Tone Your Arms and Back with these Upper Body Exercises!

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Say goodbye to arm and back fat for good with these 16 exercises that target your upper body! You’ll sculpt firmer, sexier, and stronger arms and a toned back. If you’re a beginner, start at the basics and work your way up. It’s time to get the body you’ve always wanted! Also be sure to check out these legs and butt exercise to add to your workout as well!



push ups Push Ups- Lower yourself to your hands and feet. Place your hands flat on the ground, shoulder-width apart, with your fingers facing forward or slightly turned in. Make sure that your arms and legs are straight and contract your abs (pull in your stomach towards your spine). Now, bend your elbows and slowly lower your body towards the ground. Then press back up until your arms are fully extended. Remember to keep your head aligned with your spine and your lower back straight/parallel to the floor. Repeat for as many as you can; aim for 8–12 reps. If you want to challenge yourself, lift one of your feet off the ground, keeping your leg extended throughout the pushup. After your return to start, repeat on the other side. Continue to alternate sides as you complete the 8–12 reps. Image Credit.


tricep dips Tricep Dips- Start with arms straight, palms flat on the edge of a bench or chair, and legs just slightly farther out than 90 degrees. With your butt off of the bench, slowly lower yourself as far as comfortable and then bring yourself back up. That’s one rep. Repeat continuously. Complete a total of 3 sets of 12-20 reps. Image Credit.




tricep pulldown Tricep Pull Down- Tricep Pull downs, or Triceps Push Downs, are a favored tricep exercise. Stand at an overhead cable station. A variety of hand grips can be used so use whichever one YOU prefer. Some options are a rope, a straight bar, or an angled handle. Hold the grip with arms fully flexed at the elbow and exhale as you slowly push down on the bar/rope/handle with control. Push down until just before the full extension of the elbows. Then inhale, as you slowly let the weights rise back up to the starting position. Use control; do not allow the weight to just throw your arms back up! Repeat for 10-15 reps. Use a weight that starts to burn your arms 2-3 reps before you’re finished. Complete a total of 3 sets. Image Credit.


pull ups Pull Ups- Place a bench under a pull-up bar and step onto it. Grab the bar with an overhand grip that’s slightly wider than shoulder-width. Bend your knees so you are hanging from the bar, and cross your ankles behind your body. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and raise your body until your shoulders are just under the bar and your chin is above it. Then, lower back down to the starting position with your knees still bent. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as you can. These are usually hard for beginners but over time, you will be able to do more and more as your strength increases. Image Credit.


burpees Burpees- If you want a full-body workout using just one single exercise, this is definitely it! Burpees are a crucial mixture of pushups, planks, and jump squats. If you’re a beginner, this move will be extremely tiring at first, but well worth it. Hey, even I can only do a couple of these lol. But with practice, you’ll only get better! Just a few rounds of burpees will work your arms, chest, abdominal muscles, shoulders, legs, and back. It’s also a great cardio exercise as well. These are good for building muscular strength, stamina, muscle mass, and endurance. Complete as many reps as you can; at least 5-10 to start. To do these, start in a standing position, with feet hip-width apart. Squat down until your hands touch the ground in front of you and then kick your feet back (you can either stay in this plank position OR do a push up, it’s up to you). Bring your feet back to meet with your hands in a squat position, then jump up as high as you can. When you jump, lift your arms over your head. That completes one burpee. Repeat all of these steps till you possibly can’t do anymore. Image Credit.

bent over row Bent Over Row- Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a pair of dumbbells so your palms are facing each other. Then bend forward from the hips with your knees bent. Now, pull your shoulder blades together and row the weights toward your chest. Return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps. Image Credit.




bent over row2 One Arm Bent Over Row- This move targets your upper back, triceps, and mid back. Grab a dumbbell, using the weight of your choice, and place your right knee and right hand on a workout bench or chair. Your back should be parallel to the floor. Be sure to pick a weight that burns by the 12th rep. Your other leg should be straight and your hand should be hanging straight down holding the dumbbell. Lift your arm with the dumbbell straight up so that it meets with your side. Be sure to keep your elbow in and pointed upwards. Then slowly lower the weight back down to the starting position. That completes one rep. Do not arch or round your back! Make sure to keep it straight. Complete 3 sets of 15 reps on each side. Image Credit.

dead lifts Dead Lifts- You can do these with a barbell or dumbbells, whichever you prefer. Begin in a standing position with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and the weight(s) on floor. Keep your arms straight throughout the entire movement. Once you slightly bend down into a squat to pick up the weight(s), keep your spine straight and feet firmly planted on the floor. As you lift up with the weight(s), shift the weight into your heels with your chest out. Fully extend your knees and hips while squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. Lower down slightly and then lift back up, with the weight still in your hands the entire time. Repeat this movement. Some people do this move with their legs straight or slightly bent, it’s up to you. Aim for 10-15 reps and 2-3 sets. Image Credit.

bicep curls Bicep Curls- Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides, with your palms facing forward, and feet shoulder-width apart. Be sure to keep your back straight and chest up. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows in and curl the weights toward your shoulders. Controlling your arms, slowly lower the weights back down to the starting position. That’s one rep. Complete 2-3 sets and 10-15 reps per arm. You can either do both arms at the same time or alternate them. Image Credit.



