9 Best Upper Body Exercises For Women

9 Best Upper Body Exercises For Women

Many women seek to strengthen their upper body but are unsure where to start or worry about bulking up too much.

The truth is, incorporating upper body workouts not only tones and strengthens but also improves overall functional strength, making daily tasks easier and enhancing posture.

Did you know that upper body strength plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health and optimizing physical performance?

By focusing on key exercises tailored for women, you can achieve a balanced physique without sacrificing femininity.

This article guides you through 9 essential upper body exercises designed specifically for women’s fitness needs. From improving mobility to boosting performance, these movements promise noticeable results.

Ready to transform your routine? Let’s get started!

1. Push Ups

Push Ups

Push-ups are a classic staple in strength training, targeting multiple muscle groups for an effective upper body workout. They are versatile and can be done anywhere without any equipment.

How To Do

  • Starting Position: Begin in a plank position with hands placed shoulder-width apart and feet together. Body should form a straight line from heels to head.
  • Lower Down: Slowly bend elbows, lowering body towards the floor. Keep the core engaged and back flat.
  • Push Up: Press through palms, extending arms to return to the starting position.

Muscles Worked

  • Pectoralis Major: These are the primary chest muscles pushed during the exercise.
  • Deltoids: Push-ups engage the shoulder muscles for that pushing motion.
  • Triceps Brachii: Located at the back of the upper arms, they assist in extending the elbow.
  • Core Muscles: Maintaining a plank position ensures the core is active and working.


  • Upper Body Strength: Regularly performing push-ups can increase strength in the arms, chest, and shoulders.
  • Core Stability: They are an excellent exercise for enhancing core strength, which is vital for overall movement stability and balance.

Push-ups are a solid choice for anyone looking to enhance their upper body exercises repertoire, particularly for strengthening the arms and chest while simultaneously building core strength.

2. Bicep Curls

In the arsenal of upper body exercises, bicep curls are a staple. They target the arm muscles, promoting strength and muscle mass.

Using dumbbells for curls adds a level of versatility and challenge, enhancing arm strength and opening the door to a plethora of variations.

How To Do

To perform a bicep curl with dumbbells:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Have palms facing forward and arms extended downwards.
  • Keep the upper body still, curl the weights towards the shoulders.
  • Contract the biceps at the top, then slowly lower back down.
  • A little tip: Don’t swing the weights! Using momentum cheats your biceps out of the gains.

Muscles Worked

  • Biceps brachii: The showstopper muscle that bulges when you flex.
  • Brachialis: Lies beneath the biceps, adding to overall arm size.
  • Brachioradialis: A forearm muscle that assists during the curling motion.


  • Strength: Bicep curls build arm strength needed for daily tasks.
  • Muscle Tone: Regular curls contribute to a more defined, toned look.
  • Free Weights Advantage: Dumbbells allow a natural range of motion and can correct imbalances between arms.

Remember, form triumphs over the number of reps. Quality over quantity, for those muscle gains.

3. Triceps Kickback

Triceps Kickback

When looking to enhance the upper arms and build strength, the triceps kickback is a pivotal exercise, targeting the triceps muscle for improved tone and definition using just a pair of dumbbells.

How To Do

  • Stand next to a bench, feet hip-width apart.
  • Lean forward slightly, hinging at the hips, keeping the back straight and abdominals engaged.
  • Place one hand on the bench to support the upper body.
  • Hold a dumbbell in the other hand with a neutral grip, arm bent at 90 degrees.
  • Extend the arm back until it’s parallel with the body, focusing on contracting the triceps.
  • Return to the starting position with control to complete one rep.

Muscles Worked

The primary muscle group worked during the triceps kickback is the triceps brachii. Secondary engagement comes from the upper back muscles which help to stabilize the shoulder and the torso during the movement.


