The goal of this upper-body workout is to build shapely muscle over time. You're going to superset every exercise—or perform two exercises back to back, without rest—and hit all the major muscles on your upper half: shoulders, chest, back, biceps, and triceps! If you work hard and keep your rest periods short, this should only take you 30-45 minutes.

This workout is perfect for people who need a quick training session or who like to follow an upper-body/lower-body split. You can add a cardiovascular challenge by adding one-minute bursts of cardio—burpees, jump rope, box jumps, and other bodyweight exercises—between each superset, or you can do high-intensity intervals (HIIT) at the end of the workout.

Try this workout a few times as written to get a good feel for it. When it gets too easy, increase the weight, decrease the rest periods, or change some of the exercises. I think you can make this session work for you no matter what!

Total Upper-Body Workout
3 sets, 5-8 reps
+ 4 more exercises


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Note: Don't rest between exercises, but rest about 30 seconds between each superset

Superset 1: Pull-Up and Dip

I'm not pushing for a ton of reps on these exercises because I know many women who can't perform a full pull-up by themselves. However, I want you to do the best you can by completing the full range of motion through both movements, so feel free to use an assistance machine or bands. You can also use a box and do jump pull-ups.

As much as possible, perform both exercises nice and slowly. Squeeze your lats to pull yourself up on the pull-up, drop slowly on the dips, and keep your arms close to your body. These two movements can be very difficult, but if you can do them unassisted, do!

Superset 2: Seated Row and Dumbbell Chest Press

I like to bring my dumbbells over to the seated-row machine so I can get both of these exercises in quickly. If someone wants to work in, though, it's best to do the chest press elsewhere.

To do the row, lean back about 45-degrees and pull your elbows straight back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Go slow. If it feels too easy, increase the weight on the next set. Don't be afraid to challenge yourself.

Although it's not always popular for women to train chest, it's an important part of developing a balanced, symmetrical physique. Control the weights throughout each rep of the chest press. Get a nice stretch at the bottom of the movement, and squeeze your chest at the top.

Superset 3: Lat Pull-Down and Dumbbell Pull-Over

Lean back about 45 degrees on the lat pull-down machine and pull the bar straight down until it touches your chest. Don't use your momentum to move the weight. Pull from your lats and move the weight slowly.

To perform the dumbbell pull-over, lay your upper back over a bench and keep your hips low. Allow the weight to fall back behind your head, then pull it back up and over your chest. You'll feel a big stretch and contraction.

Superset 4: Rear-Delt Raise and Lateral Raise

Although there are many ways to do a rear-delt raise, I prefer to do them bent over and seated. Your rear delts are a small muscle. You can't use a lot of weight while maintaining good form, so don't go too heavy. Drop your shoulders and keep your shoulder blades contracted as you do the movement.

Lateral raises are also difficult, so you may need to drop the weight midway through the set. Keep your shoulders down—don't hunch them up. Concentrate on only using your delts to move the weight.

Superset 5: "W" Curl and Alternating Static Curl

To do a "W" curl, put your elbows right into your sides and curl the weight upward. Your arms will follow the shape of a "W." These curls hit your biceps a little differently than the normal biceps curl. I like this movement because, by keeping your elbows at your sides, you're less likely to use momentum to move the weight.

I like to use a static exercise as a biceps finisher. This alternating static curl is one of my favorite moves! Keep one arm flexed at 90 degrees, and curl with the other arm. Both hands should be holding the same amount of weight.

Let's Grow Some Muscle!

Now that you have an effective workout for your goals, get into the gym and use it. This workout is perfect for anyone—even beginners can do it. You have no excuse. Get into your gym clothes and go have fun!

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