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5 min read

What Are Good Upper-Body Workouts for Women?

No matter your fitness goals, you shouldn’t neglect your upper body. Women with strong upper bodies are less likely to develop osteoporosis, plus the extra strength helps with many things outside the gym. Training your legs is rewarding, but don’t neglect your chest, arms, and back. Here are the essentials of getting a good upper-body workout:

Upper-body workouts for women should include compound exercises, which involve multiple muscle groups. A combination of bodyweight and weighted resistance exercises will build the muscles of the back, chest, shoulders, and arms. A complete upper-body workout should target all of these muscles.

There are many exercises you can choose for your upper body, but a few have stood the test of time. In this article, you’ll learn which exercises experts recommend for women who are looking to build a stronger upper body, as well as other tips for structuring your training program.

How Can I Tone My Upper-Body Fast?

To tone your upper body quickly, choose exercises with compound movements. These work the best for getting a toned upper body because each exercise works for multiple muscle groups. Even if you only do 5 compound exercises in your workout, you might work each upper-body muscle twice. 

That’s better than doing an isolation exercise, which only targets one muscle at a time.

The workout routine below will guide you through the exercises to help you tone your upper body quickly. For each exercise in your workout,aim to do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

5 of the Best Compound Movements for a Toned Upper-Body

Exercise #1: Bent-Over Row

You can do this exercise with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells.It works many back muscles such as your lats, rhomboids, trapezius, and erector spinae.This exercise can improve your posture and grip strength, both of which are important in daily life.

  • Step 1: Grab a barbell or two dumbbells. Start standing, then push your hips back and lean forward.
  • Step 2: Keep your spine flat and still. Pull the weights towards your rib cage with your arms, pinching your shoulder blades together as you lift.
  • Step 3: Pause at the top, then lower the weights back to their starting position.

Exercise #2: Dumbbell Chest Press

This movement is similar to the bench press, and you can do a barbell in place of the dumbbells if you like.This move is great because it’s easy to do anywhere, and can build your chest muscles without adding bulk.

  • Step 1: Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Lie down on a bench or on the ground.
  • Step 2: Press the weights toward the ceiling until your arms are straight.
  • Step 3: Lower the weights until the dumbbells touch your chest.
  • Step 4: Press back up until your elbows are straight again.

Exercise #3: Renegade Rows

This exercise works the back, shoulders, and core muscles, and many trainers recommend starting with light weights. Traditionally this move is performed from the push-up position, but if you find push-ups difficult, you can start with your hands on an elevated surface.

  • Step 1: Place a pair of dumbbells on the ground. Get into a push-up position with your hands on the dumbbells. 
  • Step 2: Plant your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and brace your core.
  • Step 3: Raise one of the dumbbells towards your shoulder.
  • Step 4: Lower the weight back to the ground and repeat on the other side.

Exercise #4: Shoulder Press

While it's been dubbed by some as an arm exercise, the shoulder press is more than meets the eye.This simple movement works the shoulders primarily, but also targets the triceps, trapezius, and chest muscles.You can do it seated or standing.

  • Step 1: Start standing with a dumbbell in either hand.
  • Step 2: Turn your palms so that they face each other. The dumbbells should be resting on your shoulders.
  • Step 3: Press the dumbbells toward the ceiling and turn them so that your palms face forwards.
  • Step 4: Lower the dumbbells back to your shoulder, turning them so that your palms face each other.

Exercise #5: Tricep Push-Ups

Regular push-ups should be a staple in your workouts, but you might be looking for some variety. Tricep push-ups are a challenging alternative, andyou do them from your knees if they’re too tough initially.

  • Step 1: Start on your knees in a full push-up position with your hands in a diamond shape. The tips of your thumbs and index fingers should be touching. 
  • Step 2: Lower your body until your chest can touch your hands.
  • Step 3: Press yourself back up until your elbows are fully extended

Looking For More Upper Body Moves?

If you've run through the 5 exercises above or you want to really key in on your triceps and biceps, check out SHEFIT's guide to stronger and more toned triceps and biceps.

Should Women Do Upper-Body Workouts?

Women should incorporate upper-body workouts into their fitness programs since it's an effective way to ward off osteoporosis, build functional strength, and tone their physique. Contrary to popular belief, upper-body workouts do not tarnish feminine physique, and most often tone rather than bulk.

Doctor of Physical Therapy Julia Connolley explains thatsome women are afraid of building bulky muscles or simply neglect their upper body when training, but it’s important for building strong bones and muscles.Osteoporosis, which affects many women, can be prevented by training with weights.

Many movements you do during the day require upper-body strength, says Dr. Connolley. Any pushing, pulling, carrying, and twisting uses your upper-body muscles.To prevent injuries in your upper body you should build the shoulders, chest, arms, and back. Stronger muscles stabilize your joints and protect them from injury.

How Many Times A Week Should A Woman Do Upper-Body?

Women should lift weights twice per week for each body part. That means you should do two all-encompassing upper-body workouts per week. In those workouts, it's best to do 8-12 reps per set for each exercise. Progress requires consistency, which is where most people fall short in exercising.

It’s hard to find the time to get into the gym and complete a full workout. On the other hand, some people do too much in the gym. There’s a balance between doing too much and too little to achieve your desired results.

Unfortunately, only20% of women hit this goal of lifting weights twice per week for each body part. Most only train each body part once per week or none at all.

One of the most frequently-cited reasons for skipping the gym was a lack of time. That’s sensible since life can get hectic and stressful. Another reason for not meeting exercise guidelines was perceived effort.

In other words, some people thought it would be too difficult to adhere to a program for each muscle group twice per week.It’s easy to get discouraged before you begin training, but once you get past the initial anxiety of weight training, you’ll appreciate the rewards.

To Get Started Stick to The Basics

Half the battle of strengthening your upper body is simply showing up for your workouts. If you can consistently do upper-body workouts you’ll notice results rather quickly. There’s no need for fancy workout programs or innovative exercises. Basic movements like push-ups are still some of the most effective.

Trainers recommend compound movements for women who want to build more musclein their upper bodies. Lifting weights makes your bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments stronger. You’ll be more resilient and better at daily activities that require strength.

Try to work each major muscle in your upper body twice per week with 3 sets of 8-12 reps per exercise. If you stick to this program, you’ll start to see results soon.