15 Exercises For a Toned Upper Body This Summer

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Staff Writer

Summer is the season that prompts many people to take fitness seriously, focusing on the upper body, which includes the chest, arms and shoulders. If you are looking to get ripped up, here are 15 exercises that will get you toned up.


1. Barbell Bench Press
This is the classic way to tone and define your chest, and build up your biceps and triceps at the same time. The barbell bench press is an effective way to grow muscle, or to just get ripped without adding bulk. Use heavy weight and lower reps to add bulk, and light weight and high reps to gain definition. Three sets of 10 repetitions at your desired weight is the best place to begin this routine.

2. Dumbbell Bench Press
The dumbbell press targets the chest muscles in a more specific way than the barbell press, because you can do more exercises with dumbbells since they are separate pieces of equipment. In addition to a straight press in which you lift the dumbbell straight up, you can also do ‘flys,’ in which you grip the dumbbells with your arms fully extended at your sides, and lift the dumbbells as if you are hugging someone, then repeat the exercise. Flys help to define your pectoral muscles and help round out your shoulders.

3. Dumbbell Curls
Nothing will build your biceps more than doing dumbbell curls. The standard way to perform this exercise is seated on a bench, with your elbows resting on your knee as you lower the dumbbell to full extension, and curl it up until your biceps form a ball. High rep, low weight is ideal for women who want to lose arm flab. Guys interested in big biceps must perform low reps with high weight.

4. Dips
Dips are a bodyweight exercise that works wonders for your triceps and abs. The key with dips is that you should try to keep your legs straight instead of bending your knees, which makes it easier for you to do the dips. If you’re just starting out with dips you can ‘cheat’ and bend your knees as you slowly build up strength. Make sure you lower your body so that your elbows are bent past 90 degrees, then lift to a full extension with your arms locked. Do three sets of as many reps as you can, and when you’re proficient, go to three sets of 10 reps.


5. Planks
Planks are another machine and weights-free exercise that can help you achieve that six-pack you crave. Assume a pushup position, but rest your weight on your elbows instead of the palm of your hands. Make sure your back and legs form a straight line, and that your butt isn’t sticking up. Hold your position for a minimum of 30 seconds, but work up to a full minute. Perform three sets of one-minute planks, working up to 3 sets of a minute and a half. Your arms will be jelly when you first start, but in a few weeks, you’ll see a difference in your abs.

6. Pull-ups
Pull-ups are intimidating because most people think they can’t lift their weight, but the truth is, it’s more about technique than brute strength. When you first start out with pullups, bend your knees to make your body smaller so that it’s easier to lift your chin above the bar. As you become proficient, allow your body to hang straight as you pull up, which is more challenging. Start out doing three sets of as many reps as possible, then work up to three sets of 12 to 15 pullups with a minute of rest in between. Pullups tighten your abs, work your biceps and most importantly, help you get that tapered V-look in your back.

7. Pushups
Push ups are one of the most effective ways to tone your chest, work your abs, cut up your triceps and strengthen your back. You can do push ups anywhere there is a flat surface that will support your weight. Three sets of 50 will rip you up nicely, but if you’re just starting out, three sets of 25 is a reasonable pace.

8. Lat Pulldown
Lateral pulldown machines are designed to help shape your back and shoulders. They are excellent for both men and women because the machine’s stability allows controlled movement, which is the key to gaining the full benefit of this exercise. Grip the bar at the same width as your shoulders, and pull it down until it lightly touches your chest. Slowly lift the bar until your arms are fully extended, and repeat. The shoulder-width grip works the inside of your back, whereas a wider grip works the outside of your back and more of your shoulders and deltoid muscles. Three sets of 10 is a good place to start.

9. Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Perform these dumbbell presses while seated on a bench. Use a weight that provides a challenge, but doesn’t place a huge strain on your shoulders. Start with your elbows bent as you hold each dumbbell. Press the dumbbells up until your arms are fully extended, then slowly lower them to the starting position. You’ll feel the strain in your shoulders, back and abs. Keep your back straight as you do these exercises. Start with three sets of 10 presses.

10. Inverted Row
The inverted row is another bodyweight exercise that is performed like a lying-down pull up. This exercise tones your back, shoulders and biceps, and also hits your abs. Perform this exercise by lying under a stationary bar in the gym. Grip the bar with your knuckles facing you and pull yourself up until your elbows are fully bent, and your body forms an angle against the ground. Hold this position for a second, then lower yourself back down. Start out with three sets of as many as you can do with proper form, then progress to three sets of 10 to 12.

11. Shadow Boxing
Shadow boxing is an exercise that works your entire arms and your abs. Stand with one foot planted behind you and the other foot in front and knees slightly bent. Raise your fists to your chin and throw a punch, making sure your arm is fully extended. Contract your arm as your throw a punch with the other hand. Shadow box for a full sixty seconds, then rest. Do three sets of these exercises, and you’ll be surprised how tired your arms feel when you’re done.

12. Rope Jumping
Jumping rope is one of the least known but most effective exercise to working your abs, arms and back. If you’re a neophyte, start out by getting used to the feel of the rope and jump slowly as you work to build up speed and intensity. There are dozens of rope jumping routines, but for beginners, a steady jump is the best place to start. Start by jumping without rest for 60 seconds, with a minute rest in between, for a total of three sets. Work your way up to two-minute sets. You’ll burn calories, and tone your arms, shoulders and back.

13. Raised Leg Sit Ups
Sit ups are a time-honored way of blasting your abs and strengthening your core. Lift your legs off the ground and bend your knees. Perform your sit ups while keeping your legs raised for an increased burn in your abs. Do as many sit ups as you can in a minute, then rest for 30 seconds and resume. Perform three total sets.

14. Bent Over Reverse Fly
Grip two dumbbells and bend your knees, with your butt sticking out. Assume a shoulder-width position with your arms dangling in front of your knees. Raise your arms out to your sides until they are fully extended and parallel to the ground. Lower your arms and repeat. Bent over reverse flys work your shoulders, triceps and chest. Do three sets of 10 reps.


15. Incline Bench Press
Unlike a standard bench press, which is done on a flat bench, an incline press is performed on a bench that’s tilted at a 45 degree angle. This exercise targets your shoulders and obliques more than a flat press, so if you want your delts to pop, this is the routine for you. You do these the same way as a flat press, but you’ll definitely feel more of a burn in your shoulders. Three sets of 10 is a good place to start.