Emily Skye demonstrates three different upper body moves with weights.
Emily Skye

The best upper-body workout for women with Emily Skye

Emily Skye

Dreaming of sculpted arms and a confident posture? I’ve got the answer: an upper-body workout women everywhere will love.

Targeting the upper-body with strength training is your route to sculpted and defined arms, shoulders, back and chest. But it’s about more than looking good – you’ll feel stronger, and everyday tasks like carrying your groceries or picking up your kids will become much easier. You’ll even slow the rate of bone density loss that comes with age. There’s no downside!

In fact, strength training has huge benefits for women at every age and stage of life.

This is why I’ve created the perfect upper-body workout program – Upper Body Blast. Over 6-weeks, we’ll target all the key areas of your upper body, with workouts designed to build strength, burn fat and increase definition. It’s a progressive program, so the challenge will get tougher as you get stronger!

To give you a taste of what the program has in store, I’ve lined up 5 of my favourite upper-body exercises for women below, which you can string together to create your own workout.

Remember, the best upper-body workout for women is one that you do with good form. This way you know you’re targeting the right muscles and maximising your results. Grab your dumbbells and kettlebell, your workout mat and a bench or chair, and let’s get started.

Kneeling Zottman curl

Want to sculpt your biceps and forearms with one move? You can’t go past Zottman curls. By kneeling for this exercise, you take your leg strength out of the equation, meaning your core and arms have to work even harder. This is how we fast-track results, ladies!

How to do it:

  • Kneel on the workout mat with your knees around shoulder-width apart and your core engaged.

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your sides, with your palms facing your thighs.

  • Rotate your hands outward so as you begin the bicep curl, your palms are travelling directly towards your shoulders.

  • At the top of the curl, rotate your hands inward so you lower them palm-down back to your thighs.

  • Don’t pause the dumbbells at the top or bottom of the curl, keep the reps coming at a steady pace.

Kettlebell bent-over row

Bent-over rows are the best move you can do to sculpt your back (and they’ll work your biceps too). As you pull the weight up, you should feel the muscles between your shoulder blades working overtime.

How to do it:

  • Holding the kettlebell in your right hand, stand with your feet slightly apart, then tip forward at the hips with a slight bend in your knees, letting the kettlebell hang towards your feet.

  • Keeping your back flat and your elbow tucked in close to your body, pull the kettlebell up to the top of your thigh, then lower it back down again.

  • Do a set number of reps with your right arm, then switch to your left.

Plank push-ups

You already know planks are a great core exercise. By adding the push-up element, you get the added bonus of strengthening your arms, shoulders and wrists.

How to do it:

  • Take a high plank position, on your toes with hands below your shoulders.

  • Keeping your core tight, lower one arm at a time into a forearm plank, then return to a high plank position one arm at a time.

  • Continue planking up and down at a steady pace.

Floor seated Arnold press

Named after the Terminator himself, this is a total shoulder shaper that activates your deltoids from all angles. But doing the exercise press seated, you stop your lower back from overcompensating.

How to do it:

  • Sit on the workout mat with your legs extended in front of you, back straight and core engaged.

  • Hold the dumbbells up at your chest, palms facing your body.

  • As you lift your arms to raise the dumbbells, rotate your hands outward so that your palms face forward when your arms are fully extended above your head.

  • Rotate your hands inward as you lower the weights to return to the starting position.

Dumbbell bent-over back fly

Want to look and feel super confident? Back flys zoom in on your rear shoulders and upper back to power up your posture and leave you standing tall and proud.

How to do it:

  • Sit on the edge of a bench, with feet on the floor directly under your knees. Keep your feet and knees together.

  • Tip forward at the hips, letting your arms hang by your side and dumbbells behind your calves.

  • Keeping your back flat, raise the dumbbells out to the side, feeling the squeeze in between your shoulder blades. (Your upper arms should be around the level of your shoulders at the top of the fly.)

  • Lower your arms back down to the starting position.

  • Don’t pause the dumbbells at the top or bottom of the fly for more than a beat – keep the reps coming at a steady pace.

Phew! Are you feeling strong? There’s more where that came from.

Sculpted arms, sleek shoulders and a strong back – you can Get. It. All. with my 6-week workout program Upper Body Blast. It’s low equipment so you can train at home or make it an upper-body gym workout it’s up to you! Your first week on the program is FREE when you join me at emilyskyefit.com.

Emily Skye
Personal trainer • Founder

Emily Skye is a strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness. She is also co-founder of James Cosmetics and a mother of two.

Emily Skye
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