While you of course should never skip leg day, that does not mean that your upper body days aren’t important. One of the biggest mistakes that you can make with your upper body training is to only focus on one or two groups of muscles. This lack of diversification can lead to tears, disproportionate growth, or even less successful workouts. There are a number of ways to better define and prepare your upper body for both functional, and visual success. While we can’t hit them all, here are five great upper body workouts to try in the gym.
1. Reverse Grip Bench Press
Bench press is quite possibly one of the most popular exercises to do in the gym. It can be done both alone or with a partner, offers a number of variations, and is a great tool for building a well rounded chest. One of the best ways to modify bench press to expand the muscle groups you are building is to do reverse grip bench press.
For many, this is a love to hate exercise. First and foremost, position yourself like you would normally, back on the bench, bar above you between your chest and chin. For this modification, however, you will want less weight than you would bench normally, so start small and work your way up to your comfort level. You will then reverse your grip, such that your palms are facing toward your head, rather than away. With your arms about shoulder-width apart, bring the bar down, keeping your elbows in line with your shoulders. This is a killer tricep workout that will work the outside of pectorals as well.
2. Decline Press
Another modification of bench press that can help you craft a more rounded chest is decline press. This can be a dangerous workout if done wrong, so make sure that you are either very careful, or have a spotter.
Decline press involves using a declined bench, such that your legs are above you, and your torso leans down at a 35 to 45 degree angle. From this point, you will do bench press as normal, moving the bar vertically from touching your chest to extension.
This bench press modification works the lower region of your chest, which is an area frequently under-developed by only doing standard bench press. It also assists with working out the upper back and shoulders.
3. Hammer Curls
If you have only been doing traditional curls, you are missing out. Hammer curls and excellent modification of curls that can be easily superset, and work a different part of the arm.
Hammer curls are done simply by rotating a standard curl 90 degrees, and performing the exercise from this position—holding the dumbbell like you would a hammer. This works the bicep, as well as the brachioradialis, while also putting healthy strain on the upper part of your forearm. In many cases, hammer curls can also be easier on elbow joints and the shoulders, posing less opportunity for injury.
4. Decline Sit Ups
A crucial part of any upper-body training routine is the core. Every workout relies on a healthy core as its base, though can be one of the most brutal parts of any workout. While it’s a real burner, decline sit ups are not only easier on your back, but offer a way to work all of your abdominal muscles in one movement.
This workout involves utilizing a decline bench at 45 degrees or more, whatever is within your comfort zone. In a standard method, you simply do sit ups from this position. However, if you want to increase the difficulty, you can perform this exercise weighted, or using resistance bands. Simply get a barbell with your desired weight, hold it above you as though you are at the extension of a decline press, and perform your sit ups, moving the bar to be above your head at the top of your sit up. It is best to have a spotter if you are doing the workout with this modification.
5. Dumbbell Shrugs
This is an incredibly simple workout, but will help to strengthen your shoulders, and even prevent injury during more intense shoulder workout routines. Get two dumbbells, one in each hand, hold them at your sides, and roll your shoulders slowly. You are slightly lifting the dumbbells in a slight circular motion with your shoulders. One of the best ways to do this is to perform the workout until fatigue.
Performing this workout shrugging both forward and backward is a great way to ensure excellent shoulder mobility and strength, and can prevent you from injuring your shoulders in other workouts.
Of course there are plenty of other workouts that can improve your upper body days in the gym, but these are a few of our favorites to work those muscle groups that don’t get enough attention.