While it’s extremely important to train the body as a whole, it is not uncommon for men to neglect their leg training and emphasize their upper body muscles when they train.  After all, from a vanity standpoint, it is much more obvious to the general public when a guy has a big, square chest or huge biceps, whereas not many may ever notice your shredded quads or hamstrings.

The key to developing the upper body is to train it from multiple angles.  The torso muscles (chest, back, shoulders) require stimulation in multiple directions to develop completely.  It is easiest to think of the torso as functioning in two different planes – horizontal, or front to back (think bench presses, rows, push-ups) and vertical, or high to low (think overhead presses and pull-ups).  It is common to focus more on the muscles you can easily see in the mirror, such as your chest and shoulders, and neglect what you can’t easily see.  To remedy this, it is necessary to increase the volume for the back side and reduce it slightly for the front to allow balance to take over.

The Training Split

This workout is intended to be performed 2 days per week, with legs and arms each being trained 1 day per week on their own.  Even if you don’t mind training your legs, if you’re trying to improve one area of the body in particular, it is typical to have to decrease training volume for other areas to prevent overtraining.

Here is one way to structure your split:

Monday – Torso
Tuesday – Legs
Wednesday – off
Thursday – Torso
Friday – Arms
Saturday – off
Sunday – off

You will be performing 6 exercises in each workout, using tri sets.  Tri sets are simply three movements performed in sequence, with a rest period at the end of the circuit.  You will perform all of the required sets of the first 3 lifts before moving on to the second grouping.

best upper body workout2

Tri Set #1

A1) Kneeling 1-Arm DB Row – 4×10-12, 3011, 10 seconds rest
A2) Incline DB Press – 4×10-12, 3110, 10 seconds rest
A3) Chest-Supported DB or Machine Row – 4×15-20, 2111, 90 seconds rest

Begin by positioning one knee and one hand on a flat bench for kneeling rows, pulling the dumbbell from the floor up toward the chest, making a conscious effort to contract the shoulder blade at the top of the movement.  Hold the top position for a count of 1, then lower back to an outstretched arm over 3 seconds.  Perform all reps on one side, then switch before moving on to the next exercise.

Next, set an adjustable bench at roughly 30-45 degrees (going higher tends to place more demand on the shoulders) and bring dumbbells to your chest with the palms facing forward.  Push your chest toward the ceiling to create a large stretch and then push yourself into the bench as you move the weights away from you.  Visualizing pushing yourself into the bench instead of pushing the weights away from you helps create a stronger contraction and better mental link to your chest.  Perform all reps, stopping for a count of 1 at the bottom to fully stretch, before moving on to the last movement in the circuit.

Finally, support your chest either on a bench set at 30-45 degrees with a pair of dumbbells, or up against the support pad of a machine row.  Focusing on opening up the shoulder blades at the bottom, let the weights pull your upper back into a stretch, before contracting your scapulae hard and pulling your elbows back behind your body.  Visualize trying to touch your elbows together behind your back without allowing your chest to leave the pad – otherwise you are likely relying on momentum and not fully contracting your back.  Hold a one count both at the top and the bottom to create tension – you won’t need much weight here.  Rest a full 90 seconds before starting back with the kneeling row – you’ll do 4 of these circuits before moving on.

Tri Set #2

B1) Wide Grip Pullup – 4 x10-12, 3011, 10 seconds rest
B2) Seated DB Press – 4 x10-12, 3110, 10 seconds rest
B3) Cable Pulldown w/ D Handle – 4 x15-20, 2111, 90 seconds rest

You’ll notice the set and rep scheme is identical to the first tri set – heavier for the first two, with a lot of reps and squeezes for the third exercise.  This is because the back muscles are usually more difficult to get a feel for, as well as being typically underdeveloped, so they’re given an extra movement to focus just on contraction and stretching and flushing lots of blood into the muscles.

Perform this workout for up to 4 weeks before moving on.  From there you could easily go into something like this to give each muscle a little more volume in each workout and training it a little less frequently:

Monday – Chest/Back (horizontal movements)
Tuesday – Legs
Wednesday – off/abs
Thursday – Shoulders/Back (vertical movements)
Friday – Arms
Saturday – off
Sunday – off

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