique is the most common misconception women harbor regarding this sport.

Therefore it is imperative that all women understand the fact that it is physically impossible for women to develop large muscles, as a result of natural weight training, because the female body simply does not have the testosterone levels necessary to build big muscles. With this said, I would like to stress the fact that since us, women, are naturally at a disadvantage with regards to upper body strength it is imperative that we make a conscious effort to build and maintain our upper body strength through weight training.

Note: You can find a printable version of this workout HERE

The Wrist Curl

The movement of our wrist muscles are responsible for helping us grasp and manipulate objects. Yet, we often neglect to train and strengthen these intricate muscles. Furthermore, our forearm muscles, in combination with our wrist muscles, are used in virtually every activity involving our upper bodies. Therefore, it is imperative that we strengthen and train these muscles continuously in order to avoid wrist injuries as well as help maintain improved  hand function in our old age. Wrist curls strengthen the forearm muscles and the joint around the wrist which in turn makes the wrist less susceptible to injury.

How to Do Wrist Curls

Watch this video on YouTube.

The Bicep Curl

The bicep curl is a basic exercise designed to increase the strength and muscle endurance of your upper arms. Contrary to popular belief, the bicep muscle, located in the front of the arms, is a much smaller muscle than the triceps muscle, located in the back of the arms. Despite its small size, the bicep muscle is used as a secondary muscle in virtually every activity involving the major muscle groups of our upper bodies, mainly the chest, back and shoulders. Therefore, it is imperative that we train this muscle to withstand the strain of everyday life.

How to Do Bicep Curls

Watch this video on YouTube.

The Push-Up

In the fitness industry, the pushup is affectionately referred to as the king of all upper body exercises. That is because this single upper body exercise engages more of your upper body muscle groups, collectively, than any other upper body exercise and can be used to measure an individual’s overall physical fitness. The pushup is primarily designed to train the pectorals, or chest muscles. But, it also engages the biceps, triceps, forearms, wrist, shoulders, and core muscles. Therefore, doing a few sets of pushups a day is the fastest way to build your overall upper body strength.

How to Do Push-Ups

Watch this video on YouTube.

The Triceps Overhead Extension

Ladies, are you looking for a fast and effective way to banish those bat wings, permanently? If so, than look no further than the triceps overhead extension. That is because this exercise is designed to isolate and target your triceps muscle, the large muscle located in the back of the arms. Besides its aesthetic benefits, training the triceps muscle will also greatly increase the strength of your arms.

How to Do Triceps Dumbbell Extensions

Watch this video on YouTube.

The Skull Crusher

The skull crusher is the advanced version of the triceps overhead extension. Like the triceps overhead extension, the skull crusher is an exercise designed to primarily target your triceps muscle, the large muscle in the back of the upper arm. However, unlike the triceps overhead extension, the skull crusher also engages your wrist, forearm, core and quad muscles, to a lesser degree.

How to Do Lying Barbell Extensions

Watch this video on YouTube.

The Triceps Push-Up

The triceps pushup is a pushup in the sense that it targets all the major muscles groups of your upper body, such as the arm, chest, shoulder and core muscles. However, what sets the triceps pushup apart from a regular pushup is the fact that by placing your hands closer together you put more emphasis on the triceps. This is a great exercise for those of you looking for a fast and highly effective way of tonning your upper bodies, especially the area in the back of the upper arms, which is on the top of most women’s list of problem areas.

How to Do Triceps Push Ups

Watch this video on YouTube.

The Dumbbell Shoulder Press

The dumbbell shoulder press is a compound exercise designed to target all of your shoulder muscles as well as your triceps muscles and trapezius muscle, the large muscle located at the side and back of the neck, which extend as far down as beneath the shoulder blade. The trapezius muscle is one of the largest muscles found in the human body. Those of you who spend a great deal of time sitting behind a desk may be experiencing tension and muscle spasms in the back of the neck, which often reverberate down the arms and midback making such everyday tasks as bending, standing, sitting or climbing stairs painful. Strengthening your shoulder muscles, primarily your deltoids, as well as your trapezius muscle, through this exercise will help alleviate many of these aches and pains as well as improve your overall balance and posture.

The Side Dumbbell Lateral Raise

The lateral raise is a secondary movement exercise designed to work the deltoids muscles of the shoulders. Strong deltoids muscles are crucial for good balance and posture. These muscles also play an important role in helping increase our arms’ range of motion. That is because our deltoids muscles, located in the front and back of the shoulders, are primarily responsible for helping keep our shoulders high and pulled back. This, in turn, prevents sagging of the shoulders, in old age, and helps our arms maintain their optimal range of motion.

How to Do Side Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Watch this video on YouTube.

The Lower Back Extension

The lower back extension, the simplest of all bodyweight exercises, is the most effective exercise designed to isolate, elongate and strengthen the muscles of your lower back. By performing high repetitions of this bodyweight exercise, on a daily basis, you will notice a marked decrease in lower back tension and pain.

How to Do Back Extensions

Watch this video on YouTube.

