Nothing says confidence like a lean, sculpted upper body. From gorgeous delts to shapely biceps and back muscles, your top half is just as important as the bottom is when it comes to achieving a well-rounded physique. “The goal of this upper-body circuit is to use enough resistance to stimulate an increase in muscle and strength while keeping the intensity high enough to burn fat,” says IFBB figure pro Robynn Europe, a personal training manager at New York Health & Racquet Club in New York, who designed the routine. Doing the moves will challenge both your upper body and core while keeping your heart rate elevated. Do eight reps of each exercise in the circuit, taking minimal rest between moves. Complete the circuit three times. Remember to choose a weight that’s heavy enough for you to maintain proper form while reaching fatigue by the end of the final reps. Then step forward and flex — even if it’s just for fun.
Demonstrated by IFBB Fitness Pro Bethany Wagner
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Squatted Cable Row
Works: Shoulders, Back, Biceps, Core, Quads
Set a rope attachment on a cable stack machine so it’s about chest-high when you are in a squat position. Step approximately 3-4 feet away from the stack, holding the rope with your arms extended in front of you at chest height. Squat down, bending knees 90 degrees.
Retract your shoulder blades, then pull your elbows as far back as possible, keeping them close to your sides.
Straighten arms and repeat, remaining in squat throughout exercise.
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Barbell Push Press
Works: Shoulders, Chest, Triceps, Core, Glutes
Set a bar chest height at a squat rack (not shown). Using an overhead grip, place hands shoulder-width apart, gripping bar firmly, and step away from rack.
Bend your knees slightly and explosively drive upward through your heels, pushing the barbell up and extending your arms overhead; keep abs tight and weight centered over heels.
Return barbell to front of shoulders, keeping both elbows pointed forward while bending knees slightly. Repeat for 8 reps.
Tip: Tighten your abs as you push upward, keeping your spine in a neutral position.
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Underhand Barbell Front Raise
Works: Shoulders, Chest, Biceps
Stand with feet hip-distance apart, holding a light barbell in front of thighs in an underhand grip, shoulder-distance apart, palms facing up.
Lift bar to shoulder height, keeping elbows slightly bent the entire time with wrists directly in line with shoulders; tighten abs as you lift the bar. Lift for a count of one and slowly lower for a count of five. Repeat for 8 reps.
Tip: Pointing your elbows straight down helps target the front of your shoulders.
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Works: Back, Biceps, Core
Set a bar on a power rack or Smith machine at about waist height (enough so your arms are fully extended when underneath it). Lie on the floor so the middle of your chest is directly underneath it). Lie on the floor so the midline of your chest is directly underneath the bar. Place hands slightly wider than shoulder width on the bar, and lift yourself off floor.
Keeping your body completely in a straight line from shoulders to ankles, retract your shoulder blades and pull your chest up toward the bar, flaring your elbows out to the sides. Slowly lower back to the floor without touching and repeat for 8 reps.
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Works: Shoulders, Triceps, Core
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at sides. Bend forward from hips, placing hands on floor, and walk hands about 2 feet forward. Bring your index fingers and thumbs together, forming a diamond. Lift heels off the floor, straightening your legs so your body forms an inverted “V.”
Bend elbows so they point down towards legs (not out) while lowering head as close as you can toward hands.
Straighten arms, keeping heels lifted and abs engaged. Do 8 reps.
Tip: Don’t flare your elbows out as you lower down.
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Works: Tricpes and Chest
Place two weight benches about 2-3 feet apart, or until legs are fully extended. Sit on one bench with hands a few inches from either side of hips, fingers facing forward. Place dumbbell between knees, resting calves and feet on second bench.
Lift hips off bench, keeping arms fully extended and your tailbone close to bench.
Bend elbows 90 degress as you lower hips toward floor, keeping your body close to bench and elbows pointed behind you. Hold for a one count, then straighten arms; repeat for 8 reps.
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Plank With Arm Raise
Works: Shoulders and Core
Begin in a plank position, forearms on floor with elbows directly under shoulders and legs extended, forming a straight line from head to heels.
Inhale deeply. As you exhale, tighten abdominals and extend right arm straight ahead of you without moving the rest of your body.
Inhale as you return to starting position, then exhale and extend left arm forward. That’s one rep; do 8 reps.
Tip: Keep elbows directly under shoulders not ahead, behind, wider, or narrower.
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Works: Shoulders and Core
Kneel on the floor with hands shoulder-width apart on a plate-loaded barbell, abs engaged, and elbows locked.
Push the barbell forward while lowering your torso toward the floor; keep arms straight and abs contracted, and squeeze glutes as you lower down as far as possible. Hold for a one count, then roll back to starting position. Do 8 reps.