The Ultimate Upper Body Workout

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The following workout will increase strength and muscle gains. It is essentially a back and chest workout. Although they are predominantly chest and back exercises, it also engages the triceps, biceps, deltoids (shoulders) and traps, therefore it hits pretty much every muscle of the upper body.

The Pump

The idea behind combining back and chest exercises into one session, will give the upper body a maximum pump. The pump is when the muscles fill with blood, making them expand in size. Some training routines involve training the chest one day and the back another day. This can be effective, but getting a maximum pump in the whole of the upper body will encourage more growth.

The more of a ‘pump’ you achieve, the more flexible your muscle fascia will become. Fascia is a tough piece of tissue surrounding the muscles. When the muscles try and stretch out to grow bigger, fascia acts as friction and can reduce growth. When the muscles increase in size due to a pump, this tissue becomes more supple, increasing muscle growth.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was a fan of this training principle, and combined opposite muscle groups together in one session such as chest and back and biceps and triceps (arms).


To achieve the maximum pump in the upper body workout, supersets are strongly advised. A superset is when you finish one exercise then start another exercise immediately without any rest in between. Instead of supersetting a back exercise with another back exercise, it would be be better to superset a back exercise with a chest exercise. This is to achieve the maximum pump in the upper body, as opposed to achieving a pump in your back, then achieving a pump in your chest afterwards (whilst your back pump is reducing).

The Workout

1. Pushups supersetted with Pullups.

If pull ups prove too difficult, try lat pulldowns instead, which is essentially the same movement. Instead of lifting your own body weight, you can lift a little less on the lat pulldown, enabling you to complete more reps.

Sets: 3

Reps: As many as possible

Rest: 60-90 seconds rest in between supersets. After 60-90 secs rest if you haven’t caught your breath back, then rest until you have. But for most this is a sufficient amount of time for rest.

2. Deadlifts supersetted with dumbbell bench press.

With deadlifts, it is important you use correct form, otherwise back injuries can occur. The video below will outline the proper technique. Deadlifts should be performed first in this superset, as they are one of the most intense exercises you can perform in the gym. This is due to the large amount of weight you can lift as opposed to other exercises and the amount of muscles they engage,  being the lats (back), hamstrings, forearms and core (abs).

With an adjustable bench, you can set it at different inclines. A high incline will hit the upper chest and a more flat bench will hit the middle and bottom portion of the pectoral muscles.



Sets: 3

Reps: aim for a weight that you can only use for 6-10 reps to increase strength and size.

Rest: As this superset is extremely tough, but equally beneficial, I recommend 90 seconds rest. Again, if you still haven’t caught your breath back after this time, then rest until you do.

3. Dips supersetted with Bent-over-rows

When you perform dips on the dipping bars, be sure to lean forwards to place more emphasis on the pectoral muscles.

Sets: 3

Reps: With dips, do as many as possible. On the bent-over-rows look to use a weight so you can only achieve 6-10 reps. This rep range will increase strength as well as muscle gains.

Rest: 60-90 seconds. The shorter the rest the better, but as this is a superset towards the end of the workout and with dips being another very difficult exercise, rest time may lean towards the 90 second mark. Rest will shorten the more you get used to the exercises.

4. Barbell Bench Press supersetted with seated cable rows.

Again if you feel your upper chest is lacking then set up the bench for the barbell bench press with an incline. If you feel your lower chest needs improving then set the bench on an incline or even flat.



Sets: 3

Reps: 6-10

Rest: 60-90 secs


Which muscles do you prefer?

If you have a preference over which muscle you’d like to develop more out of the chest/triceps muscles or the back/bicep muscles, you the exercise first in the superset for those muscles. E.g. if you wanted a big chest and triceps more, you would do the barbell bench press/dumbbell bench press/dips/push ups before moving onto the back exercise, rather than vice versa. This is because you will be more fresh for the initial exercise.

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