If you have been looking to make your upper body stronger, you have come to the right place. It is really tough to be able to envision yourself as a muscular person. But I have come to tell you that it’s not only possible, but I have done it myself.
As someone who used to be unimaginably skinny, I have come a long way since those days. And I am very proud of the progress that I made. I even got to the point where my girlfriend at the time (now wife) told me that I was too muscular and I needed to tone it down a bit.
I wish I had that problem in high school. Instead, the kids made fun of how scrawny I was. My confidence did not really take hold until my mid twenties when I finally started to build muscle. It was an incredible feeling to be able to go from 135lbs at 6’1” to 205lbs, now down to 190 where I am very happy with my results.
What I am really excited to share with you is that I spent 7 years working out with no significant results. Once I started focusing on making my body stronger, that’s when I started to see massive results. I built 20+ pounds of muscle in my first year of dedication.
So what is it going to take to learn how to make your upper body stronger? Let’s find out!
Eating enough food to make your upper body stronger
The sole reason that I did not make any significant changes in my body after 7 years in the gym is because I didn’t understand nutrition.
A lot of people will overemphasize the role of working out, while underemphasizing the importance of nutrition. Now, when I say nutrition, that’s when a lot of people start to gloss over and don’t understand what I am talking about.
Let me spell it out simply. Learn how to calculate your maintenance calories before anything else. Once you understand how many calories your body needs for maintenance, then you can get strong and build muscle.
Now that you have your maintenance calories, it’s time to add in 500 calories per day over maintenance for 1 week. If you have not gained .5-1lb, then add another 500 calories on top of this. The goal is not to gain a ton of weight at once, it is to gain gradually and sustainably.
This is what is known as a caloric surplus, and it is the environment necessary in your body for weight gain and muscle gain.
Performing the right exercises to become stronger
Believe it or not, what exercises that you do is LESS important than eating enough calories. But, it is imperative to know that you need to exercise to build muscle. Specifically, weight training is the best way to build muscle.
Before I started monitoring my nutrition, I used to workout 5 days per week. Once I understood the importance of nutrition, I started working out only 3 days per week. Why? Because the workout plan that I created was intense, and muscle recovery is another necessity when it comes to learning how to make your upper body stronger.
If you are interested in the workout plan that I personally created to help me build muscle, it is called “3 DAY OVERLOAD.” It is exclusively available on our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Android). This app will take the guesswork out of going to the gym and help you build a lot of muscle!
Let’s get into the 7 exercises that are going to build our upper body into a strength training machine.
One thing you will notice about every single exercise in this list is that they all workout more than one muscle group. This is by design.
If we can kill 2 birds with one stone, then why not take advantage of it?
Chinups are a classic exercise that has been around since the beginning of man. Not only are they very functional, but chinups are great for building muscle. Face your palms towards your body on a pullup bar and do as many as you can.
You should really feel the burn in your arms and back!
Cambered Bar Curl
The cambered bar curl is actually my favorite bicep building exercise. Not only does it build bigger biceps, but it works out your forearms and deltoids.
It is ok if you don’t have a cambered bar. You can always use a straight bar for this exercise. If you do want a cambered bar, I recommend this one from Amazon.
One of my main tips for this exercise is to keep your body as straight as possible. Use arm control going both up and down. Your natural tendency will be for you to swing your body to gain momentum.
If you are finding yourself swinging your body and not focusing on your biceps, drop down in weight. Form is more important than the weight you are lifting!
Barbell Bench Press
No muscle building list is complete without the barbell bench press. This is the workout that has built the chest of many bodybuilders before us.
Don’t let this exercise fool you though. It workouts out so much more than your chest. The barbell bench press will get your arms, core, shoulders, and more.
Again, we must focus on form before anything else. Even now, I always warm up with just the plain bar and make sure my form is correct.
You want your arms to be exactly vertical. And when you come down, make sure that your elbows flare out about 45 degrees from your sides.
Barbell Bentover Row
One of the greatest back exercises of all time, the barbell bentover row is worth its weight in gold when it comes to muscle building.
All you have to do is get either a pre-loaded barbell or an olympic barbell with weights and set it on the ground. Bend over and make sure that your back is flat and parallel with the ground. When you pull the barbell up, make sure to pinch your back muscles together.
Another thing to mention is that if you find your back rounding and you can’t hold your back flat, that probably means you are lifting too much weight. Drop down in weight and try again.
Similar to chinups, you are going to need a pullup bar. If you don’t have a place to do pullups, you probably have a door, right? I recommend this door frame pullup bar from Amazon.
For this exercise, your palms are facing away from you on the bar. This focuses on a completely different set of muscles. Although you are still working out your arms, you should feel it mostly in your back. Be sure to pinch your back muscles together as you come to the top of the pullup.
Barbell Overhead Press
This is the only shoulder specific exercise on this list, but it is one of the best, if not the best shoulder exercise.
Simply grab a barbell and bring it just below your chin. In one fluid motion, move your chin out of the way, and shoot the bar straight to the sky. Flex your shoulder muscles at the top.
Take it slow and don’t rush this exercise. Patience pays off when it comes to building muscle. Learn the proper ways to do things with lighter weights, and the rest will come naturally.
Cambered Bar Seated Tricep Press
We have come back to the cambered bar. If you can’t find a cambered bar here, I do not recommend using a straight bar. The best substitute in this situation would probably be dumbbells.
Another tip I have for you about this exercise is to find a shoulder press bench with a low back. If there is too high of a back, you might crush your fingers on the way down, or not have enough range of motion.
Be sure to keep your upper arms as still as possible. You want to just hinge at your elbows and use just your tricep muscles to power up.
Main Point: How to make your upper body stronger
Sure, working out 3-4 days per week is one way to make your upper body stronger. But there are more important tasks. Calculating your maintenance calories is a big deal. Eating enough calories is a big deal.
If you learn to eat enough calories, AND workout consistently, you have no reason that you shouldn’t build muscle. If you aren’t gaining weight and muscle, you aren’t eating enough. It’s as simple as that.
If you don’t have a gym near you, you can always build a home gym with equipment from Amazon. If building a home gym isn’t something that you can afford, you can always check out our article 15 workouts to build muscle at home with no weights.
There is a plethora of information on this site, and on the internet in general, that you have no reason not to hit your goals. Stay consistent, tweak your diet, eat enough calories, and workout. Learning how to make your upper body stronger is now easy.