Upper Body Workout Routines for the Gym

Use a variety of equipment at your local gym for a killer upper body workout.
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Going to the gym can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan of action. So, coming up with an upper body workout routine ahead of time can drastically improve your gym experience. Instead of wandering around the gym looking for a machine to use, you’ll know ahead of time where you need to go and what you need to do. This can reduce the rest time in between exercises so you can use your time more efficiently.

Creating a Routine

Your upper body consists of your arms, abdominals, chest, back, and shoulders. To create a workout routine centered on one or more of these muscle groups, you need to know the six basic upper body exercise movements. These six movements involve horizontal pushing, horizontal pulling, vertical pushing, vertical pulling, elbow flexion, and elbow extension. Once you choose which upper body muscles you want to exercise, pick one specific exercise that falls under each of those six movements. You can use free weights, mechanized weights, or other exercise machines to complete these exercises. Also, decide how many sets and repetitions of each exercise you will do. A general rule of thumb is to do 2 or 3 sets of 8 to 16 reps.

Horizontal Movements

Horizontal pushing exercises involve moving a weight horizontally away from your body. Most bench press exercises fall into this category, as well as chest presses and flies. Horizontal pulling exercises are the opposite, and involve moving a weight horizontally toward your body. Any type of rowing exercise will be located in this category, such as seated cable rows, bent over rows, and T-bar rows.

Vertical Movements

Vertical pushing exercises are similar to horizontal pushing exercises, except that they involve moving a weight vertically away from your torso, over your head or in that general direction. Overhead shoulder presses, lateral raises, and front raises are all exercises that require pushing vertically. Conversely, vertical pulling exercises involve moving a weight vertically toward your torso by pulling down from above your head. Vertical pulling exercises involve pull-ups, chin-ups, and lateral pull-downs.

Elbow Movements

Elbow flexion means moving a weight toward you by bending your arm in at your elbow. Exercises such as biceps curls, preacher curls, and cable curls involve elbow flexion movements. Elbow extension involves moving a weight away from your body, rotating at your elbow. Exercises using this type of movement include triceps extensions and triceps cable press-downs.


How often you work your upper body will directly impact the amount of muscle you gain and your overall body tone and appearance. According to Bodybuilding.com, women should typically train using one of two types of strength training routines. One routine involves two days of whole body strength training weekly. The other routine involves an upper body/lower body split, meaning one week you strength train your upper body two times per week and the following week you strength train the upper body only once.

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