8 Most Popular Upper Body Workouts for Beginners

  • By: admin
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Whenever you’re getting started with exercise, you may get overwhelmed. There are tons of options for developing your upper body. Unfortunately, many of them are too intense or complicated for beginners.

We’re going to help get you through that slump with beginner-friendly exercises that plump your biceps, shred your forearms, and give you shoulders Atlas would be proud of.

8 Upper Body Workouts for Beginners

  • Push-ups
  • Bicep curls
  • Shoulder press
  • Pull-ups
  • Half-moon push-ups
  • Lateral pulls
  • Plank taps
  • Plank forward reaches

1: Push-Ups

Push-ups are about as classic as they come. They’re simple, effective, and just about anyone in reasonable health can do them.

Push-ups will mostly work your forearms, biceps, and shoulders.

To do a push-up, begin by lying face-down on the floor. Position your hands next to your upper rib cage, balance on the balls of your feet, and push your body up with your arms. Finally, lower your body just above the ground, and push back up until you’ve completed your set of repetitions.

Studies show that this simple resistance workout will help you build muscle mass quickly, safely, and efficiently without the use of equipment. Not bad for something so simple. [1]

2: Bicep Curls

Bicep curls are great for beginners and pros alike. They’re easy to pull off with little opportunity for injury, and you can adjust the amount of weight you use to suit your abilities.

Bicep curls will help build muscle mass and tone your biceps and forearms. It’s recommended to start with a low-weight dumbbell to avoid muscle tears. You can increase your weight as you get stronger.

To begin, hold a five to ten-pound dumbbell in the hand of the arm you want to train. Now, in a standing position with your arms extended towards your thighs, hold the weight with your palm facing forward, and bend your arm at a 90-degree angle. From there, curl your arm upward until the weight nearly touches your shoulder, and slowly return to the 90-degree position.

Do this for each arm if you don’t want to look lopsided, and only increase your dumbbell weight in increments of five or ten pounds.

3: Shoulder Press

The shoulder press is another simple workout that caters to beginners, and you can keep doing it effectively as you progress. To do it, you’ll need two dumbbells of equal weight. Make sure you’re comfortable lifting them repeatedly. If not, use lighter dumbbells.

This is designed to work your shoulders out, and it will help shred your biceps, too.

To start, simply hold a dumbbell in each hand, and bring your hands up to shoulder height with your elbows at a 90-degree bend. Your arms should be lined up with your sides. Now, push the dumbbells straight up until your biceps align with your ears. Finally, pull them back down to the start position.

Studies show that your traps and deltoids will become thicker and bulkier if you work this into your routine. [2]

4: Pull-Ups

This one is a lot like the push-up. It’s simple, doesn’t require anything fancy, and you can do it from the beginning of your fitness journey to the end. However, it’s a little harder for most folks.

Pull-ups will quickly build mass and strengthen the entirety of your arms, shoulders, and chest. To do them, you just need a sturdy, level bar or horizontal beam you can get your hands around. Amazon sells decent pull-up bars that install into your door frame for cheap, but you can improvise or visit a gym, too.

To start, just grab the bar with an overhand grip, engage your core for stability, and pull yourself up until your chin is level with the bar. Make sure to bend your arms 90 degrees, and do not rush yourself.

25 reps is a solid goal for beginners.

5: Half-Moon Push-Ups

Half-moon push-ups are a variant of the traditional push-up, and they date back to the days of ancient Greece. Like the push-up, you don’t need anything but a flat floor and your own body.

Half-moon push-ups are great for your upper body, but they’ll also work your core and legs.

To do a half-moon push-up, squat on the balls of your feet, plant your hands parallel to each other ahead of you and arch your back. Then, bend one arm and shift your weight until your body is nearly on its side. Push back up and transition the weight onto your other arm. Finally, return to the starting position with your back arched.

These push-ups are more of an all-around workout than the normal variety.

6: Lateral Pulls

Lateral pulls will quickly define your lats, strengthen your shoulders, and help tone your forearms. They can be done with a resistance band or dumbbells, but we recommend dumbbells for beginners since they’re more versatile.

To do a lateral pull, hold a dumbbell in each hand, and place your hands at your sides with your legs almost shoulder-width apart. Now, steadily raise the dumbbells in unison until they reach shoulder height. Finally, slowly reverse the movement until they’re back at your sides.

It’s important to keep your arms straight throughout the exercise. There is no bending, and it should look like you’re flapping wings.

Studies show that, while this is primarily for your back, your forearms will benefit dramatically. [3]

7: Plank Taps

Plank taps are like push-ups, but they’re easier for those who lack the strength to repeatedly lift their body weight. As such, this is a great first step.

Plank taps will help your biceps, forearms, shoulders, and core.

To do plank taps, lay flat on the floor in a face-down position. Now, plant your palms by your chest and raise your torso off the ground. Balance on the balls of your feet, and hold your back level.  Brace your body with one arm, and use your other hand to tap your bicep before planting it again. Do the same with your other hand. Do this 20 times with each hand for your first try.

Plank taps aren’t as efficient as push-ups, but they do work well, and they’re better for those who are starting with low upper body strength.

8: Plank Forward Reaches

This is another variation of the standard plank, and it exercises the same muscles. However, it forces all your weight onto one arm at a time to increase its effectiveness.

You can expect to work your biceps, forearms, shoulders, and core during this exercise.

Start by lying face-down on the ground with your hands planted near your chest. Raise your body, and stabilize it in a push-up position. Do not lower your body like you would for a push-up. Carefully raise one hand and extend your arm forward. Hold that position for ten seconds, and return to your starting plank. Do the same with your other arm.

Repeat this process for as many reps as you can comfortably manage.

Get Started Today

These exercises can help you build the upper body strength you need to do more complex and intense workouts. However, you need to focus on consistency and commitment to make it work.

Consult a trainer on ways that you can put these workouts together for maximum effect, and remember to increase the weight used or repetitions performed as you get stronger. You’ll develop a fit body in no time!


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