Gaining upper-body weight in the form of bigger chest, back, shoulder and arm muscles is possible, though it will require effort and focus. Adding muscle mass comes by way of planned meals and intense weight training. If you are an avid runner or group fitness enthusiast, you must change your ways. Your muscle cells need plenty of calories from carbs, protein and healthy fats. If you aim to increase upper body weight, you cannot afford to expend those calories on cardio, according to Thomas Baechle and colleagues in their book, "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning."
Muscle-Building Meal Guidelines
Calculate the minimum member of calories you must eat every day to maintain your current physique. Multiply your weight in kilograms by 44 calories if you are a woman or multiply your weight in kilograms by 50 calories if you are a man. Increase this number by 350 to 700 calories every day, ensuring you have enough calories to support your mass building workouts. Use on online calculator if you need to convert pounds to kilograms.
Incorporate in your daily diet between 1.7 and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight for maximal muscle gains.
Eat your post-workout meal immediately after your training session because this is the time when your muscles optimally process the sugars and amino acids in your food. This post-workout meal is vital to building new muscle tissue and to storing glucose so that you have plenty of energy for your next upper-body workout, optimizing upper-body weight gain.
Chest and Back
Train the large muscles of your upper body, the chest and back as your first workout of the week on Monday or any day that suits.
Begin each workout with large, multi-joint exercises including flat barbell bench presses and incline barbell bench presses for your chest. These exercises enable you to lift the heavy weight you need to stimulate muscle growth. Do barbell rows and lateral pulldowns for your back.
Incorporate decline barbell and dumbbell presses, dumbbell chest presses and dumbbell flyes for the rest of your chest routine. Do dumbbell rows and pull-down exercises for your back.
Work the deltoid muscles in your shoulders on a separate day or on the day you work your leg muscles. This will ensure the deltoids are not too fatigued to train when you pair them with your other upper body muscles.
Include military barbell presses and dumbbell shoulder presses for the front portion of your deltoid muscles.
Do upright barbell rows, upright dumbbell rows and lateral dumbbell raises for the middle of your shoulders. Perform bent-over dumbbell flyes with one or both arms to work the back of your delts.
Do three to four exercises per muscle group. Complete four to six sets of up to 12 repetitions for each exercise. Stay within the six to 12 repetition range for most of your sets, but do include a few sets of one to six repetitions, enhancing your strength so you can build more upper body muscle.
Intense training for your upper body muscles does leave you prone to developing overuse injuries and extreme muscle soreness. Take time off of activities that include significant upper body movements such as tennis and racquetball, minimizing your risk of injury. Gradually ease into your new routine by beginning just two sets of three exercises per muscle to reduce excessive of muscle pain.
Train your biceps and triceps toward the end of the week.
Begin your arm routine with barbell and dumbbell curls for your biceps. Incorporate barbell triceps presses and E-Z-bar triceps extensions for the back of your arms.
Add hammer dumbbell curls, concentration curls and cable curls to your biceps routine. Do dumbbell triceps extensions, triceps and triceps rope extensions for the back of your arms.
Things You'll Need
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; Thomas R. Baechle, et al.
- Strength and Conditioning Journal; Optimizing Resistance Exercise Adaptations through the Timing of Post-Exercise Carbohydrate-Protein Supplementation; John Ivy, Ph.D., et al.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Progression Models in Resistance Training for Adults; William J. Kraemer, Ph.D., et al.
Paula Quinene is an Expert/Talent, Writer and Content Evaluator for Demand Media, with more than 1,500 articles published primarily in health, fitness and nutrition. She has been an avid weight trainer and runner since 1988. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor's in exercise science from the University of Oregon and continues to train clients as an ACSM-Certified Health Fitness Specialist.