People throw around a number of different words they think are “synonyms” when it comes to strength training: weightlifting, resistance training… the list goes on. But really the term “strength training” incorporates bodyweight exercises, bands, machines, weighted equipment, and essentially anything that isn’t running, swimming, or flexibility training (like stretching), according to Men’s Fitness‘s group training director Sean Hyson, C.S.C.S. So it’s not synonymous with weightlifting—it’s an umbrella term that includes it. And while weightlifting is great, there are tons of other strength training moves that don’t include actual weights that can help you get strong and sculpted. In fact, there are dozens of moves you can rotate through for the ultimate upper body workouts.
The most effective strategy is to integrate a combination of compound exercises into your routine. Some of those will include barbells, dumbbells, and machines, yes, but others just require your own body weight or resistance bands.
Here, we combed through our database of upper body exercises. Here’s a list of the 30 absolute best strength training moves, chosen by Hyson and Alex Diana, trainer at CITYROW and coach on the CITYROW Go app. They’ll target and trigger muscle growth in your back, biceps, triceps, chest, forearms, and shoulders.
Most of these exercises can be modified, too. (For instance, one-arm rows can be done with either a cable pulley or a dumbbell, and a face pull can be done with either a band, TRX, or cable pulley.) So, mix up the variations by using either your body weight, a resistance band, dumbbell, or a suspension trainer, depending on your personal fitness goals and the readily available equipment you have.
Not only will these moves increase your overall strength, but they’ll decrease your risk of injury, create a more symmetrical build, and improve your core strength for everyday functional fitness. Here’s what you need to create the best upper body workouts of all time.
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