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✅ If you want an effective upper body workout optimized for muscle growth, then you need to read this article.


🚨 What is an Upper Lower Split?


First off, for those who are unaware, an upper lower split simply involves splitting up your workouts into upper and lower body workout days. Often 2 of each is performed every week. Ideally, you’d want to organize the split like so:

🚨 Sample Upper Lower Split


Although the exact days for each workout is not important, it’s best to include a rest day after two consecutive days of training to allow sufficient recovery.

🚨 How to Set Up Your Upper Body Workouts


Now as for the best exercises to include in your upper body workouts, a good way to set it up is by sticking to the following guideline:

✅ Horizontal Push (e.g. dumbbell press)

✅ Horizontal Pull (e.g. seated row)

✅ Vertical Push (e.g. OHP)

✅ Vertical Row (e.g. pull ups)

Upper Body Exercises
Upper Body Exercises

✅ Choosing your exercises in this fashion ensures that your muscles are worked in a balanced manner. This helps prevent imbalances from developing and helps target all of the upper body musculature. This also prevents certain stabilizer muscles from being overworked, since each plane of movement is addressed.
So with that being said, let’s take a look at what the optimal workout might look like.


🚨 Exercise 1 (Horizontal Push) – Incline Dumbbell Press

✅ Through the added shoulder flexion of this movement, incline dumbbell presses will put more emphasis on the clavicular head of the pecs, or the upper chest, which is more often than not a weak point for most people.

Incline Dumbbell Press
Incline Dumbbell Press

✅ 15 different chest exercises, incline dumbbell presses to be the most effective compound movement for upper chest activation.

✅ Therefore, by starting with this exercise you’re able to effectively prioritize the upper chest.
And since utilizing dumbbells as opposed to a barbell more effectively prevents muscle imbalances from occurring and allows a greater range of motion, it makes incline dumbbell presses the ideal option for the horizontal push exercise of this workout.


Best Back Exercises
Best Back Exercises

✅ Best Incline Setting


Now as for the best incline setting, research tends to show that the optimal bench angle is between 30 to 56 degrees.
I’ve personally found the best activation with a 30 degree incline, but experiment with it and see what best activates your chest (For more exercises, check out my article on the best chest workout for mass)

🚨 Exercise 2 (Horizontal Row) – Chest Supported Row

You want to move onto a horizontal rowing movement for your next upper body exercise.
As noted in my back workout article, my personal favorite is the chest-supported row which will effectively target pretty much all of the upper back musculature.

Horizontal Row
Horizontal Row

Rowing movements provide similar levels of lat activation as lat pulldowns but more activation in other areas of the back like the traps and rhomboids.
Therefore, it’s essential to include at least one rowing exercise in your routine for both back width and thickness.
I suggest using some form of a chest-supported row in this upper body workout because it helps minimize the involvement of the lower back – which as you’ll see will be heavily involved in the next exercise.

✅ Other Exercises

Other exercises like the barbell row do have their place for back development. But given that research shows they elicit high lower back involvement relative to other back exercises, their inclusion in an upper body workout needs to be carefully thought out.


🚨 Exercise 3 (Vertical Push) – Standing Overhead Press

✅ Next you want to move onto a vertical pressing movement.
The overhead press is an ideal choice due to the ability to easily overload it with weight and target several muscles at once.

Standing Overhead Press
Standing Overhead Press

✅ It mainly targets the anterior deltoid with some involvement of the lateral and posterior heads. It also heavily stresses the core, the triceps, and the serratus anterior muscle to help push and stabilize the weight overhead.
And, as explained in my shoulder workout article, I’d argue it’s the only upper body exercise needed for the anterior deltoid.
This is because studies like this one by Behren & buskies found the overhead press to be the best exercise for the anterior deltoid. It was shown to outperform dumbbell front raises by 41%!
Thus, this exercise is plenty of volume for your anterior deltoids.

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