Working your entire upper body is very important to peak health and performance. However, too many people focus on working out the arms and chest while neglecting the progress of their back muscles, causing muscular imbalances that could lead to injury in the future. A complete upper body routine consists of heavy chest work, heavy back work, and assistance work for both of these muscle groups.


This guy has done some serious upper body work.

This guy has done some serious upper body work.


Here are some exercises you can include in your routine for each muscle group.


The chest is best worked using a combination of pushing and squeezing exercises. The bench press is still the best chest exercise, followed by the incline bench press. Using these two exercises on a rotation can give your chest the variety it needs while keeping the weights fairly heavy and targeting the most prominent parts of the


Dumbbell presses are also very good for the chest and can be used either as a heavy primary or a moderate to light assistance exercise. Using heavy dumbbells will allow you to train your stabilizer muscles and your grip to keep a heavy barbell in control.


Dumbbell flyes are a great assistance exercise for building up the chest, since it allows you to really focus the movement on the pectorals. Another good  exercise would be cable crossovers.


Do you want to build pecs like Brad Pitt? Then take your chest work seriously, but don’t forget the back muscles.


Upper Back
The upper back muscles are one of the largest but most underworked muscles in the body. Many do not realize it but working the back effectively will give you not only strength, but aesthetic appeal as well. The V-taper is one of the most coveted characteristics in bodybuilding, and is generally viewed as a sign of virility for men.


The best exercise for the upper back is still the pull-up, since it involves the most muscles and allows you to use a lot of weight (your body weight plus additional weight when you get strong enough). It is followed closely by chin-ups, which transfers some work to the biceps.


If you cannot do a pull-up yet, you can build up to it through proper use of the lat pulldown machine along with negatives on the pull-up bar. Using sets of six to eight with heavy weights on the pulldown can give you the basic strength to do one pull-up, and then you can work from there.


Barbell rows are a great exercise to really work the back. Be sure to do a wide pull since this works more of your postural muscles that help keep your body more upright. Close grip pulls are also an excellent exercise to get those lats and other back muscles to grow.


A good routine might include a push and pull type of split to evenly work the chest and back muscles. It would
look like this:


Workout A – Heavy Push, Moderate Pull, Assistance Push
Workout B – Heavy Pull, Moderate Push, Assistance Pull


Note that this is only upper body work – you should be doing lower body work as well.


Photo credit: farconville,