Upper Body Resistance Training


The upper body resistance training exercise instructions is all about sculpting the shoulders, chest, arms and more. These are all done with bands to provide the resistance you need to create lean, strong muscles.

Each exercise includes step by step instructions and pictures to ensure you are doing the workout correctly.

When using resistance bands you want to have a variety of different resistance. This way you can use the stronger bands for the larger muscles, like for the chest press or bicep curls. Use a lighter band for working the triceps and shoulders.

In this series, you will find exercises for the triceps, biceps, shoulders chest and even the upper back. If you are looking for just the back area, check out this exercise series.

Many of these workouts can also be performed using dumbbell or free weights. The advantage of using bands is that they are lighter and more transportable so you can take them wherever you go.

List of Upper Body Resistance Training Exercises

Each of these exercises include step by step instructions as well as pictures to ensure you are doing each one correctly. You can use the links below to go directly to a specific exercise or just scroll through the page.

Upper Body Resistance Training - Bicep Curls

Using resistance bands for bicep curls is a great way to target this specific muscle. The bands allow you to switch up the resistance as needed to strengthen and tone the arms.

The biceps brachhi is located in the upper front part of the arm. These are often called the "big guns" and are what many like to flex and show off. Strengthening this muscle can help with lifting and carrying objects during your daily routine. Below are the step by step instructions for this workout.

How to do the resistance band bicep curl

resitance band bicep curl
  1. Place the resistance band under the arches of both feet and stand with legs hip width apart.
  2. Wrap the resistance band around both hands. For more tension, wrap more times around your hands and for less resistance, use fewer wraps.
  3. Place your arms next to your side with palms facing out.
  4. In a slow and controlled motion, lift your arms to your shoulders, bending at the elbow. Exhale while you do this move
  5. Slowly and deliberately return arms to starting position while inhaling.
  6. Repeat for 6 to 16 repetitions.
Tips: For this exercise make sure you let your bicep muscle do the work and not the momentum. Keep your arms and elbows as close to your body as you can and minimize movement of the upper body.

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Upper Body Resistance Training - Hammer Curls

The hammer curls are very similar to the bicep curls but will strengthen different areas of the bicep muscle. Like the bicep curl, this workout targets the bicep muscles but will also engage other muscles in the arm.

By gripping the resistance bands differently than the previous exercise, you are now involving other muscles that will be strengthened as well. The brachioradialis is one of these muscles that are used when doing this move. This muscle runs from your wrist, across the inside portion of the elbow and into the upper arm bone.

Another muscle used is the brachialis which also runs across the elbow but is much smaller in size. This one is used as an important stabilizer during this exercise. This exercise is a good variation to add to your upper body resistance training program.

resitance band hammer curl

How to do the Hammer Curls

The picture for this exercise shows using a loop band. However, you can use a regular band and just hold each end in each hand. You can do this upper body exercise by lifting both arms at the same time or by alternating arms. The instructions below are for the resistance band, but this can also be used with dumbbell weights.

  1. Place the resistance band under the arches of both feet with legs hip width apart.
  2. Wrap the resistance band around both hands and place arms to the side.
  3. With your thumbs facing out (palms facing towards your body), slowly lift your arms to your shoulders bending at the elbow.
  4. Now slowly return to starting position.
  5. Repeat for 6 to 16 repetitions.
Tips: Do this move slowly so that you use the muscles and not momentum to build strength.

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Upper Body Resistance Training - Triceps Extensions

Triceps extensions, as the name suggests, focuses on the tricep muscle. The triceps brachii muscle is Latin for three headed arm muscle. This is located on the back of the upper arm. The main purpose of this muscle is for extension of the elbow joint, or straightening of the arm.

When doing a complete upper body training, it is recommended that you work opposing muscles in the same workout. So combine this move with the bicep curls or hammer curl.


How to do the Triceps Extensions

The instructions below are for doing this exercise with one arm at a time. However, to add some variety, you can also do this move holding onto the resistance band with both hands. This way you will strengthen both arms at the same time.

  1. Wrap the resistance band around your right hand and place your arm next to your ear with elbow bent.
  2. Place the remaining portion of the resistance band behind your back or under your foot.
  3. Reaching around behind your with your left hand, grab the resistance band. Wrap the band around your left hand as well if you need more resistance. If you placed the band under your foot, then check the resistance level to ensure enough resistance.
  4. Now extend your right arm up towards the ceiling in a slow and deliberate movement.
  5. Return your right arm to starting position.
  6. Repeat for 6 to 16 repetitions and then switch arms.
Tips: Adjust the tension if you need to in order to complete at least 6 reps. You can repeat the reps for more than one set.

