Building Your Upper Body

If you are tired of having a shapeless, weak, spindly upper body and want to pack on some exciting, shapely, and strong muscle, a quick read of this article is just what you need for ‘the big picture’.

In order to bulk up your upper body, you’ll need to understand the main muscle groups and also the exercises which work them. In this article I’ll take you through each of the major muscles of the upper body and simply give you a list of the best exercises to work them with.


Yes – building muscle (in my opinion, at least) all starts with the neck muscles. It simply doesn’t do to have a spindly neck atop of a sizable physique. It looks silly. Not only that, but the neck is a crucially important part of the body, and packing on some size and strength there will help to safeguard it against injury.

Neck exercises: Wrestlers Bridge, face down neck plate raises, face up neck plate raises, neck harness raises.


Also known as the deltoids, there are 3 heads of the deltoid muscle to work – the anterior (front), medial (side) and posterior (rear).

Here are the best exercises to hit each head:

Anterior deltoid: Military press, dumbbell shoulder press, bench press.

Medial deltoid: Upright rows, lateral raises, L-laterals raise.

Posterior deltoid: Bent over rows, bent over rear deltoid raise, lying rear deltoid raise.


A big, slab-like chest in bodybuilding truly is a symbol of power. There are many different theories and routines for developing the different parts of the chest, but in the spirit of keeping it simple, the best all round chest exercises are: the wide-grip bench press, dumbbell bench press, and dumbbell flies.


Quite honestly, building the abs is something most shouldn’t worry about unless they have sufficiently low body fat, they simply won’t show through at all. Bodybuilding guru Vince Gironda was also convinced that developing the abs – for the newbie, at least – directly was something which could shock the body and prevent growth. But, again, keeping it simple, using varying types and positions of ab crunches – not sit ups – is the way to go. There is no need to treat them any different to any other muscle. Do your regular sets and reps and then leave it. Certainly don’t do them every day.


There are three areas of the arm and we need to work, the biceps, triceps, and the outer and inner parts of the forearm. While it is certainly important to train each muscle thoroughly, many people find that directly training the arms is not necessary in the beginning. This is because all parts of the arm are involved somehow or other in all upper body exercises – particularly rows which hit the biceps and the bench press which hits the triceps. And, the forearms are involved every time you grip a weight and grow stronger the heavier the weights become.

But should you wish to work each of these parts of the arm directly here are the exercises I recommend you perform:

Biceps: Seated incline dumbbell curls or standing straight bar barbell curls.

Triceps: Close grip bench press, decline French curls, seated triceps extensions.

Forearms: Wrists curls, reverse wrist curls, and if you have one – the usage of a wrist roller device.

Ok, that takes care of the arms neck and the front of the body… now we need to look at the main muscles of the back and what we need to do to build them up…


The trapezius (traps) is a diamond shaped muscle which runs from the base of the skull in the back of the neck, fanning out along the top of the shoulders, and forming a triangle shape which runs from the back of the shoulder blades eventually tapering off into the middle centre of the back.

The function of the trapezius is to raise and lower the entire shoulder girdle. The best exercises for training the trapezius are shrugs and upright rows.


The lats, or latissimus dorsi are slightly overlapped by the trapezius in where they begin in the centre of the back, and they wrap around and tuck into the rear sides of the ribcage and are therefore viewable from the front as the muscles which make it bodybuilder appear as if he cannot put his arms down by his side’s. This is commonly known as the V-Taper.

The best exercises for hitting the lats are bent over rows or T-Bar rows.

Lower back

Also known as the lumbar region, the lower back is of critical importance not just to bodybuilding but life in general. Training your back with care is crucial. You only have one spine, so don’t ruin it.

I believe the best lower back exercise to be the dead lift, which also helps to develop and strengthen the other muscles of the back.

That’s all folks…

Well, that pretty much concludes this article. In training the major muscle groups you will find that you also hit the smaller muscles groups too, but like anything, if you really want the best results and detail, you’re going to have to go deeper than the majority of compound lifts I’ve given you here and directly train the small muscles.

Take a look at more posts on my site for isolating muscles with specific exercises.

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