Get A Lean & Strong Upper Body

Sculpt Your Arms, Shoulders, Chest and Back

Get A Lean & Strong Upper Body
Today, I’m going to share what I consider to be the top four exercises for achieving a lean, sculpted upper body. This is an extension of an article that I wrote a few months ago–How to Rock at Push-ups. Since you now rock at push-ups, you can incorporate them into your weekly training routine along with three other seriously intense exercises. Here are the four:

1. Push-ups
2. TRX Rows
3. Chin-ups
4. Double Kettlebell Press


Each exercise is a compound movement, which means that they require a lot of work from a lot of muscles. During each exercise, you’re not only engaging the working muscles but also the accessory muscles that help you get the work done (i.e., the core). Here’s what you need to do:

1. Push-ups

Get A Lean & Strong Upper Body
– Keep your body tight. When you lower your body down, keep your upper back and abs engaged throughout the exercise. Don’t collapse to the ground.

– Keep the elbows in. This will engage your upper back, core and rear delts. Drop down with tension and drive up with the elbows close to the body.

– Work on push-ups from your toes. Even if you can’t do a lot of them from your toes, try a few and get used to engaging your core. Build up your repetitions from your toes by 1-3 each week.

– Perform 3-5 sets of push-ups from your toes/knees until you can comfortably get 10 repetitions on your toes. From there, you’ll always work on your toes and build the repetitions up.

2. TRX Rows

– TRX rows are awesome for the upper back and shoulders and compliment the push-up.

– Engage your back. The first movement before you row should be to pull your shoulder blades down and back. This will focus the work on your upper back and will help keep you from just using your arms during the exercise.

– Start with a higher angle and work your way down. The further you are under the TRX, the harder the row is. You can also start with your knees slightly bent, and as you get stronger, you can straighten them.

– Pull the TRX to your chest, and squeeze your shoulder blades together on each row. Make sure to get all the way up on each pull.

– Make sure to keep the tension as you lower yourself down. Don’t relax at the bottom—make sure to keep your back tight when your arms return to the straightened position.

– Perform 3-4 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

3. Chin-ups

– Engage your back. As with the TRX Row, you want to begin with your shoulder blades pulled down and back. When you are hanging from the bar, your elbows should have a very slight bend so you can keep the muscles engaged.

– Use a resistance band to help you. If you are not able to perform a chin-up, you can use a resistance band for assistance while you improve your strength. Loop a band through the chin-up bar. Place one foot in the band and straighten your knee. Perform the chin-up by squeezing your shoulder blades together and reaching your chest to the bar. The band will help you raise your body up.

– Think about driving your elbows down to your ribcage. This will engage all the right muscles. Plus, it will keep you from thinking about just getting yourself over the bar, which can seem very intimidating at first.

– Once you can comfortably do 6-8 reps with a band, begin doing 4-5 reps of negative chin-ups on a second day each week. To do a negative chin-up, use a bench and jump yourself up into the chin-up position, then slowly lower down using a 4-second count. This will strengthen your back and your grip.

Do chin-ups twice a week. One day should be band chins-up where you focus on building up your repetitions. The second day should be negatives. Perform 3-5 sets on each day.

4. Double Kettlebell Press

– I love the double press, because it is much more challenging for the core and the shoulder stabilizers than a single press.

– Holding two bells of the same weight, slightly bend your knees and squeeze your abs as you press and rotate the bells so your palms face forward.

– As you press up, squeeze your shoulder blades together to create a strong base for the bells. Be sure to engage your upper back and abs to maintain your stability. Also, think about pushing your feet into the floor to help you to engage your entire body.

– Kettlebells make this movement trickier than dumbbells or a barbell, so the weight you use might need to be slightly lighter.

– Perform 8-10 repetitions for 3-4 sets.


OPTION 1: You can incorporate a few of the movements into a full body fat loss circuit. Here’s an example:

• KB Goblet Squat
• TRX Rows
• Push-ups
• Dumbbell Walking Lunges
• Valslide Body Saws

OPTION 2: You can also use them in a strictly upper body day like I show below. You can rotate in a selection of the four each workout.

• Push-ups
• Chin-ups
• Double Kettlebell Press
• Cable Bicep Curl
• Cable Tricep Pressdown

No matter how you program your training cycle, be sure to include these movements at least twice a week to improve your upper body strength and get lean and ripped!

Callie Durbrow

Callie Durbrow is the owner of Durbrow Performance Training and the author of Strong and Sexy in 25 Minutes.

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