  • Builds strength in the triceps, which is crucial for various upper body movements.
  • Improves muscle tone, assisting in achieving more defined upper arms.
  • Can enhance overall upper body stability as the movement requires a strong core for proper form.

4. Arnold Press

The Arnold Press stands out as a dynamic move for women looking to enhance their shoulder strength.

By incorporating rotation, it not only works the major muscles but also engages the stabilizers for a well-rounded upper body exercise.

How To Do

  • The Arnold Press starts with a pair seated or standing, holding dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing the body.
  • Then press the dumbbells overhead while simultaneously rotating the wrists, so that the palms face forward at the top of the lift.
  • Pause briefly when arms are fully extended.
  • Reverse the movement, rotating the palms back towards the body while lowering the dumbbells to the starting position.

Muscles Worked

This exercise primarily targets the deltoids (shoulders), with significant engagement of the triceps and upper traps.

It’s a compound movement, meaning it works several muscle groups at once, which is efficient for strength training.


  • Comprehensive shoulder development due to the rotational movement.
  • Improved pressing movements, which can translate to better performance in other exercises such as push-ups and bench presses.

5. Chest Press

The chest press is a fundamental exercise for strengthening the chest muscles, specifically targeting the pectoralis major.

When done with dumbbells, it also engages the deltoids and triceps for a comprehensive upper body workout.

How To Do

  • One begins the chest press by lying flat on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Make sure feet are flat on the ground, forming a stable base.
  • With palms facing forward, align the dumbbells at chest level.
  • Press the weights upwards until the arms are fully extended, then lower them back down with control.
  • Remember, the motion should be smooth, and breathing should be steady—exhale while pushing up and inhale when returning to the start position.

Muscles Worked

  • Pectoralis Major: With two heads, the clavicular and the sternocostal, this muscle is the star of the show.
  • Deltoids: These shoulder muscles are secondary players, helping stabilize and control the motion.
  • Triceps: These arm muscles assist in extending the elbows during the press.


  • Increased Chest Strength: As one challenges themselves with heavier weights, their chest strength can significantly improve.
  • Enhanced Upper Body Aesthetics: Regular chest presses can help shape and tone the upper body for a more defined look.
  • Improved Posture: Stronger chest muscles support better posture, making one look taller and more confident.

6. Triceps Dip

A staple in upper body workouts, the Triceps Dip is an effective bodyweight exercise targeting not just the triceps for arm toning but also engaging the shoulders and chest.

How To Do

  • The proper technique for a Triceps Dip begins by securing a stable bench or chair.
  • Sit on the bench/chair and place your hands next to your hips, fingers pointing forward.
  • Extend your legs out with a slight bend in your knees, heels touching the ground.
  • Lift your body by straightening your arms and slide forward just enough so that your buttocks are off the bench and in front.
  • Lower your body slowly until your elbows form a 90-degree angle.
  • Push back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms without locking your elbows.
  • Remember, form is key to prevent injury and reap the full benefits of the exercise!

Muscles Worked

  • Triceps Brachii: The main muscle worked, the key to arm extension.
  • Anterior Deltoids: Essentially, your shoulder muscles that aid in the pressing movement.
  • Pectoralis Major: Or your chest muscles, which help stabilize your upper body during the dip.


  • Strength: Develops a stronger, more toned triceps muscle.
  • Endurance: Enhances muscular endurance in the upper body for better performance in other exercises and daily activities.
  • Convenience: Requires minimal equipment, making it a versatile exercise that you can do almost anywhere.

Triceps Dips offer a unique combination of muscle engagement and endurance challenges, making them a must-try for anyone looking to tone and strengthen their upper arms.

7. Deltoid Raise

Deltoid raises are essential for strengthening the shoulder muscles and achieving a balanced upper body. This exercise targets the anterior and lateral deltoids, contributing to broader shoulders.

