Building upper body strength and definition doesn’t require an arsenal of exercise equipment. In fact, with just a pair of dumbbells and five exercises, you can target your back and biceps in one simple routine.
Your back and biceps are two muscle groups that play a key role in your functional movement, and they look pretty good when cut. Created by fitness trainer Alex Rice, this upper-body session consists of five moves that you’ll perform in three sets. The beauty of this workout lies not in lifting super heavy weights, but in prioritizing proper form.
This workout can be done at the gym or at home. A pair of the best adjustable dumbbells are particularly beneficial for home workouts, allowing you to start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load, facilitating a safe and effective training journey. Our fitness writer here explains how progressive overload helps you build muscle and strength.
What is training?
All exercises are performed standing, so you don’t need to worry about getting a bench to complete this workout. After picking up a pair of weights, you’ll perform five exercises for the recommended reps listed below and repeat the entire routine three times. Allow yourself short breaks between sets to give your muscles the time they need to recover.
Static Hold Bicep Curl: 10 reps
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward. Do a standard biceps curl, but at the top of the movement, hold for two seconds, squeezing your biceps. Lower the weights in a controlled manner, maintaining tension throughout the set. Remember to engage your core, this will help stabilize your body.
Closing Rows: 15 reps
Hold a dumbbell in both hands, palms facing your torso. Hinge at the hips, keeping the back straight. Pull the weight toward your chest, focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades together. Maintain a controlled pace, making sure your back muscles do the work instead of momentum.
Closing Curls: 12 reps
Stand with a dumbbell between your hands, palms facing your body and elbows close to your torso. Curl the dumbbells up, making sure your upper arms remain stationary. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement, then lower the weights in a slow and controlled manner. Keep your core engaged to prevent swaying.
Single Arm Rows: 10 reps each side
Place your hand on something stable like a bench or sturdy chair, with a dumbbell in your opposite hand. Pull the dumbbell toward your hip, keeping your back flat and core engaged. Focus on smooth, controlled movement, avoiding jerky movements. Switch sides for the second set.
Rear delt pulls
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing up. Bend slightly at the hips with a slight bend in the knees. Raise the weights to your sides, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower the weights with control to complete one repetition.
What are the benefits?
First, the functional benefits achieved by strengthening your back muscles—such as the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius—translate into improved posture and help you perform everyday tasks with greater ease, such as lifting a heavy box from the loft. In addition to this, strong biceps contribute to efficient pulling movements, making routine tasks involving lifting, pulling and carrying feel more manageable.
The benefits of upper body training extend to injury prevention. A strong back acts as a natural support system for the spine, reducing the risk of injury and minimizing back pain. Also, although not primary stabilizers, strong biceps support stability of the shoulder joint, preventing injury during activities involving the arms and shoulders.
Building muscle and definition in these upper body muscles contributes to the desired V-cone, adding depth and symmetry to the upper body. However, it is important to exercise regularly for more reasons than aesthetic results. Building strength can be great for your mental well-being and growing overall confidence.
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