When’s the last time you really worked your upper body?
Lately, women are all about training legs and butts but are seriously neglecting the upper body.
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Many women feel that their upper bodies are too weak to do push ups and other chest toning workouts. But I say it’s time to ditch the excuses and start shaping some serious shoulders and a toned chest.
This 4-week exercise challenge is just what you need to develop a sleek upper body. These workouts are fast, simple, and can be done at home or at the gym.
The challenge may start small, but you’ll be surprised how quickly you see and feel the results!
Well, what do you say? Are you ready to transform your upper body?
Click the button below to unlock the full list of exercises, learn some tips on good form, and get the full 30-day upper-body exercise challenge!
Upper-Body Workouts for Women that Work
This is your bread and butter move for the 30-day challenge. Push ups are simple and effective, but very challenging. Master these and watch your upper body transform!
Place your hands on the floor just past shoulder width. Your toes should be on the ground with your feet close together. Your body should form a straight line without any sagging of the hips. Brace your abs and keep a strong core as you begin to lower your body. Lower down until your chest is nearly touching the floor. Pause briefly and then push back up to the starting position. You should look down throughout the exercise and your head position shouldn’t change.
Incline Push Ups
Incline push ups are a slightly easier push up variation. They’re used in the challenge as a way to get in extra reps even if you can’t do very many traditional push ups.
Set up as you would a regular push up, but place your hands on a box, bench, riser, or step instead of the ground. The higher the step (and the straighter your body is), the easier the push up is. The execution is the same as a push up – lower your body until your chest touches the step and then push back up.
Inverted Shoulder Press (V Push Ups)
This is like a push up in the vertical plane that trains your shoulders and upper chest muscles.
Start in a push-up position on the floor, but bring your feet forward and raise your hips. Your body should be slightly V-shaped with your torso nearly perpendicular to the floor. Keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Without moving your lower body, bend your elbows and slowly lower your upper body until your head nearly touches the floor. Pause briefly and then push back up to the starting position.
Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press
The dumbbell bench press is a chest toning staple. Bench presses are great for your pecs, shoulder stability, and triceps. This alternating version adds a core-activation challenge as you only have one weight overhead at a time.
Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on your back on a flat bench. Hold the dumbbells close together above your chest (the ends should almost touch) with palms facing out. Lower the dumbbells one at a time to the sides of your chest. As you lower one dumbbell, press the other one up. Keep alternating until you’ve finished all reps for each side.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
This shoulder-sculpting classic is a great addition to any upper body routine. Shoulder presses are a great way to get nicely capped shoulders while still strengthening the upper chest muscles.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and with a slight bend in the knees. Hold a pair of dumbbells just outside your shoulders with palms facing towards each other and arms bent. Brace your core and press the weights overhead until your arms are straight. Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.
Dumbbell chest flys target the pec muscles from a slightly different angle. Your anterior deltoids also help in this lift. This exercise also creates a nice stretch across the chest muscles.
Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie on your back on a flat bench. With elbows slightly bent, hold the dumbbells over your chest with palms facing out. Keeping the bend in your elbows, slowly lower the dumbbells down and slightly back. At the bottom, your upper arms should be parallel to the floor. Pause briefly and then raise the dumbbells back to the starting position. The dumbbells should be nearly touching at the top.
Front raises will leave your front deltoids burning. Take them slowly and don’t shrug your neck up.
Stand, grab a pair of dumbbells, and let the weights rest at arm’s length by your sides. Raise both arms straight out in front of you until they are parallel to the floor. Pause and lower the weights to the starting position.
The plank is the ultimate push up prep move. This will train you to keep your core braced just as you must do in a push up. For the 30-day challenge, do your planks with straight arms so that it closely resembles a push up.
Get in the top of a push up position. Again, your feet are close together, your arms are just past shoulder-width, and your body forms a perfectly straight line. Do not allow your hips to sag down or V up. Brace your core by engaging your abdominal muscles. Hold the plank for the prescribed time. Don’t forget to breathe!
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Adding Cobra pose to a chest toning routine is a great way to keep the chest muscles open. It also gently strengthens the back which helps prevent a hunched posture. Cobra is a perfect complement to chest strengthening exercises that will help lift your chest and remind you to keep your back muscles engaged.
Lie flat on your stomach with your palms on the floor at shoulder level. Using your back muscles to initiate the motion, lift your upper body off the floor. Allow your arms to straighten last and feel your chest open as your back gently bends. Breathe deeply. Check out this article for a full description of Cobra pose.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
You might not think of your upper body when you think of downward facing dog, but it’s actually great for your shoulders and chest when done correctly. This pose complements shoulder and chest training by strengthening the rotator cuff muscles, strengthening and stretching the serratus anterior, and promoting better breathing. If this posture is too demanding on your hamstrings, keep your knees slightly bent for the purposes of this 30-day challenge. Keep the focus on externally rotating your shoulders and breathing deeply through the muscles of the chest.
From table pose, stretch your arms out in front of you with flat palms. Push through your palms, tuck your toes, and start to straighten your legs. For this challenge, there is no need to bring your heels flat to the ground. Internally rotate the arms and keep the shoulders externally rotated and engaged. Breathe deeply and feel the breath throughout the serratus and chest. Learn all of the details about how to do Downward Facing Dog.
About Toning Your Chest and Sculpting the Perfect Shoulders
All the push ups in the challenge may seem a little intimidating at first. Keep reading for some tips that will help you make the most of the 4-week challenge.
All About Push Ups
Think you can’t do a push up? Think again.
Look back through the exercises and you’ll notice there’s not a single “from the knees” or “girly” push up variation.
Instead, you’ve got planks to help you build upper body strength and incline push ups to practice with.
If at any point in the challenge you are struggling with traditional push ups, simply swap in incline push ups.
Incline push ups are highly adaptable, just increase your incline and the exercise gets easier. Stairs are a great place to train because you can move down to lower steps as you get stronger.
Always try to complete the reps in the challenge. If you’re struggling in the middle of a workout, move to an incline or split the reps into smaller sets (especially towards the end of the challenge). Do as many as you can, but know that it’s totally fine to take a breather and then finish the reps.
Why Women Should Train their Chests
Although these workouts are fast and simple, you’re really going to feel the exercises if you haven’t exercised your chest before. Fair warning: it might even hurt to turn the steering wheel the next day!
So it’s important to know why you should even bother pushing through the 30-day challenge.
Here are just a few benefits of taking on an upper body challenge:
- I’m not going to promise a breast lift, but strengthening your chest muscles is good for your posture and may give the appearance of perkier breasts.
- Push ups, chest presses, and shoulder presses are all great for your arms too. Expect to see more sculpted triceps after completing the challenge, even if you don’t do any other workouts.
- Push ups are great for building a strong core!
- Your pecs are a large muscle group and training all those muscles means you’ll burn extra calories throughout the day. Combined with the core-strengthening benefits, it’s enough to help you blast away at belly fat.