The Superman

The majority of women suffer from lower back pain as a result of the strain spending too much time in the sitting position places on your lower back muscles. Therefore, the superman is a great exercise for those of you who spend your days sitting behind a desk and consequently suffer from lower back pain. This exercise will strengthen your lower back muscles and consequently improve your posture and balance. After a long day at the office, this exercise will also serve as a stretching exercise for your lower back muscles and relieve the tension that often leads to lower back pain.

How to Do Superman Exercises

Watch this video on YouTube.

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Paulin Soleyman
Paulin Soleyman is the founder and editor of The Underground Bootcamp. Her goal is to help everyday people live healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives by sharing all that she knows about healthy living, nutrition, and fitness.
Paulin Soleyman

Comments

  1. Patti (PJ) says

    I really enjoy your site. As I told you before, I go to Curves, but I have also ordered the Zumba Dance Exercise package. I have a set of weight dumbbells with 2, 4 8, 10lbs. on them. What would be a good routine to mix the two so that I could have a fantastic work out and quit going to Curves?

    God Bless!

    PJ

  2. says

    Hi Patti :)

    Don't cancel your Curves membership until your Zumba package arrives and you have a chance to try it out for a week or two just to make sure it really is what you want. For someone in your situation, it is very important that you mix cardio with moderate weight training. Also, please be sure to ask your Dr. if its ok for you to lift weights in the first place. If it is ok than the best thing you can do is to do three days of cardio and two days of weight training at first. Rest for two days or do a very moderate form of exercise such as walking for 30 minutes a day. Once weight training becomes easier (in about two months) do three days of cardio and three days of weight training and rest for one day. Never workout for longer than 45 minutes. At first 30 minutes will be more than enough. Always stretch before and after each workout.

    As far as the weights are concerned there is no need for you to strain to lift heavy weights. It would be best for you to lift moderate amounts of weights and keep your reps high. For example, with the 8lb dumbbells do 3 sets of 15 or 20 reps biceps curls. If you can't do 15 or 20 reps than the 8lb dumbbell is too heavy for you. Hope this helps Patti :) Be sure to keep me updated!

  3. GG says

    I am really excited to find this site! I am 40 yrs old and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 5 years ago. At that time, I was told not to exercise at all as it would only make the muscle aches and pains much worse. I had been experiencing the pain for several years (ever since I had my last child in 03) and hadn’t been exercising. MANY years ago, in my early 20’s, I was an avid weight lifter and used to do so daily. I am now a sagging mess! My arms are just terrible and my once strong arms and legs are really going down hill. I made a decision today to begin lifting weights again, with very light weights, to try to strengthen my muscles and eliminate these saggy arms and abs! I was thrilled to find this site and plan on using it daily. Hopefully, the dr was incorrect when he told me not to exercise. Thanks so much for posting this site with all the exercises. Wish me luck!

    • says

      Hello, and welcome :) I am so glad you found us too. We’re a community here trying to live healthy lives day to day. Your condition and situation is unique in the sense that very little is known about your condition. This was even more true 5 years ago. So, even though your dr. must have been meaning well there’s research now that encourages regular light exercise for people suffering from Fibromyalgia. My recommendation is to go back to your dr. or an expert in Fibromyalgia and get an updated opinion. Good Luck!

  4. Elaine says

    Great article! But I’ve always heard not to work out the same muscle group two days in a row, that you should take a day off. These instructions recommend daily push-ups and back exercises. Is that right? What about with the weights? How often should these exercises be done?

    I’ve led a very sedentary life, and lately I’ve been trying to get back into shape and build upper-body strength so I can be more active (yoga and rock-climbing gym). I’m 32. I do 30-day Shred three times a week (3 lb weights!) and take whey protein, lol!! But after two months of that I seem only a little bit stronger.

    • says

      Hi Elaine :) Great question! If you’re looking to gain a little muscle mass and definition do these exercises with heavy weights, 2 times a week but not two days in a row. ex: Do the routine on Monday and again on Friday.
      If you’re just looking to lose weight and tone your upper body do the workout with light weights 3-4 times a week, basically every other day. This will give you more of a cardio workout with the weights and create a slimming effect. But, the drawback is that the results will come slowly and not last as long. Plus, after a while your body will grow accustomed to this routine and you will have to up the amount of weight you’re listing to maintain your results.

  5. Sarah says

    Best workout! After one week, people have already mentioned my toned arms! Love the feeling of jello arms after doing these excercises.

  6. Larissa says

    Great article. I am definitely going to try this today during my exercise time. I had been looking for a great routine to help me tone my arms more and get more strength. Thank you

  7. Elaine Kenny says

    Very good tutorials, especially because you take the time to explain the little things and have taken time to think about how to help ordinairy people.
    Thank you, these exercises are helping me already without the time and cost of a gym.

