Openfit Live Trainer Medwin's 7 Favorite Upper Body Exercises
Not only can upper body strength can help you power through a tough strength training workout, but it can also make everyday movements easier — like opening jars, lugging groceries into your house, carrying your kids, or doing yard work. So we asked Openfit Live trainer Medwin to share some of his favorite upper body exercises for toning your arms, shoulders, chest, and back.
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If you’ve ever followed along with one of Medwin’s live classes, you know he delivers a high-energy workout. When it comes to his own workout schedule, it’s all about adaptability: With two kids at home, he’s been waking up at 5 a.m. to clock a workout outside while the rest of his family is asleep.
And while he typically likes to lift heavy weights, working out at home has forced him to get creative with dumbbells — like doing single-arm isolations to focus on form. “I go for slow-but-perfect reps, and add longer holds, pauses, and pulses,” he says.
If you don’t have weights at home, don’t sweat it — Medwin’s favorite upper body exercises include a few body weight exercises, and you can use canned soup or water bottles in place of dumbbells as needed.
Here are his top picks.
1. Traditional Push-Ups
Push-ups are a great total-body exercise and one of the best exercises to tone your chest, shoulders, and arms.
- Get into a high plank position, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Tighten your core.
- Keeping your back flat and your elbows tucked in close to your body, lower yourself until your chest almost touches the floor. Don’t let your hips sag.
- Push back up to plank position.
2. Tricep Push-Ups
This is similar to a traditional push-up, but starting with your hands closer together to really challenge your triceps.
- Start in a high plank position, with hands closer than shoulder-width apart. Keep your body straight from head to heels.
- Brace your core and bend your elbows to lower your chest to within a few inches of the floor. Keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides.
- Push back up to the starting position.
3. Kneeling Bent Over Rows
Rows are one of the best back exercises out there, and they also work your shoulders, biceps, and grip strength. Medwin says the single-arm row in particular is a favorite because it allows you to focus on proper form and isolate one side at a time.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell in your right hand. Bend both knees slightly, and step your right foot back. Place your left hand on a knee-height surface in front of you, like a weight bench or a chair, and let the dumbbell hang at arm’s length toward the floor. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your back flat, your core engaged, and your right elbow tucked close to your body, row the dumbbell up toward your rib cage.
- Pause, then lower the dumbbell back to the starting position.
4. Upright Rows
- Stand with feet about hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and let your arms hang straight down in front of you with palms facing toward you.
- Keeping your hands close to your body, slowly lift the weight up toward your chin until your elbows reach shoulder height.
- Pause, then lowering the weights back to the starting position.
5. Hammer Curl to Arnold Press
The hammer curl is Medwin’s favorite variation on the basic bicep curl. “Not only is it great for building the strength and size of your biceps and forearms, it’s also a much more functional way to work the biceps,” he says.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at arms’ length by your sides.
- Keeping your elbows tucked and palms facing inward, curl the dumbbells toward your shoulders. “Picture drinking out of a water bottle, and that’s the motion of a hammer curl,” Medwin says.
- From there, press the dumbbells overhead as you rotate your palms out until they are facing away from you.
- Pause at the top, then reverse the movements, lowering the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
6. Front and Lateral Raises
“I like to finish off with these in order to isolate the front and side shoulders,” Medwin says. “The weights here don’t need to be heavy — in fact, these are usually performed with the lightest weights out of all the arm exercises.”
To do a lateral raise:
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a pair at dumbbells at arms’ length by your sides, palms facing inward.
- With a slight bend in your elbows, raise your arms directly out to your sides until they’re at shoulder level with palms facing downward.
- Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position
To do a front raise, simply raise your arms straight out in front of you until they’re at shoulder level, with palms facing inward, then lower back to the starting position.
No need to pick a favorite exercise here — from start to finish, a kickboxing workout is a great way to work your upper body while throwing punches and elbows. “Shoulders, triceps, biceps, and forearms all work together to deliver those blows!” Medwin says.