How To Do

Performing a deltoid raise requires attention to form to prevent injury and ensure maximum benefits:

Dumbbell Front Raise:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand in front of the thighs.
  • Keeping a slight bend in the elbows, raise the weights in front of you to shoulder height.
  • Lower the dumbbells slowly back to the starting position.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise:

  • Start in the same stance, dumbbells at your sides.
  • With elbows slightly bent, raise the weights out to the side until they reach shoulder height.
  • Gently lower them back to your sides.
  • Remember to keep the core engaged and avoid using momentum instead of muscle strength to lift the weight.

Muscles Worked

  • Anterior Deltoids: Located at the front of the shoulders, these muscles are engaged during the front raise portion of the exercise.
  • Lateral Deltoids: These are the muscles on the side of the shoulder and are targeted during the lateral raise.


  • Broader Shoulders: Regular deltoid raises can help in developing broader, more defined shoulders.
  • Improved Muscle Balance: Working both the anterior and lateral deltoids contributes to better muscle symmetry and balance around the shoulder joint, aiding in overall shoulder health.

By integrating deltoid raises into your upper body routine, you can create a strong, balanced look and ensure your shoulders are up to the task of daily activities and challenges.

8. Reverse Grip Back Row

The Reverse Grip Back Row specifically targets the upper back and is perfect for women looking to enhance back strength.

Not only does it activate muscle groups like the lats and rhomboids, but it’s also a variation of the classic bent-over row with a grip twist that involves a bit more of the lower back and biceps.

How To Do

The reverse grip back row may seem like a twist on the familiar, but the underhand grip can feel a little tricky at first, can’t it? Here’s a step-by-step to get it just right:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Holding a barbell or dumbbells, keep your palms facing upwards (towards you).
  • Bend slightly at the knees and hinge forward at the hips, keeping the back straight.
  • Pull the weight towards your lower abdomen, squeezing those shoulder blades.
  • Lower the weight back to the starting position with control.

Muscles Worked

  • Lats (Latissimus Dorsi): The large muscle of the back, crucial for that V-shaped torso.
  • Rhomboids: These muscles between the shoulder blades add to upper back definition.
  • Lower Back: Helps maintain proper posture during the lift.
  • Biceps: They get in on the action because of the underhand grip.


  • Boosts Upper Back Strength
  • Promotes Better Posture
  • Engages Lower-Lat Muscles

9. Lying Skull Crushers

Lying Skull Crushers are a staple in many upper body workouts, honing in on the triceps for strength and muscle growth using free weights.

Let’s explore how to properly perform this effective exercise, understand which muscles it targets, and consider the benefits it offers for those looking to tone and strengthen their arms.

How To Do

  • Starting Position: Lie on a bench with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Ensure the entire back is in contact with the bench.
  • Grip: Hold a dumbbell in each hand or grasp a single weight with both hands, arms extended above the chest. Keep the elbows shoulder-width apart and arms perpendicular to the floor.
  • Movement: With control, bend the elbows to lower the weights toward the forehead, keeping the upper arms stationary.
  • Extension: Engage the triceps to extend the elbows and lift the weight back to the starting position.

Muscles Worked

The prime muscle worked during lying skull crushers is the triceps brachii, located on the back of the upper arm.


  • Isolated Triceps Strengthening: Targeting the triceps brachii, this exercise contributes to well-defined arms.
  • Upper Body Workout Enhancement: Incorporating this move into a workout routine can complement compound exercises for balanced muscle growth.


Embracing these 9 best upper body exercises will pave the way for enhanced strength, toned muscles, and improved overall fitness for women.

Consistency and attention to correct form stand as key pillars in reaping the maximum benefits from each workout.

It’s crucial to integrate these exercises into your routine to witness a transformation in mobility, performance, and physique.

Remember, every rep brings you closer to achieving peak physical condition.

Let these workouts be your guide to a stronger, well- shaped, empowered you.

9 Great Upper Body Exercises For Women
9 Best Upper Body Exercises For Women

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