tricep kickbacksTricep Kickbacks- Grab a dumbbell in one hand, then place your opposite knee and hand on a bench. Then, place your other foot on the floor, flexing it slightly at the knee. With the arm holding the dumbbell, position it so that it’s at a 90 degree angle at your elbow. Exhale slowly and move it straight back and up to your side, making it parallel to the floor. Remember to keep your body stable and your back straight. Inhale and lower the dumbbell slowly, until you reach the starting position at a 90 degree angle. Repeat for 10-15 reps. Then, switch sides and repeat holding the dumbbell in the other hand. Complete 2-3 sets. Image Credit.




stability ball chest press Chest Press on Exercise/Stability Ball- Grab a pair of 8 to 15 pound dumbbells and lie on a stability ball (position it under your mid/upper back) with your feet flat on the floor. Keep your knees bent at about 90 degrees and make sure your abs are pulled in tight. Hold the dumbbells by your chest, palms facing forward, and press them straight up toward the ceiling. Lower the weights back down and repeat. Use your abs to keep your body still and balanced. Complete 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Image Credit.



overhead press Overhead Press- You can do this exercise while standing straight up, seated on a stability ball, or using the machine if you’re at a gym. Place your feet flat on the floor and grab 8 to 15 pound dumbbells. Hold the weights near your shoulders, hands spaced slightly more than shoulder-width apart, and slowly press the weights overhead until your arms are straight. Then, lower back down to the starting position. Repeat. Complete 2-3 sets of 12 to 15 reps. Image Credit.




lat pulldown Lat Pull Down- This is an extremely popular exercise that targets the back. The lat pull down improves back width and adds muscle mass. You’ll achieve an amazing toned back with this exercise so be sure to include it into your workout! Do this in front of your head, not behind. Otherwise, it can cause potential damage or strain to the rotary cuff if not performed with proper form and technique. As always, safety precautions should be taken so you don’t hurt or injure yourself. Use a weight that lets you complete 10-15 reps. Image Credit.


back extension Back Extension- Lie with your hips and chest resting on a stability ball. Place your hands behind your head, elbows out, and feet against a wall or sturdy object for extra balance. Your back should be slightly rounded as well. Now, squeeze your butt and slowly lift your chest away from the ball until your torso is almost upright. Hold position for just a couple seconds, then slowly return to the starting position. That’s one rep. Image Credit.




bench press Bench Press- Grab a barbell with an overhand (palms facing up), shoulder-width grip, and hold the bar above your chest with your arms straight. Then, lower the bar straight down. Hold for just a second, then press the bar back to the starting position, and repeat. Complete 10-12 reps using a weight that challenges you. I prefer the machine to do this rather than using a barbell but do whichever you prefer! Start on weights somewhat small then work your way up. Image Credit.



rear lateral raise Rear Lateral Raise- Using a pair of dumbbells, bend forward at the hips until your torso is almost parallel to the floor. With your arms hanging straight down, make sure your palms are facing each other. Then without moving your torso, raise your arms straight out to your sides until they are in line with your body. Hold position for just a second, then return to the starting position. It’s almost like a “flapping your wings” motion. Be sure to slowly control your arms as you bring them back down, instead of just dropping them (you don’t want to get hurt!). Complete 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps. Image Credit.



Even though there were a lot more that I wanted to add, after I researched the moves, it turns out that they were popular exercises that greatly increase the risk of injury. They were actually bad for your body instead of good. I didn’t want anyone getting hurt so I left those out! 🙂



-Do not do standing overhead tricep extensions! They put the shoulders in a bad position that increases the risk of injury.

-Do what makes you feel comfortable but still push yourself! Remember, if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

-No matter how many reps that I put in the descriptions above, when you start to feel it burn, do at least 3-4 more reps! You CAN do this! Everyone starts somewhere.

-Use a weight that allows you to only complete 10-12 reps unless otherwise stated. Also, when a weight becomes too easy to do by the specific amount of reps, move up the weight! Ladies don’t be afraid of heavy weights! Trust me, you will not get bulky. Instead, you will get sexy, toned muscles and burn even more calories than cardio alone! Now who doesn’t want that?? Lol 🙂


Be sure to also check out these 18 leg and butt exercises as well! 🙂 I will also be posting abs and cardio exercises soon too! With complete full body workouts coming up after!



**Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. I am not a health professional or trainer. Be sure to speak to a healthcare professional before starting any exercise regimen.



  • Reply
    Wendy Mastin
    March 29, 2013 at 9:42 am

    these excercises will help me after I get done doing PT for a shoulder impingement.

  • Reply
    Wendy Mastin
    March 29, 2013 at 9:39 am

    These exercising tips and drills will help me later. I am now in PT for my shoulder inpingement.

  • Reply
    Jennifer Dysart
    March 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Excellent timing for this post, it’s almost tank top weather and I have been la-zy this winter, thanks

  • Reply
    March 21, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Thanks so much for these great exercises…I have been putting off buying a fitness ball, but I guess it is time. This way I can incorporate more exercises..thanks again!

    • Reply
      Bree {Contributor}
      March 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      Your welcome! 🙂 yes same here! I need to get one as well, I currently only use the one at the gym. Exercise balls can increase the benefits of regular exercises, giving you better results!

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