Upper Body - Strength and Endurance Challenge

This intermediate/advanced upper body workout focuses on both strength and endurance for the chest, back, shoulders and arms.  In the following supersets, you'll alternate two different exercises for the same muscle group with no rest in between, making for a challenging and intense workout.

This workout can be completed in about 30-45 minutes depending on how many sets you do and how much rest you take between sets.

Precautions

See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses or other conditions and modify any exercise that causes pain or discomfort.

Equipment Needed

A barbell, various weighted dumbbells, a bench, step or exercise ball and a medium-tension resistance bands.

How To

  • Warm up for 5-10 minutes with light cardio or warm up sets of the exercises below
  • Perform the exercises in each superset, one after the other, for the reps indicated
  • Repeat each superset 1-2 times, with a short rest in between
  • For a harder workout, perform 3 sets

1
Superset 1: 1.5 Chest Presses

Chest Press on the Ball
Chest Press on the Ball. Paige Waehner

Lie on a bench or ball and hold heavy weights up over the chest.  Bend the elbows and lower the weight down until elbows are just below the torso.  Press the weight halfway up, lower down and then press the weight all the way up.  Continue repeating for 12 reps; each rep includes a complete chest press followed by a half-press. 

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2
Alternating Chest Flies

One-Arm Chest Fly
Paige Waehner

Using a slightly lighter weight than the chest press (if needed), lie on a bench or ball and hold weights over the chest, palms facing in.  Lower both arms toward the floor, keeping a slight bend in the elbows and only lowering to shoulder level.  Keep the left arm in place and lift the right arm back up over the chest.  Lower the right arm and lift the left arm.  Continue alternating arms for 12 reps (one rep includes both the right and left arms lifting).

 Repeat this Superset or move on to the next Superset

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3
Superset 2: Staggered Pushups

Staggered Pushups
Paige Waehner

In pushup position, on the knees or toes, walk the left hand forward while keeping the right hand directly under the right shoulder. Lower into a pushup, feeling the challenge in the right arm. Push back up and repeat for 10 reps before switching sides and completing 10 reps with the right arm forward.

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4
Pushups with Medicine Ball

Pushups with a med ball
Paige Waehner

This time, do a pushup with the right hand resting on a medicine ball.  Roll the ball to the left hand for a pushup and continue for 12 reps. 

  Repeat this Superset or move on to the next Superset

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5
Superset 3: One Arm Row

One Arm Row
Paige Waehner

Place left foot on a step or the knee on a weight bench. Support the body with the left hand as you hold a heavy weight in the right hand, hanging the weight down towards the floor. Squeeze the back to pull the elbow up in a rowing motion until it is level with the torso. Lower down and repeat for 12, then switch sides.

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6
Alternating Dumbbell Row

Alternating Dumbbell Row
Paige Waehner

Hold medium-heavy weights and bend over until the back is parallel to the floor, back flat and abs in.  Pull both elbows up in a rowing motion to being the exercise.  Keeping the left arm in place, lower the right arm toward the floor.  Squeeze the back to pull the arm back up and then lower the left arm.  Continue alternating rows on each arm for 10 reps (one rep includes both the right and left arms).

Repeat this Superset or move on to the next Superset

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7
Superset 4: Horizontal Dumbbell Rows

Horizontal Row
Paige Waehner

Prop the left foot on a step, supporting the body with the left hand on the thigh. Hold a heavy dumbbell in the right hand, arm hanging down and the palm facing the back of the room. Engage the shoulder blades (rhomboids) to pull the arm up to shoulder level, perpendicular to the body. Lower and repeat for 12 reps.

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8
Rear Upper Back Squeezes

Upper Back Squeeze
Paige Waehner

Standing or sitting, hold band in the middle with hands close together, palms facing up.  Take the arms straight out to being the motion.  Squeeze the shoulder blades together and pull band open so that arms are out to the sides like an airplane. Repeat for 8 slow reps, followed by 8 small, pulsing reps.

Repeat this Superset or move on to the next Superset

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9
Superset 5: 1.5 Overhead Barbell Press

Overhead Barbell Press
Paige Waehner

Hold a heavy barbell with hands wider than shoulders, elbows bent and bar in front of the chin.  Press the weight overhead, without arching the back, and lower the weight down.  Next, press the weight halfway up, lower down and then press the weight overhead.  Continue for 10 reps, each rep including a full press and a half-press.

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10
Alternating Overhead Press

Overhead Press Alternating Arms
Paige Waehner

Sit on a bench, ball or chair and hold medium-heavy weights with elbows bent like goal posts, weights next to the ears.  Keep the left arm in place and press the right arm overhead.  Lower the weight and repeat the move on the left arm.  Continue, alternating right and left, for 10 reps (one rep includes both the right and left sides).

Repeat this Superset or move on to the next Superset

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11
Superset 6: Upright Row

Upright Row
Paige Waehner

Hold a medium-heavy weight with hands close together and pull the weight up to mid-chest, leading with the elbows and focusing on the upper back and shoulders.  Lower and repeat for 12 reps.

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12
Incline Front Raise

Incline Front Raise
Paige Waehner

Get into an incline position on the ball, holding light to medium weights.  Keeping the arms straight, elbows just slightly bent, lift the arms up to shoulder level with the palms facing in.  Lower and repeat for 12 reps.

Repeat this Superset or move on to the next Superset

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13
Superset 7: 1.5 Barbell Curls

Barbell Biceps Curls
Paige Waehner

Hold a heavy barbell with hands just outside the hips.  Bend the elbows and squeeze the biceps to curl the weight up towards the shoulders.  Lower all the way down and then lift halfway up.  Lower the weight back down and continue for 10 reps (each rep includes a full curl and a half curl). 

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14
Alternating Dumbbell Curls

Alternating Biceps Curls
Paige Waehner

Hold medium-heavy weights, palms facing out.  Curl the right arm up, bringing the weight toward the shoulder.  Lower back down and repeat with the left arm.  Continue alternating sides for 12 reps (one rep includes both the right and left arms).

Repeat this Superset or move on to the next Superset

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15
Superset 8: Close Grip Bench Press

Close Grip Bench Press
Paige Waehner

Lie on a bench or ball and hold a heavy barbell with hands about shoulder-width apart, palms face out. Bend the elbows, keeping them close to the body, and lower them to just below the torso, bringing the bar to a hover over the ribcage. Contract the triceps to push the weights back up, keeping the weight centered over the torso. Repeat for 12 reps.

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16
Dips with Leg Extensions

Dip with Leg Extension. Paige Waehner

Sit on a step or chair with the knees bent and the hands next to the hips.  Push up onto the hands and keep the hips close to the bench and bend the elbows into a triceps dip.  As you press up, extend the right leg, reaching for the toe with your left hand. Lower the leg and arm for another dip, this time extending the left leg and reaching out with your right hand.

Continue dipping and alternating sides for 12 reps.

Repeat this Superset or move on to the next Superset

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