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Upper Body Resistance Training - Reverse Fly

The reverse fly is our next resistance band exercise in this series. When doing this workout, you will be targeting the shoulders and upper back muscles.

There are many muscles strengthened and used during this move. These muscles include the posterior deltoid, rhomboid and the middle trapezius muscle. The primary muscle used during this resistance band exercise is the rhomboid which is located in the upper back and shoulders.

How to do the Reverse Fly

This resistance band exercise can be done standing up straight or bent over with back even with the ground. The instructions below are a standing reverse fly.

  1. Hold each end of the resistance band in each hand.
  2. Gripping the band on each end with both hands, place arms out in front of you about should width apart.
  3. Stand straight with feet shoulder width apart
  4. Now slowly extend your arms back until they are even with your sides. Keep your elbows slightly bent during this exercise.
  5. Slowly return to starting position.
  6. Repeat for 6 to 16 repetitions.
Tips: Exhale while you lift your arms and inhale while you return to starting position.

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Upper Body Resistance Training - Shoulder Raises

The resistance band shoulder raises is the next exercise in the upper body resistance training exercises. This is another exercise for the shoulder muscles. It is similar to the reverse fly but instead of bringing the arms out to the side you will bring them out in front of your body.

This particular workout is an isolation move which isolates shoulder flexion. The primary target is the anterior deltoid with help from the biceps, serratus anterior and parts of the pectoral muscles.

As with many resistance band exercises, you can perform this with both arms at the same time or alternate with one arm at a time. For this one, less tension in the resistance bands might be necessary in order to complete the needed repetitions.


How to do the Front Shoulder Raises

The step by step instructions below are for the front raises. If after a few reps it becomes too difficult, use a band with less resistance.

  1. Place the resistance band under both feet with legs shoulder width apart.
  2. Grab the band at both ends and place your arms next to you and slightly in front of the body.
  3. Slowly lift both arms straight out in front of you keeping elbows slightly bent. Lift to about shoulder height.
  4. Slowly return to starting position.
  5. Repeat for 6 to 16 repetitions.
Tips: Combine this exercise with the reverse fly to work all areas of the shoulder during your upper body workout.

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Upper Body Resistance Training - Chest Press

The chest press is the last of the upper body resistance training exercises in this workout series. This last exercise works primarily the chest muscles, which is fairly obvious from the name.

You can do this workout by placing the band behind your back, wrap it around a sturdy pole or simply step on the band with your foot. This last option is what is shown in the picture along with the intructions.

The primary muscle targeted for this one is the pectoralis major which is the largest chest muscle. It is the broad muscle that covers your chest and makes up the bulk of chest muscles for men and lies under the breast in women. Just underneath this muscle is the pectoralis minor. This one is also engaged and strengthened during this move. Additionally, the front fibers of the deltoid (the shoulders) are also toned and strengthened with this particular exercise.

How to do the Chest Press

If you need more resistance for this one, just wrap your hands around the band a couple of times. You can also switch bands and use a more resistant one. If you want less resitance, place the band behind your back or use a less resistant band.

  1. Place the band behind you and underneath your one of your feet.
  2. Grab the band at each end and wrap around your hands.
  3. Bring your arms up at chest level with forearms parallel to the ground and elbows bent.
  4. Slowly push your arms out in front of you until your arms are straight and be careful not to lock your elbows. As you push out you can cross your hands slightly at the end of this motion.
  5. Return arms to starting position slowly.
  6. Repeat for 6 to 16 repetitions.

Tips: You can also do this one lying down on a bench. Just anchor the band behind your back or the bench. With this variation, you will be engaging different muscles in addition to the chest.

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Advantages of Resistance Bands

Using bands for your strength training has some disadvantages as well as advantages. One of the disadvantages is that you may out grow this type of equipment. As you tone your muscles, you may find that the bands no longer offer the resistance you need for your current fitness level.

However, there are many advantages for using the bands. Here are just a few.

  1. Cost Effective
  2. As far as exercise equipment goes, this one is very cost effective. You can pick them up at many different types of stores or even as a free gift when purchasing certain workout videos.

  3. Scalable Resistance
  4. Another great benefit of bands is that you can adjust your resistance in a couple of ways. One is to purchase bands in varying strengths from light to heavy resistance. The second way to add or reduce resistance is by the way you hold the bands. For more resistance you can simply wrap the band around the hands a few times until you have the right tension. Give the band more slack by holding it at the very end and do not wrap it around the hands.

  5. Easy Storage

Unlike dumbbell weights, free weights and large pieces of exercise equipment, the bands can be stored using very little space. Just fold them and tuck them away in a drawer until your next upper body resistance training workout.

Check out these upper body exercises using dumbbell weights.

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