  8. Sandy says

    Thank you for sharing this routine for upper body workouts. My story: I am 50 years old, very healthy, lean & very active. I go to my gym 5 to 6 times per week & have always concentrated on cardio, working my abs & legs. I also do spin class & yoga class once a week. I realized I desperately lacked upper body strength when I purchased a much heavier motorcycle then the one I have had for years. I want to incorporate your routine as part of my workouts but I am not sure what weight of dumbbells to start with, how many in each rep & how many reps of each exercise. Should I use two 5 pd dumbbells for side laterals & one 10 pd for the tricep extension? I don’t want to start off too light nor do I want to start too heavy. Thank you

    • says

      Hi Sandy, first of all let me just say that you’re amazing! Your workout routine sounds ideal and I am so happy that you’re willing to step it up one more notch by weightlifting. The amount of weight you use depends on your strength level and goal. If you’re looking to increase your strength and overall muscle tolerance start with either a 5 or 10 lb weight and do a maximum of 10-12 reps. By the last rep you should be close to collapse. If you’re not, increase the weight by 5lbs. If you can’t make it to 10 reps decrease the weight by 5lbs and try again. If your goal is to tone your arms and upper body follow the same procedure but do more reps. For instance pick a weight with which you can do 15-20 reps before you’re exhausted and continue from there. I hope this is helpful. Please keep me updated on your progress and Good Luck! :)

      • sandy says

        Thanks Paulin!! I started adding weights to my routine last night at the gym and it worked out well. I used 2 5 pounders & 1 10 pounder weight for the various exercises & it worked out well. Yes, by the end of 3 sets of 10 reps I could certainly feel it & was making wonderful faces to boot! lol I’ll be continuing slow and steady as I really enjoyed the variation to my workout. Thanks again so much for your easy to follow, yet effective exercises

    • says

      Hmmmm :) Linda, you’ve just given me an idea! I do not have a printable version but if that is something you use I will work on creating a printable version of these exercises. Thx for asking. This is the reason why I LOVE hearing from my readers :)

  9. Jen says

    Hi! Love what you do here – practical and effective workout information everyone can use. I’d like to second Linda’s request for printables that I can hang up in my “gym area” at home.

    Thanks!!

  10. healthyliving says

    Hi paulin, Very nice article.
    I need your guidance.
    I am reaching 30. However I have always had a very weak upper body.I wont be able to sit erect even for 15 mins together. I tend to slouch.
    I developed breasts at a very young age of 10. It also developed so flabby that it restricted my growth(height). I have a very flabby upper body which is shorter than my lower body..I started doing sprinting ( short running), dumbells exercises, pushups. Still I don’t find any visible change yet in a month. I have reduced my fat intake. How long should I wait to see some results?
    Is it really possible for me to tone my upper body and feel healthier ?(I am 48 kg, 5 feet)

    • says

      Hi Healthy Living! Yes it is possible for you to tone your upper body but it will not happen in one month. You should expect to see some results in about 3 months. It takes, on average, around a year to see full results. So don’t give up! The only way to strengthen your upper body is to do upper body weight training exercises. One of the best ways to give yourself a “breast lift” from the inside out is to do chest exercises that aim to strengthen and lift the muscles located under your breast tissue. To strengthen your back focus on weight training exercises that target the back. However, to increase your body’s overall strength and muscle mass you need to work your lower body hard! So, in other words, you need a total body weight training routine that you can carry out consistently for at least 4 days a week.

      • healthyliving says

        Thanks so much Paulin.I have started doing sprints( short running).Do you think it will help me reduce flabbiness?

      • says

        That’s great healthyliving. Running sprints is a great way to reduce your overall body fat percentage which may help reduce some of your flabbiness but weight training is the only way to tone and firm up your muscles.

  11. says

    So I have done most of these but I just love the demonstrations in proper form! Thank you! Enjoy your Sits day, you have a fab blog here!

  12. says

    Those are some of my favorite upper body moves! I actually love working my upper body, I think because I see results faster as compared to my lower body. Love that you have the videos too to show proper form. Happy SITS Day! So excited to discover your blog!

  13. says

    Happy SITS day! I will definitely print out this workout and put it in my home gym. Thanks. I can’t wait to check out more of your site.

  14. says

    WOW! Thank you for this wonderful article! I just began working out and taking care of myself again after getting out of an 8 year abusive relationship! As you can imagine, I have tons of questions as I try to find a routine that works for me, for a while! You have answers MANY of those questions today! Thank you!!!

  15. Dana says

    This is great timing – I need some new workouts for my upper body. Printing this one out right now; I’m going to try it at the gym tomorrow! Happy SITS day – I’ll be back!

  16. says

    Absolutely wonderful guide. I love that the vids show you what NOT to do, as form is so important. I think I’ll share this on FB. Happy SITS day, BTW.

  17. says

    Great tips! I really need to work on my upper body strength. When I was a kid, I took Tae-Kwon_do, gymnastics and dance. I could do 50 push-ups in a row, no problem! Now I’m lucky if I can do 5. But I can press a good amount of weight with my legs!

    Stopping by from SITS. Happy SITS day to you! :)

    Julie @ This Gal Cooks

  18. says

    Paulin,
    Is there a “lower body” version of this? I LOVE this. Did the workout today & it rocks. I’d like to have the same format as above (10 best, with video demos by this lady), if possible. Can you hook me up? I searched lower body on your blog, but without the result I was looking for.

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