Sculpt Your Upper Body with Pyramid Training

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While many of us focus on the lower body when it comes to sculpting and strengthening our bodies, the upper body is incredibly important for overall fitness and, of course, to look good.  Nothing wrong with that.

Most of us train the upper body the same way we always have - Usually something like a set of chest presses, rest...then another then...another and this is all well and good, but if you really want a strong, fit upper body, you need a challenge my friend.


But first, you need to understand the best way to train your upper body.

Tips for Training Your Upper Body

First, working your upper body along with your lower body is important for making sure your body is in balance. It's also nice because it makes you stronger and it helps even things out if you happen to be larger on the bottom than you are on top.

When training your upper body with weights, you want to work ALL of your muscles including your chest, back, shoulders, biceps and triceps.

How to Train Your Upper Body

  • When you can, train your larger muscles (chest and back) first. These muscle groups can handle heavier weight and you want your arms nice and fresh to be able to lift heavy.
  • Work your upper body 2-3 non-consecutive days a week - Our bodies need at least a day of rest to grow stronger and recover.  If you lift very heavy, you may want to rest for more than 2 days.
  • Choose a heavy enough weight so that you can ONLY complete the desired number of repetitions (6-8 for muscle building, 10-12 for muscle/endurance and 12-16 for endurance). The last few reps should be done with difficulty.
  • You can work your entire body in one workout or split your workouts into different muscle groups on different days
  • Invest in a basic set of dumbbells ranging from 3-30 lbs. Your arms will need less weight than your chest and back.

Challenge Your Upper Body with Pyramid Training

So, you have some tips for upper body training, now let's talk about how you can change your workouts so that you really challenge that upper body.

There are many ways to change your method of training, from supersets to circuit training, but one of my favorites is pyramid training.

The Basics of Pyramid Training

Pyramid training is just one way to lift weights and involves changing your reps and weight for each set of each exercise.

  • Option 1 - Start with a lighter weight and do, say around 16 reps.  For each subsequent set, you increase the weights while decreasing the reps.  So, say you're doing a set of chest presses or one arm rows.  Here's what your sets might look like:
    • Set 1 - 16 reps with 12 lbs
    • Set 2 - 12 reps with 15 lbs
    • Set 3 - 10 reps with 20 lbs
    • Set 4 - 8 reps with 25 lbs
  • Option 2 - In this version, you start with a heavy weight and fewer reps and go up the pyramid:
    • Set 1 - 8 reps with 25 lbs
    • Set 2 - 10 reps with 20 lbs
    • Set 3 - 12 reps with 15 lbs
    • Set 4 - 16 reps with 12 lbs

 Changing the weight for each set will push you past your usual limits and really engage all those muscle fibers for lean, strong arms.